Friday, 24 December 2010
One Saturday recently, I went to our Centre to speak with a woman who had come to us looking for abortion. She had come back to us a second time still asking us to help her get an abortion and it was my job to speak to us on her 3rd visit. A fairly unpleasant job I thought.
This lady, let's call her Monica, knew she could go elsewhere and get an abortion, but she had a certain trust in us. We had talked through all the risks of abortion with her. The dangers, possible side effects, the reality of what would happen to her baby in an abortion. We discussed why we thought it was wrong. All these things let her know we really cared about her health and wellbeing.
But they didn't "move" her in her resolve to abort one tiny bit.
If we got an abortion for her, she felt, it would be at least as safe as it could be. So she came to see us for the third time in the hope that, maybe, she could persuade us to arrange her abortion.
Monica had a toddler already and her husband has serious psychological problems. They have not been together for many months. She has separated from him for her child's welfare as much as her own. He has used physical violence against them before. His family think she is crazy for ever being with him. Her own family think so too. They say to her "It's lucky you only have the one child with him!"
On her previous visits she had told us "I never wanted children - I don't want his child - I don't want this child. Get it out of me!"
This is the language women often use about their baby when they are victims of abuse, rape, violence, or other issues where they are left to feel - as Monica did - stupid, guilty, shamed, hurt and used.
The problem is with the father, not with the baby. But the problem of the father gets reflected onto the baby by the poor woman who carries the child of man who has wounded her.
Can I in the short time we have together diffuse all that hurt and anger and suffering? - I asked myself this as she sat before me. She was very hardened into her choice to abort. Had the doctor been standing in the room ready to abort the child she would have said "yes". I whispered a quick prayer and set about trying to crack the hardened heart. I hadn't spoken for long when suddenly something happened. I hadn't said anything striking but I felt the weight of a huge burden lift in the room. Suddenly she began to say "I think I should keep the baby, What do you think?" She watched a video showing the abortion process at her stage and she said "You know, I have seen this before but it made no impact. I have heard about what abortion does when I came here before, but while I heard the words it didn't affect me. But now, something has changed. All of it has just now become clear to me. It is all affecting me now."
We sat together for 2 hours talking about the help she would need making a plan together. It was light and joyful and suddenly - though she still knew raising this second child - alone - would be hard, she embraced the child as hers - a sibling of her beloved toddler and - she could admit it now - the second child she had always wanted!
After she left, I went to the chapel and afterwards I asked the other staff and volunteers "Who was praying here about half an hour after I went in to see Monica?" no-one they thought. I was mystified. I really felt the power of prayer at work.
I pottered round to Westminster Cathedral that afternoon to see the relic replica image of Our Lady of Guadelupe. It struck me when I arrived that the service of prayer before this image had been led by Archbishop Nichols exactly half an hour after my meeting with Monica started and I couldn't help but feel that it was very much connected. Thank you our Blessed Lady. Monica is now awaiting the birth of her child in April.