Left behind


The testimony of a faith-filled, passionate pro-life teenager who learned her mother was post-abortive was published yesterday on the web site of Stand True, which is Priests for Life’s youth outreach. The whole piece is worthy of a read, but there’s one part I want to delve into a bit deeper.

The girl was almost 13, the oldest of her siblings, when her mother told her that, years earlier and in a previous relationship, she had aborted her first child, a son.

“Big brother,” Zoe wrote. “For years I had been saying, ‘I wish I had an older brother or sister!’ Now I knew that I had one.”

The truth is that Zoe probably always knew – perhaps buried deeply in her subconscious — that she was not her mother’s first child.

Dr Philip Ney, a Canadian psychiatrist, discovered in the late 1970s that siblings of aborted children often have this awareness and, as consequence, suffer from Post Abortion Survivor Syndrome (PASS). In a 2011 opinion piece published by LifeNews, Dr. Ney wrote:

“The most prominent symptom of PASS is existential guilt, ‘I feel I don’t deserve to be alive.’
“Other symptoms include pervasive anxiety, fear of the future, sense of impending doom, self injury, obsessive thinking, poor self identity, low self esteem, self destructive behavior, fear of becoming psychotic and dissociation.
“PASS helps explain low rates of child bearing and raising. PASS people are afraid of having children. PASS helps explain economic recession. PASS people are pessimistic about the future. PASS helps explain the younger generation’s fascination with the occult. It helps us understand mad bombers who are extremely angry at adults and politicians who have allowed the massive slaughter of their siblings. It helps explain suicide bombers who have no joy in living but want a ‘noble’ meaning to their death. It helps explain the large number of depressed people who have unresolved grief of an aborted sibling. It may help explain the growing interest in euthanasia. PASS people are poorly bonded to their parents.”

None of this is true about Zoe, and I’ll discuss why a bit later. But first I’d like to repeat a story Dr. Ney told me, and that I recounted in my book, “Recall Abortion.”

A woman came to Dr. Ney for counseling because her 6-year-old daughter was having nightmares, wetting the bed and suffering from separation anxiety. In his interview with the mother, Dr. Ney asked her about pregnancy losses, and she confided – out of earshot of her child – that she had undergone two abortions prior to giving birth to this child.

Then, working alone with the child, Dr. Ney asked her to draw a picture of her family. Although she was an only child, her family portrait consisted of her mother, her father, herself and two siblings – a brother and a sister.

Dr. Ney said that for children like this little girl, growing up in a home where she felt there should have been other children created a whole range of deep internal conflicts that likely were the root of her problems.

This is clearly not Zoe’s experience. After learning of her mother’s abortion, she wrote: “I will never forget that experience, but I am kind of glad it happened. I have taken the pro-life movement even more seriously than before. I want to be able to say I avenged my big brother David by abolishing abortion, and I am confident that I am part of the generation that will do that.”

I haven’t had a chance to confer with Dr. Ney about this, but it seems to me that the difference between Zoe and the 6-year-old, and how each of them copes with the internal awareness of someone missing, is the way abortion was treated in their respective homes.

Although Zoe’s mom kept the truth about her own abortion from her children until she thought they were mature enough to handle it, abortion, and efforts to end it, are front and center in their lives.

And even above that pro-life commitment, and as strong, or stronger, than their familial bond, is Zoe’s family’s faith. Her mother suggested she speak to a priest after learning of the abortion, and he suggested visiting Jesus in the Tabernacle. Zoe prayed for understanding, as her mother before her had prayed for forgiveness. Both were freely given by a God who loves us no matter what we do. He always knows we can do better and if we’re listening, he tells us how. Zoe’s mother became a member of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and she speaks publicly of her abortion regret. Her testimony is valuable to the pro-life movement, but its price is above rubies for her daughters.

In his 2011 piece, Dr. Ney wrote that one of the most important factors in determining whether or not a woman will have an abortion is whether her mother had one. The forgiveness that Zoe’s mother asked for and received, and the way she has raised her children since, has broken the chain for her family.

Let’s pray that all families wounded by abortion will find a way to break that chain.

5 Responses to “Left behind”

  1. Nancy Tanner says:

    Bravo Janet! Thanks for taking this front and center. Sharing the truth about abortion is often most difficult to do with those closest to us, for we often want to protect them and ourselves from the pain. But the rewards of doing so are amazing.
    I can personally attest to the grace of being Silent No More and having the chain broken in intergenerational abortions. After seeking forgiveness, telling my daughters of my abortion, and sharing publicly how my abortion hurt all of us, my oldest daughters made the choice for life when they faced unexpected pregnancies. I have two beautiful grand babies that very well may not have been here today if I hadn’t shared the truth with my girls. I strongly encourage other post abortive women to tell their children the truth of their regret and to then witness the healing that God grants.

  2. jeanne wonio says:

    2 things:
    1. Vicki Thorn, and others, have reviewed articles, including, one from Nature 2008, that let us know that the cells of her babies become part of a mothers immune system. these cells then, are handed down through the mother to the next child. there could be physical reasons children have feelings for an older brother or sister that they do not know.
    2. Monsignor Reilly, Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, does not always feel parents should should tell their children of their past abortions. It could be, among other reasons, children might feel saddled with a burden that is not theirs to carry.

  3. Tom Raabe says:

    Thank you for posting this article, Janet, which I found very enlightening. As a male, I’ve found my thoughts on abortion generally unwelcome in public forums, but as a Christian it is an issue that – to me – affects us all. I had never considered the effects of abortion on siblings of the deceased child and now understand that there is a whole other rung of people who suffer in a very personal way from the decision to abort.

    Thanks again and God bless.

  4. Joseph Bury says:

    Question for the author of this piece. Your title, “Left Behind.” Are you referring to the children who were abandoned by their mothers or the mothers who abandoned their children, or both? I noticed the chains around the woman in your image; I get that. But those chains might also suggest that women who have had abortions (and their children), and are caught in a family cycle of generational abortion, experience pain and suffering as part of God’s master plan. It appears to me at least, that much good (wisdom/understanding) has resulted from all of this (at least for those women – and men who have traveled the road to abortion and reached the conclusion that abortion is wrong) because the gift of life is a gift from the very same God who shapes each one of us over the course of our lives into the persons we become (assuming we permit Him to do so since we do have a free will, to choose or not to choose the destiny He has prepared for each one of us. We can always choose to ignore Him). God will never abandon those with contrite hearts who continue to seek Him, in good times and bad; however, the gift of peace is a gift bequeathed in His time, not ours.

  5. Deanna says:

    I am a sibling of a younger brother or sister that my Mom aborted. After she had one I thought, “Well, if she did it, it was ok for me to have one.” Oh how TOTALLY UNTRUE that was! I not only morn my little sibling but also my own child that I aborted. You know it doesn’t matter how many children we have that are living, because when one is missing we are not whole in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls as either siblings or parents. We have this gaping hole in us that Jesus can only fill now that our child or sibling is gone. I have severe depression, a severe anxiety disorder, some Psychiatrists have said border-line personality disorder, I have, what Doctors call schitzo-effective episodes, and the list goes on and on! And it’s all do to P.A.S.S. You would be surprised at how many Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Family Doctors have never heard of this “so called” disorder! I believe that it is a spiritual conflict and it maybe some sort of a penance due to the fact that we are all the body of Christ and that what we do to one we do to all of us because of the fact that we all are connected spiritually. It’s like Jesus said Himself something along the lines of, ‘What you do to the least of these you do to Me.’ If you would, please tell me the exact passage and where it’s at, because I have been looking for it for about an hour now. I so need to study the Scriptures!!! P.A.S.S. is REAL!!! It is a form of P.T.S.D. and only Jesus Christ can heal us through the intercession of Mother Mary and ALL the Holy Angels and Saints!!! God Bless everyone & Keep you all Safe!!!
    Your Sister In Christ,

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