How to live after abortion

Milena Kindziuk

One cannot describe life after an abortion. Such a life is filled with bitterness, regret, guilt, and tears when seeing some kids shouting. Or confessions in which one asks for absolution of the same sin: killing of your own child.
Every abortion leads to a death of some human being and is never safe. Since it is dangerous to woman’s health and life, including her somatic sphere; it can cause bleeding, infection. In the future it can increase the risk of having breast cancer; woman can face difficulties to carry to term and even can face infertility.
Magda has big brown eyes, wide brows, and smooth face. She looks younger than she really is (25). She looks uncertain when she enters the counselling clinic in the centre of Warsaw. After a while she is on the gynaecological chair. A doctor dressed in white, wearing big round glasses, stands in front of her. He bends down. He can immediately see the cervix and the head of a three-month-old child.
‘I am very experienced in these things, ten minutes and it is all over’, he says. And then he begins ‘minor surgery’. After widening the neck of the womb he uses forceps. He grabs the little head, smashes it, pulls it apart and brings it out. Then he grabs the other parts of the body: little hand, little leg, a piece of the chest, a nose... He throws them to a water closet, flushes the toilet and washes his hands. ‘Now you can get dressed’ he announces to the patient. Today she recollects that moment, ‘I was lying stiff; then I felt dizzy. Holding on the wall I walked out of the room and I reached the bus stop with much difficulty. I began bleeding at home.’ Then she picked up the receiver and called her boy friend. ‘Marek, it is all over but I feel very badly...’ she whispered. ‘Everyone says so; this is the first time, you simply panic. The next abortions will be easier’, he told her. And she was struck dumb with terror. The doctor did not tell her anything about possible complications. After two years she knew that she would not make it by herself. He began having nightmares, depressions. She had headaches and lost her appetite. When she saw children in the street she trembled, sometimes she fainted. In the end she went to a psychiatrist and began a therapy.

I killed a thousand children

There are numerous stories. Since many women suffer from the so-called post-abortion syndrome. They feel terribly guilty, experience nervous breakdowns, lose immunity and keep falling sick, feel ashamed and frustrated; sometimes they lose the sense of their lives. ‘Abortion is a critical moment concerning life and death. Man realises that he crossed some boundary that goes beyond the human world’, explains Ewa Osobka, psychotherapist from Warsaw. ‘Sometimes problems begin after a few years, or even later when something reminds a woman of the abortion she had or when she celebrates some child’s birthday’, adds Elzbieta Sobkowiak who runs a therapeutic centre in Poznan. Women who decided to have ‘minor surgery’ confirmed her words. ‘When I got to know the family of my mother-in-law I realised that her brother was at the age of my unborn child. Then I broke down,’ confesses Grazyna Chmiel. Another woman retired and only then did she realise that it was the abortion that did not allow her to teach her next children the most important thing: to love people. To love sisters, brothers, parents. They loved nobody. Now when children leave family home and enter the adults’ world, even if it is the best world, nothing can restore the lost love in their hearts. They will be the so-called ‘saved’ and live with the awareness that they escaped abortion. That they survived although they could have been ‘removed’. They can also feel that they are ‘substitutes’. Thus the post-abortion syndrome concerns the whole family, not only the women who decided to kill their children. The syndrome can destroy relationships between parents and children. It can often cause inadequate expectations towards the children that were born by creating them extremely good conditions or it can lead to lack of acceptance, which may cause situations that a girl is brought up as a boy and the other way round. It is interesting that even those who assisted abortion begin having some psychological problems at some point. The medical personnel experience post-abortion syndrome, too. ‘I have killed about one thousand children. Several years had passed before I saw what killing meant. That redefined my life. I understood that I owed them something. And I cannot remain silent any longer,’ says Boleslaw Piecha, gynaecologist, who is now the vice-minister of health.
According to Prof. Bogdan Chazan, who has been the national consultant on obstetrics and gynaecology, director of the Holy Family Gynaecological-Obstetric Hospital in Madalinskiego Street in Warsaw, every abortion leads to death and is never safe. Since it threats woman’s health and life, including her somatic sphere, it can cause bleeding, infection. In the future it can increase the risk of having breast cancer, woman can face difficulties to carry to term and even can face infertility.

Simple answer is not enough

‘Symptoms of the post-abortion syndrome intensify especially in believers or sensitive people’, claims Ewa Osobka. ‘Therefore, women who go to confession usually feel rejected and condemned. They often confess the same sin, they do not believe that God can forgive them.’ ‘In such a situation ‘ordinary’ confession or spiritual relief would not do’, says Fr Dariusz Kowalczyk, SJ, dogmatic theologian. And he recommends longer conversation with a penitent. ‘It is important that priests have contacts with specialists and send women who come to confession after abortion to them. But this is not always the case. It can happen that some nervous unprepared priest says that woman is a murderer and must be punished for her crime. And this is the worst thing that can happen.’
‘Absolution does not depend on the weight of the sin but on contrition of heart’, explains Rev. Dr. Jan Szubka, specialist in canon law at the Major Seminary in Warsaw. ‘If someone expressed contrition God always forgives his sins. But one must remember that the woman who killed her child and the man who helped her (he convinced her to do so, he gave her money for it) as well as the doctor who made the so-called minor surgery fall under the penalty of excommunication, i.e. they are excluded from the community of the Church. When any of them comes to confession you should first lift the excommunication and then give absolution. Only bishops or appointed priests can do that. For example, in the Archdiocese of Warsaw only those who have been priests for more than three years can minister in these matters. In other dioceses they could be only parish priests or priests confessing during parish missions or retreats. This restriction is because of the fact that the sin of abortion is one of the biggest sins. This is perhaps even a more serious sin than killing an adult since an adult can defend himself whereas an unborn child is completely defenceless. What kind of penance for abortion? Sometimes priests recommend sponsoring an orphanage or a single mothers’ house or some voluntary work in such a place, for example on holiday. You can also oblige yourself to help in upbringing a concrete child in your family or take spiritual adoption.

Chance for a new life

Therefore, you can overcome the post-abortion syndrome but you need external help. A confessional booth serves this purpose. But there are various therapies as well. Since therapy must be differentiated from confession. They cannot be replaced. So priests and therapists should increase their collaboration and they should aim at healing the whole person, both his/her spiritual and psychological spheres. Therapy allows you to name your feelings. It causes a woman to speak about them. Finally, it helps live throughout the time of mourning: to give a name to your child, to have a symbolical funeral. And then the mother must get reconciled with her child and with herself. She must forgive herself in order to live a normal life.
After some good therapy people feel renewed and have chances to begin new lives. One woman confessed, ‘I remember sweating at the last meeting, after two years of therapy. And then I prayed all night long. I felt that God had some purpose in turning my life over. And now I know that He needs me. And that my little unborn child is waiting for me in heaven.’
The stories and names of two women were taken from the documentary ‘Zyciu zawsze TAK. Dramat aborcji’ [Always say YES to life. The drama of abortion] by Izabela Drobotowicz-Orkisz.

"Niedziela" 41/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: