In college, I was raped - and that rape got me pregnant. I had just finished my second year at a top-tier university as a technical major. I had a scholarship and job prospects that didn't outwardly support motherhood. After all of my hard work to achieve my dreams thus far, abortion seemed like the logical option that would help me take back my life after the trauma of rape. What followed were years of emotional trauma and distress.
I wish there was more of an emphasis on how incredible it is to carry a child and achieve your goals. I also wish that I had received more vocal support as I journeyed back to my Catholic faith as a woman who had had an abortion. I was intimidated by some aspects of pro-life advocacy among Catholics that shamed women who had abortions.
Here are a few ways to support women who are facing similar situations:
How to Support a Friend Who's Pregnant
If a woman you know feels backed into a corner and alone in her pregnancy, how can you love and support her?
Encourage Her and Give Her Examples of Women Who Have Been There
Women considering abortion need encouragement that they can achieve their goals and be a pregnant or a mother. Too many women are intimidated by the lie that they can't finish their education or meet their career goals while pregnant or as a mother. They need to be connected to examples of women who have done both, and they need support and encouragement so that they can do it, too.
Offer Tangible Forms of Support
You can support her in tangible ways like babysitting, helping her study, accompanying her at doctor's appointments, or making dinner for her one night.
How to Support a Friend Who's Considering or Who Had an Abortion
Acknowledge Her Pain and Remind Her of Her Strength
Women who are considering an abortion need reminders that their pain can turn into strength. This is especially true in cases of rape. We can remind them that their perpetrator did not “win” because they are pregnant. There is beauty to be found in this new life, even if the pain is too raw to believe that right now.
Women who are post-abortive also deserve acknowledgement of their pain and reminders of their strength. Dorothy Day is a good example of a holy woman who had an abortion early in life - which she describes as the “great tragedy” of her life - but who is remembered for the bold work that she did for the poor and the working class. Her pain did not stop her from growing closer to God and living her mission.
Show Her That She's Loved and That She Matters
If you have a friend or a sister who had an abortion, let her know that she is a beloved and worthy person. Show up for her and hold her hand, even just silently.
Remind women who are post-abortion that Jesus loves them and that the Catholic Church needs them, even if it seems to shun them or push them away. Reassure her that, even when people loudly and inconsiderately list abortion statistics without any regard to the heart of the mother who suffered, she is still loved and needed in the Church - and her abortion doesn't define her.
Post-abortive women need us to open our arms and our hearts to them. They need us to listen and respond with kindness, such as by saying, “I'm so sorry for what you’ve gone through, thank you for sharing your story with me.”
There's no reason to give them our judgment or opinions on how they should have handled their situation. Rather, we should support them in their journey moving forward. Invite your friend or sister to Mass, to a coffee date or wine night, or to a Bible study – even when you think you know that the answer will be, "No." Keep reaching out, because chances are that she's bearing a lot of shame, and a welcoming hand goes a long way.