"I regret my abortion" is a sign you will see at many March for Life rallies. The brainchild of the Silent No More Awareness campaign, the signs do more for post-abortive women than just being a soundbite. Post-abortive women are given dignity, a voice, a means to participate in the public sphere, negatiing the popular notion that women don't regret their abortions. I have always admired their courage as they put their pain out in public, vulnerable but refusing to be silenced.
I could easily hold one of those signs, having aborted my child when I was much younger, but I haven't. I haven't been able to bring myself to join those brave women, not wanting to put myself, a former clinic worker, in their circle. Who was I to be amongst them, a reminder of those who caused them so much pain? I regret my abortion deeply, but what about the thousands of children I helped to their deaths? What about the thousands of mothers I had lied to?
This year God intervened. I was asked to hold a sign saying "I regret providing abortions." I can do that, I thought. Public repentance is a good path to healing. I would march with several friends carrying their "I regret my abortion" signs, and the thought of being with them brought me great comfort. (I also was marching with a wonderful friend, Jewels Green, who is also a former clinic worker.) I didn't know that these women would be the ones to help me to overcome a huge barrier to my own healing. The night before the March I picked up my sign and met several post-abortive women who would be marching. They asked me about my sign and as I told them my story, several of them began to cry. They asked about my own child, and I explained to them I didn't like to talk about it with them because I didn't want to be an obstacle to their healing. One of them hugged me and said, "Catherine, you don't have to take that on for us. You have the right to grieve your abortion." In that moment, that moment of tenderness and compassion, I felt grace. I felt God's love for me working through this woman. A huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders.
My beautiful and brave friend, Brice Griffin, with her daughter, giving their testimony about how painful Brice's past abortion has been for both of them.
I knew that part of the problem was also that I was angry at the people involved in my abortion. I was angry at the counselor, the nurse, and especially the doctor...even though I pray for clinic workers everyday, even though I was one of them, I was still angry.
Even working in the clinic, I felt uncomfortable around the doctors. They were so cold, so impersonable, so....mechanical in their work. I dreaded having to work in the procedure room with them. I've tried hard to pray for the doctors working in the abortion industry over the past few years and the best I could do was to pray for EVERYBODY working in abortion clinics. I couldn't bring myself to pray for the doctors specifically.
At my side at the March was a former abortion doctor, Dr. Anthony Levatino. I had met Dr. Levatino at a conference we had both spoken at two years ago, but I still felt apart from him - not willing to get past what he had done to babies. This time, we were positioned next to one another at the start of the March. Our group was slated to slide into the March right after the first group started moving - (if you have ever been to a march with 650,000 you know how intense it is as everyone behind you surges forward - it is very easy to get pushed back in the crowd and lose your group). I asked Dr. Levatino if I could hold the edge of his coat so as not to get lost. He offered his arm and we started the March arm in arm. In that moment of taking his arm, God showed me the human connection. He gave me the grace to know this man was redeemed, as I am, and forgiven. He gave me the grace to feel love for this man, a man of incredible courage holding a sign "I regret performing abortions" in a sea of dedicated prolifers. I had to hold back the tears as we marched, so grateful that God had given me the opportunity to make a human connection with such a grace-filled man.
Dr. Levatino with Janet Morana of Silent No More at the Supreme Court steps.
Saying that I "regret" my abortion and providing abortions does not mean that I do not know I am forgiven by God. To the contrary, it is the courage that God has given me to let go of shame and self-loathing that allows me to tell the world how much I regret what I did. Do I feel sad at times? Yes. Do I feel disappointed? Yes. Do I feel repentance? YES. At the same time, I feel the mercy of God. His divine and tender love for me has set me free to tell the truth. I am grateful to everybody at Silent No More and Priests for Life for giving me this opportunity. Along the March, many people came up to me and hugged me, thanked me for being there and encouraging me. I even had one person stop me and say "me too" before continuing on her way.
Giving my testimony with Fr. Frank Pavone after the March.
At the steps of the Supreme Court, I was able to give a brief testimony to all of those gathered at the place where abortion was legalized in our country 42 years ago. I was able to speak to prolifers and proabortion protestors alike, speaking the truth about working in the clinic and about my regret for having provided abortions. I left the March knowing that my life was forever changed. Even though I have been speaking about my story for several years, God sent me a few workers in the vineyard to touch my heart and let me know He is always with me. I am truly grateful to everyone who has supported me and given me so much love.
With my dear friend, Jewels Green, after the March.