Throw a stone into a pond and the waters don’t remain still. At the point it breaks the surface, the water is disrupted by a small wave that continues rising ring after ring, expanding ever outward. While the point of impact may seem relatively small, the ensuing waves reach out in greater size, disturbing previously peaceful waters. This illustration reminds me of abortion’s effect. The point of impact may start small. We’re told it’s just a choice between a woman and her doctor. Yet, the consequences spread to the baby’s father, other family members and potentially siblings—both older and younger.
Pro-abortion activists deny that there are any long-term effects of abortion on women. So, it’s no surprise they refuse to acknowledge how abortion is damaging to the lives of others. In a recent column of “Dear Abby,” a mother writes with concern for her daughter. Out of spite, her ex-husband told their teenage daughter that her mother had a past abortion. Now, she worries about how this may be impacting their daughter. Rather than offer counsel or advice, Abby’s response is, “The fact that you aborted a child before your daughter’s birth has nothing to do with her.”
Meanwhile, this young girl may be left with questions, fears and insecurities, knowing she was chosen to live, while her sibling was killed, merely for being inconvenient.
What do siblings feel? One of the most prominent researchers in the field of abortion’s effect on siblings is Dr. Philip Ney. He says that a common post-abortion symptom they experience is existential survivor’s guilt. There’s a sense that “I don’t deserve to be alive.” An internal struggle takes place with the knowledge that they lived because they were “wanted,” while their siblings were not. Symptoms can manifest as depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, self injury, low self esteem and dissociation. Unfortunately, abortion isn’t widely acknowledged as a trauma, which means that diagnosis and healing can be overlooked.
The pain felt by siblings is very real. Recently, our pro-life television program, Facing Life Head-On, produced an episode dedicated to sibling survivors. One of my guests was a young lady named Renee. Her story begins when she was ten years old. Renee’s mother was just 30 and a recent widow trying to raise four children. She got involved with a man and became unexpectedly pregnant. Doctors told her that the baby may have health issues. Struggling and overwhelmed, she felt the baby would be better off in heaven and had an abortion.
She kept the abortion a secret for 11 years before finally confessing it to her children. Renee recalls the shock and grief she felt that night. Her immediate response was to comfort her mother. She felt sorry for the pain she had endured all those years. Her mother revealed that the child was a boy she had named Joey. Somehow, that knowledge gave Renee something to cling to. Still, after finding out, she had a deep sadness as she grieved the loss of her brother. “Why was I okay to keep, but my brother wasn’t?” she asked. She struggled with forgiveness and moving on. She found her emotions to be challenging, “I am more sensitive to some things than I was before. For example, I feel pain and jealousy when I see others becoming big brothers and sisters.”
Part of Renee’s healing was found through a retreat for siblings, conducted by an organization called Lumina. She said, “For the first time in my life I was in the presence of other siblings who could totally relate to my pain and issues. It gave me the confidence to keep sharing my story in the hope that others can also receive the healing and connections I was blessed by.” Her outreach continues through a Surviving Sibling blog and a support group on Facebook called Abortion Hurts Siblings and Others.
Helping sibling survivors of abortion is a relatively new concept, so it can be difficult to find the help and resources needed to heal. With over 56 million unborn babies lost to abortion since 1973, it means there’s an entire generation of missing brothers and sisters. It’s a need that’s largely unmet and is going to continue to grow. The pro-life movement must adjust to include siblings as part of the pro-life equation. And we need to encourage the mental health community to be aware of and recognize this issue. Let’s break through the painful silence. With each step, we can shatter the cycle, and instead, create a ripple effect of healing.
LifeNews.com Note: Bradley Mattes is the executive director of Life Issues Institute, a national pro-life educational group.