A bunch of cells?

A conversation with a friend reminded me of this post. When it comes to the very very emotional subject of abortions, I am in a position to understand both sides. I’d love to see more dialogue and more compassion, and less yelling at each other. It’s a very painful issue, and much more complex than many realise.

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We had someone come to talk to us about abortions in church last night. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, although I’m sure many others hadn’t been aware of a lot of the facts. He showed us a video clip of the developing baby in the womb at around 6-10 weeks (that’s the time that most abortions, at least here in the UK, are done) but that was not new to me, in fact I had seen a better video clip once, probably when I was on the pregnancy counselling course – it was beautiful, I really felt like I was watching what it says in Psalm 139, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

But this guy showed us another video clip, which I couldn’t bear to watch for more than a few seconds. It was a clip showing what actually happens in an abortion.

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A bunch of cells?

We had someone come to talk to us about abortions in church last night. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, although I’m sure many others hadn’t been aware of a lot of the facts. He showed us a video clip of the developing baby in the womb at around 6-10 weeks (that’s the time that most abortions, at least here in the UK, are done) but that was not new to me, in fact I had seen a better video clip once, probably when I was on the pregnancy counselling course – it was beautiful, I really felt like I was watching what it says in Psalm 139, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

But this guy showed us another video clip, which I couldn’t bear to watch for more than a few seconds. It was a clip showing what actually happens in an abortion.

It wasn’t the sight of all that blood that did it for me. It was the sight of these tiny little limbs being scraped away, as though they’re rubbish. Bits of human body being scraped out. And why? Unwanted pregnancy – that’s what they call it. Unwanted. Inconvenient. Extremely and highly inconvenient sometimes. Having a baby just now would mess up my plans, it would mess up my education, my career, my plans for the future. Or: I can’t afford to have a baby just now, I have no way of supporting it. There are lots of reasons, and they all seem like very valid reasons at the time. I know. I’ve made that decision twice, and I know how unbelievably sensible it seemed at the time. (Of course with all such reasons of “inconvenience”, giving birth and having the baby adopted would work perfectly well – for every unwanted baby there are so many couples going through the agony of not being able to have children.)

I also know now what I didn’t know at the time: that it wasn’t “just a bunch of cells” – well, no more than I am just a bunch of cells, which I suppose in terms of my biological makeup yes, that’s what I am.

The doctors use these euphemisms to try and make it all more palatable – for the woman having the abortion, and also for themselves, as they also have to live with what they do. I’ve heard that some doctors and nurses who perform abortions report nightmares – having seen just a few seconds of that video clip I’m not surprised! When a woman has an abortion she doesn’t see what’s going on, they protect us from the awfulness of it. Just as they protect us through the language they use – talking about “termination of pregnancy” rather than describe the violent removal of a baby from the womb, bits of its body being scraped out as though it wasn’t a fellow human being.

But that’s what they need to keep telling themselves – if they are to be able to keep doing what they do, they need to believe that it’s not a human being. The use of terms like foetus and embryo helps them to believe that – let’s not call it a baby just yet, so we can pretend it isn’t. Because we all know that killing babies is wrong.

That’s why the doctor didn’t say to me: ok, let’s arrange a date to have your baby killed.

But leaving aside for the moment the horrendous fate of the baby, the other thing they don’t tell you about when you’re considering having an abortion, is what it will do to you. They don’t tell you that women who have had an abortion tend to develop a version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can only be healed through some really good and deep counselling.

Because despite all the euphemisms, deep down you actually know what happened, you know there was a baby inside you and that you acted totally against the role of mother – instead of protecting and nurturing, you destroyed and killed. The guilt is huge. The grief and loss feel unbearable, especially as you have no outlet for them – you feel you’re not entitled to grieve, because you brought it on yourself; and society around you tells you that you have nothing to grieve for, it was “just a bunch of cells”. So you bury the grief as deep as you can. You find all sorts of ways of numbing the pain – it could be stuff like alcohol or drugs, it could just be keeping very very busy. I found that seven gin and tonics every Friday night did the trick for a while. So you go through life, sometimes for years and years, not realising why you are living the way you are living, not realising why you need these pain-numbing mechanisms, not realising why at a particular time of the year you get especially sad (it’s often the anniversary of when the baby would have been born), not realising that the pain is still there and is never going to go away until you bring it out and deal with it.

I am so grateful to have received God’s forgiveness and healing. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Let us reason together, God says. We know when we’ve done wrong. All we have to do is repent, turn back to him and he will forgive us and give us a clean slate. But carrying on as though it wasn’t wrong – that is the way to constant grief and never-ending pain.

P.S. If you have had an abortion, don’t suffer in silence. There is hope, there is help available. This is one place I can highly recommend.