When Faced with the Past, the Strongest Man CriesBy Annie Banno
This is the story of someone I’ll call "Jack." He wrote this to me after reading one of my columns. It is so compelling that I've devoted the entire column to his words. While Silent No More focused at first on women's healing from abortion, several post-abortive men have joined us in support and in public, and we welcome them unequivocally.
I hesitated until I felt I was in a comfortable situation to write about my experience with abortion. I realize now that I'm not going to get to a point where it is comfortable. I think as a guy I tend to avoid my emotions.
My conversion to Christ and my experience with abortion are closely intertwined. Therefore, I have to give you a testimony to faith at the same time I explain my abortion experience.
I was raised Catholic. We went to church on Saturday nights but didn't have any regular prayer time as a family or religious discussion. I remember having some experiences of faith as a child but by the time it was time for my confirmation, I had turned away from the faith. I chose not to be confirmed.
I went to public school and remember learning about abstinence and at the same time learning about "protection." A friend of mine and I were discussing this approach recently and he said that it’s kind of like saying "don't steal but if you are going to steal this is how not to get caught." The devil convinced the culture that it's OK to separate love and life.
Now we have a culture that hedonistically enjoys using people for their enjoyment instead of giving themselves in a life-long love. The marital act alone has truth and is a lie outside of it. It is also a lie to say I give myself in marriage, but then in the marital act contracept and do not give oneself fully or receive your spouse fully. Husband and wife are meant to love each other so much that it creates a third person — a trinity. A community of life and love. I didn't realize any of these things from my public school health class, from family life, or from catechism classes (only recently through a local Theology of the Body study group and through reading).
I went headlong into the hedonistic and utilitarian culture. But I always searched for meaning in life and ultimately for God. I searched for God in any spirituality that didn’t also include calling myself a sinner.
When I was about 20, I met a girl at work. We ended up becoming sexually active very quickly. She became pregnant. I never had an anti-child mentality. I was excited about her pregnancy. She had an eating disorder which made it difficult for her to accept getting larger. She was scared. We got in our first major argument over her pregnancy. She wanted an abortion, while I was already getting some sense of fatherhood. She told me she wasn't sure she wanted to be with me if I didn’t support her in this.
I realize now that I was in an idolatrous situation. My girlfriend was my idol and my everything. I was willing to commit human sacrifice (of a child) to this idol. I couldn’t afford losing her. I called up my sister who I knew was involved with N.O.W. and a staunch pro-choice feminist. I called her essentially for approval and support. I also sought advice from friends and family, and no one argued against the abortion. But, I'm not sure if I would have listened anyway. We made the appointment and my sister and I went with my girlfriend. I paid for it. I remember a pro-life person nearly convincing her not to go in the clinic. She became upset but still went through with it.
As she remembers it, it might have been twins. At that moment, we both felt a great loss. I couldn’t look at myself as not being a sinner anymore. As a prodigal son, I realized I was in the mud with the pigs. We almost immediately wanted to have another child. About a month or two later she was pregnant again. We got engaged. Between the sin of the abortion of my first child and preparing for the birth of my second child, I started searching through Protestant churches. I could now easily hear that I was a sinner and in need of a Savior. A friend at work invited me to a Bible study. I invited Jesus into my life and immediately felt a burning in my heart and the need for changes in my life. I started praying regularly and reading the Bible. I joined an Assembly of God Church. We would play Mozart on my girlfriend’s stomach for the baby to hear. We bought a house and had our daughter, Miranda Faith. Words can’t describe my wonder and amazement when I held her after she was delivered. As I was bringing her home from the hospital, I turned on the radio. The song that played was "You’ll Be Blessed" by Elton John. I started crying and it was difficult to drive. My fiancée and I were married about six months later.
About a year and a half later, my devout Catholic grandmother was dying of cancer in a nursing home. My brother-in-law was also a good example of a devout Catholic. I started to see what being a Catholic was really about. My grandmother was suffering and probably offering it up for my conversion. My devout Catholic brother-in-law was going to head off on a missionary trip for almost a year. Before he left I told him I was interested in learning more about Catholicism and he gave me a book called A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn. I started realizing the truths of the Catholic faith and quickly had a reversion. I went to Confession and gave it all to Jesus and He gave me His love and His healing.
In the meantime, my wife had stopped going to her Church and had started partying. I treated her poorly. Within weeks of my conversion, she told me that she wanted a divorce. I left the house and moved in with my parents. I immediately had my daughter baptized.
A couple weeks later my grandmother died. I didn’t have the support of friends and held onto Jesus with all that I had. I started going to Mass daily and to Eucharistic Adoration often. Jesus carried me through. I almost lost my house to foreclosure, I wrecked my car and it seemed as if everything I had was wiped out. I believe that the suffering, although difficult, was necessary.
I was divorced a couple months later and have had partial custody of my daughter ever since. This marriage has since been annulled, and I finally received Confirmation.
Being a father and understanding the true meaning of Eucharist, life and the Fatherhood of God, I realized the need to heal from my involvement with abortion. I was forgiven by God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation yet I felt I needed to face what I did more directly and find healing. I saw the Rachel’s Vineyard ads at a church and inquired whether a man could attend. They said yes and so I went. I don’t know if I ever cried as much as I did on that weekend. I grieved the loss of my child along with many of the women who were there, some who felt forced into having abortions by men. I realized the mercy and love of God to an extent that I never had before. I experienced God's forgiveness and healing in a deeper way. I asked for my child’s forgiveness. I named her Rebecca. I still to this day experience sorrow because Rebecca is not with me, but I find comfort in the mercy of God and I hope I will see her one day.
P.S. Please feel free to post this if it could help others in your ministry. And let me know if there are any other ways I could help. I have sent this note to my present girlfriend because I don’t know if I've expressed my abortion experience to her like this before.
I am reminded of the Dan Fogelberg song, "Souvenirs" for its lyric: "When faced with the past, the strongest man cries." "Jack" is certainly among the strongest of men.
If you know or think you know a man who regrets an abortion in his past, or a woman who does, please pray about this: consider printing this and showing it to him and/or her. Chances are that we all know at least two such Jacks in our lives.