On the Ravages of Abortion


Last week, we had our good friend Fr. Matthew over for dinner.  As we were talking about our summers, Father, who’s long been involved in pro-life work, including counselling women who’ve had abortions, mentioned that he had recently returned from another successful Rachel’s Vineyard retreat weekend, expressing joy in his role of having heard confessions during the retreat.  Later, over email, Father graciously agreed to share his experience of how he’s seen first-hand how abortion traumatizes women.

The deleterious effects of abortion on women, Fr. Matthew writes, are “deep and very pervasive”, making the healing process a lengthy one, if not life-long.  Emotionally, he begins, a woman who’s had an abortion often no longer experiences “any sense of peace or stability, but a nauseating roller-coaster ride of emotions, usually dark and heavy.”  She feels “deep shame, deep regret, deep humiliation, and even, often enough, deep despair without any glimmer of hope”, which can be intensified if she has had a dark past of broken homes, a lack of faith and morals, or addiction.  Many post-abortive women, writes Father, “have never known true love, and therefore, don’t know what it looks like or feels like.”

Psychologically, writes Fr. Matthew, a post-abortive woman typically experiences an “embedded conflict”, where she lives one way publically and another way in private, as she seeks, consciously or not, to drown the pain caused by the abortion.  Sometimes she fails to connect this internal struggle with the abortion and attempts to resolve the tumultuous emotions and behavior through costly and mostly ineffective medical or psychological consultations or by other remedies.  A post-abortive woman often deeply feels the sense that she can no longer do any good after having made such a decision.  She can be imprisoned by lies, feeling that she will be condemned if she shares her secret or feeling as though she can’t ask for help because it either doesn’t exist or she doesn’t deserve it.  Depression and suicidal tendencies are “extremely” common for these women.  And the psychological effects can even be felt by any other children that they might have, as the children can somehow sense that a sibling is missing and feel conflicted about why their lives have been spared.

Physically, Fr. Matthew writes, “there is great pain, physical reactions, nightmares, sweats, and tremors”, especially if her sense of connection to the abortion has been triggered by events such as seeing a child who is the same age as the aborted child, hearing a meaningful song, or even on the anniversary of the date of the abortion or due date.  She often has nightmares about babies dying or about her suffocating which are “very horrific”.

Finally, the most common spiritual effect of abortion is despair.  The post-abortive woman often feels that she has committed the unforgiveable sin or tells herself that she simply doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.  She may avoid church, feeling as though she no longer belongs there, or if she attends Mass, will exclude herself from communion, even if she has confessed the sin of abortion in the sacrament of Penance.  “There is a great sense of unworthiness and even despair for one’s soul.”

For more on the effects of abortion, Fr. Matthew recommends viewing the following video from the Silent No More Awareness campaign: http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/articles/article.aspx?articleid=85&owner=0.  The site also has a very powerful video on its home page.

Interestingly, a new comprehensive study on the ill-effects of abortion on women’s mental health has come out just a few days ago, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/largest-ever-study-finds-abortion-increases-risk-of-severe-mental-health-pr?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LifesitenewscomLatestHeadlines+%28LifeSiteNews.com+Latest+Headlines%29.  The study shows, among other things, that abortion increases the rate of serious mental health problems in women by 81%.

As Catholics, though, we believe in life after death, in the Resurrection after the Passion.  With our hearts firmly rooted in the belief of an all-merciful God, next week’s post will continue with Father’s correspondence on abortion, this time telling of the powerful transformations he’s seen through programs such as Rachel’s Vineyard and through the sacrament of confession. He will conclude with a powerful reflection on the immense mercy of God.

“Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God.” — St. John Vianney

 Copyright 2011 Meg Matenaer





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  1. I just was updating my postabortion blog when I decided to hop over to Catholic Mom to check out today’s posts. I too saw all the pick-ups of the study that came out linking mental illness to postabortion – well I could have told you that. It’s amazing to me that there needs to be a study at all to figure out that this may be true – it seems kind of easy for me. But, I digress.

    Being 24 years post-abortion – I recognize and have lived most of what Fr. Matthew describes. Though I may not have had the words for it until a year or so ago, and I didn’t recongize it for what it was, I now know.

    The despair, by far, has go to be the most insidious part of being postabortive for me. It seems to never fully go away. I also can relate to the dual life that Father speaks of. I started a blog about my recovery and healing to give myself a voice that I would not otherwise have.

    • Dearest Ancilla Domini, you have been in my thoughts and prayers! How courageous of you to keep a post-abortion blog–I pray that many women will find comfort and hope from your experience. Despair indeed is the worst human experience of all, and thank God we have St. Peter, who knowingly denied the Christ in His hour of need, only to be forgiven and even be made the pope! Thank God we have Peter, who was such a powerful force because of his intimate knowledge of God’s infinite mercy, to pray for our courage and trust in God’s love! May God bless you, and my prayers are with you on your journey of healing.

  2. Meg, I know the Holy Spirit led me to this article while I was going over my Facebook posts this morning. I also look forward to reading Fr. Matthew’s posts. May God bless him for his support of post-abortive women. Like Ancilla, I am one of them, so his words aptly described my life-long struggle with the aftermath and trauma of abortion.

    Ancilla, I also visited your website and was even more touched as I read some of your story. I plan to read more in the coming days. Even though there are millions of us, we feel very much alone in the world. The shame and guilt keep us silent. However, through the grace of God I made the decision to break that silence and am currently a Regional Coordinator with Silent No More Awareness. I gave my testimony at our state capitol at the March for Life last year. I also stand in front of Planned Parenthood with my sign that says “I Regret My Abortion.” I am reminded of Hester Prynne and her “scarlet letter.”

    Thank you both for reminding me today of God’s unfailing mercy and love!

  3. Marie Teresa on

    Yep. He’s nailed my life in a few paragraphs.

    as a high school kid, i was forced by my father to have an abortion or else … for nearly two months, i fought with my parents every single day. when i turned to the Church – my last hope of support – the priest advised me to be obedient to my parents. with that, i had the abortion.

    thank you so much for posting this article. i don’t know that it ever goes away or gets better.

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