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.