NRL News

The abortion pill as a form of penance?

by | Jun 28, 2016

By Sarah Terzo

abortionpill40In an article in the Washington Post, author Hanna Rosin quotes abortion provider Kathy Rogers saying:

[RU-486 is] not just a pill; it’s a process. And it’s not going to be fast or easy or simple.

Rosin discusses why some women choose to undergo chemical abortions, even though they are so much more painful and drawn out than surgical ones. She is referring to a woman who was interviewed and asked her reasons for choosing the abortion pill:

[The woman who was interviewed] expresses a feeling the pill’s advocates don’t like to talk about, but which nonetheless seems common to the woman who have chosen this new method.

It served for her a form of penance, a way of grappling with her ambivalence over any kind of abortion.

The interviewed woman, identified as Rachel, is quoted saying:

It was like, if I’m going to do this I have to take the responsibility and do it, and I have to put myself through something hard. It would have been cowardly to have someone fix it for me in some easy, safe way. It would not have felt right.

You know, I still think about it almost every day. I will always wonder what this baby would have been like…

Rosin says that abortionists she has interviewed “often hear some form of Rachel’s personal calculation.”

This sad article reveals a number of things. It contends that, deep down, at least some women who have abortions know that abortion is wrong; often they recognize that they are going to lose their children. And that they will be the instrument of those children’s loss.

The author uses the word “penance” to describe the desires of some women to assuage their guilt by putting themselves through a painful ordeal. (And, of course, the article concedes that medical [by pill] abortions are a difficult and painful ordeal.) If the author is right, some women, on either a conscious or a subconscious level, seek out suffering as “penance” for their abortions. They punish themselves for an act they know is wrong.

It is easy to imagine that a woman who has this mindset would be tormented by guilt after her abortion. She may ask herself how much “penance” is enough. Statistics show that the suicide rate for post-abortion women is six to seven times higher than for other women. Could this psychological need for self-punishment be a factor?

It is clear that the woman quoted is suffering after her abortion. The “penance” did not work to assuage her sense of loss.

If nothing else, this article shows that many women do not go in for their abortions casually; they do not abort thoughtlessly for convenience. There are many exceptions to this, of course, like this woman who aborted because she could not fit into her wedding dress while pregnant. But at least some women go into their abortions with a sense of tragedy.

Women don’t seek to punish themselves or do penance when expressing a much-valued right. They seek penance as an act of guilt. They approach their abortions with a sense of despair. This article gives another reason why abortion is not good for women. Rather, it is a tragic choice for many, done in desperation. Pro-life outreach toward these women, especially staff at crisis pregnancy centers, must be there to help them and give them hope.

Editor’s note. This appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Categories: RU486