Having raised my children on pro-life principles, I need her to know what I know ...
When I was 23 I had an abortion. That was 20 years ago, and I have three wonderful children with my husband. Our oldest daughter is 15, and she’s started dating. My husband and I worry about her and her friends, and while we teach abstinence, we want her to know that if she or any of her friends do become pregnant she can come to us. She knows we are very pro-life.
The reason I am writing you is because I’m debating if and when I should tell my oldest about my past abortion. I’m afraid if I don’t tell her I’m withholding information that could save her from harm. I’m afraid if I do tell her she’ll be angry or disappointed in me, or worse, think I am a hypocrite. The last thing I’d ever want her to do is think that because I had an abortion that it’s OK for her to have one. After my abortion I suffered severe depression, and it took decades for me to forgive myself and find peace. I think she needs to know how long-lasting and devastating the effects of having an abortion are.
I’m looking for any advice on this subject and how to tell my daughter.
Silent No More
Dear Silent No More,
Carrying something like that round in your past is a huge and heavy burden. I should know; I’ve carried it myself. I’m really glad to read you’ve found healing and forgiveness. Now you want to know if you should dredge up all those past hurts to share with your daughter.
First let me start off by thanking you for reaching out to me. This is such an important topic and one that I suspect will be brought up more and more as parents who suffer with past abortions struggle to discuss this topic with their own children. Now that celebrities and physician are beginning to break their silence, I suspect we’ll be seeing more items in the media related to this subject.
You’re absolutely right: your daughter deserves to know that abortion has lifelong and devastating ramifications. You’ve learned this from your own personal experience and as a parent you have a responsibility to share this knowledge with your children. I know it’s hard to admit our failings and our less than perfect past, especially to our children who look up to us. I was ashamed of my own past for decades, then one day I realized there is a difference in being ashamed of what we had done and being ashamed of who we are. I am ashamed that I have had two abortions, but those mistakes make me who I am today — unapologetically Catholic and pro-life.
Your past has given you a unique perspective and special insight into the abortion debate. Your daughter is going to hear the mantra “my body, my choice” all through her high school and college education but you know first hand that abortion isn’t just about a woman’s body and her choice alone — it’s also about decades of guilt and, in her case, missing siblings.
To help with the “how and when” to tell your daughter, I called my friend Brice Griffin, a pro-life activist who runs a local pregnancy center, speaks at March for Life, works closely with agencies like Priest For Life and Stand True and writes for LifeSite News. She and her amazing teenage daughter are both pro-life powerhouses and have written about this very subject. Brice tells her story of breaking the news to her daughter, and her daughter Zoe writes about hearing that news. I wanted to give you Zoe’s perspective so you’ll be prepared for your own daughter’s possible reaction when you decide to have the talk.
My children have always been willing to participate in pro-life activism with me. Children see the issue in the clearest and simplest terms. Abortion is killing a child. Killing a child is wrong. For years I have stood on the sidewalk pleading to mothers and fathers to reconsider their choice. They are staunchly and steadfastly PRO-LIFE. I could not be more proud. But I was ashamed. They didn’t know that their own mother had once been on the other side of the sidewalk. And how could I tell them? What would they think of me? What woman can tell her children that “abortion is murder and murder is wrong but not in my case, because I was pro-choice then and I was young and I didn’t know what to do. … So I chose to end the life of your oldest brother out of mere convenience.”
Zoe wrote about hearing the news and feeling like she had been punched in the gut.
It’s a hard read, and I don’t share these stories to discourage you but to help you prepare. I think it’s also important to note that, in their case, they had the council and support of their priest from the very beginning to the end. I strongly recommend you and your husband talking to your priest before you have the talk with your daughter. Ask him for guidance and prayer, ask him if he is available to talk to your daughter after she learns the news. Include God and the Church in your decision, let him guide your words. You need to spiritually prepare for this as much as you need to emotionally prepare for this.
Perhaps some good readers will even be able to leave in the comments their own experience with this or resources they may have for helping children deal with abortion. Your daughter may grieve the loss of her sibling and may need help dealing with that and processing those emotions.
You have my thoughts and prayers, and please keep us updated on how your family is doing.
Katrina Fernandez has a PhD in being single, and a master’s in single parenting with a concentration in Catholic guilt. She’s been writing about these and other life-survival topics for more than a decade. Submit all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.