The March for Life and other pro-life events can bring painful reminders for women struggling with the heartache of infertility or a past abortion, according to several outreach workers.
Loneliness, sorrow, fear, shame and jealousy are some of the emotions that can leave many such women feeling conflicted and confused.
“From the pro-life side, we hear a lot of judgement without compassion. On the opposing pro-abortion side, we are laughed at,” said Lauren Kretzer of Silent No More, a Christian-based campaign that raises awareness of abortion’s emotional and physical aftereffects.
Now a Philadelphia-area regional coordinator for the organization, Kretzer speaks from personal experience, having had two abortions until she embraced a pro-life perspective and began processing her suppressed guilt and grief.
Kretzer said that though “important” in conveying “what really happens,” graphic images of abortion – including those featured in the book and movie “Unplanned” — “can bring up a lot of guilt and regret.”
For women who are unable to conceive, the issue of abortion can prompt a spiritual crisis.
“They can feel frustrated to see how God chooses to bless some women with children … (knowing they) will abort them,” said Kimberly Henkel, co-founder of Springs in the Desert, a Catholic ministry dedicated to assisting women and couples affected by infertility.
Henkel’s fellow co-founder, Ann Koshute, said that “emotions tend to run higher” when women already grappling with infertility are “faced with the reality of what Pope Francis calls ‘the throwaway culture.’”
“It’s difficult knowing that the motherhood women experiencing infertility so desperately want appears to be so easily thrown away by some,” said Koshute.
Henkel noted that for women with infertility, “it can be hard to see the witness of large, joyful families” at the March for Life and other pro-life demonstrations.
She added that women rendered infertile after abortion can find such events “particularly painful.”
Individual reactions “depend upon the woman and where she is at in her healing process,” said Steven Bozza, director of the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family.
Ministries such as Springs in the Desert and Rachel’s Vineyard, a post-abortive healing program, can enable participants to process their experiences in a safe, supportive environment.
“Having a community of friendship and support” is essential, said Koshute.
Kretzer also stressed the importance of “staying connected to healing ministries.”
“So many leave the weekend (retreat) never to be heard from again, or return to a self-destructive lifestyle due to their post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said.
A relationship with Christ provides the ultimate healing for the profound wounds of both abortion and infertility – and enables women to transform their agony into hope for others.
“The women I know see (pro-life issues) as opportunities to exercise their spiritual motherhood,” said Koshute. “The pain that tugs at our hearts most often is a catalyst for our activism and willingness to speak for the most vulnerable.”
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