Kathryn B. drove 600 miles and overcame an almost debilitating attack of nerves to be at the National Memorial for the Unborn in Chattanooga, Tenn., last month to tell the story of the choice she had made 19 years earlier to abort her baby.
"I actually believed the choice was somehow humane," said the Cleveland resident. "Like a lamb to the slaughter, I signed the form."
What followed was self-recrimination and regret, inconsolable grief and unbearable guilt and "a wound that would never heal."
But when she read "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion," co-authored by Rachel's Vineyard founder Theresa Karminski Burke, Kathryn found a way to forgive herself. Now she is one of more than 9,000 women and men who are part of the seven-year-old Silent No More Awareness Campaign and willing to say they regret their abortions. She also is one of hundreds who share their stories in public settings across the country, often with news cameras rolling, as they were in Tennessee.
But a new campaign on Twitter asks women to say "I had an abortion" and summarize that experience in 140 characters or less. The campaign was started by Steph Herold, a pro-abortion activist who launched the website Iamdrtiller.com to honor the murdered abortionist Dr. George Tiller, who killed children through the ninth month of their gestation. Ms. Herold's Twitter name for the "I had an abortion" campaign is "IamDrTiller," and her aim is to destigmatize abortion. One poster said the tweets also were a way to "silence" the men and women of Silent No More. But they will no longer be silent. Nor can the story of any abortion be told in just a few words.
"Women who have suffered the loss of their children by abortion are the victims of unspeakable trauma - a hideous unspoken violence," Ms. Burke says. "Why is it that tweeters who claim to feel so empowered by abortion feel so intimidated and hyperaroused by the stories of other women who reveal the procedure as an emotionally wrenching act of destruction?"
In her work with thousands of post-abortive women all over the world who come to Rachel's Vineyard retreats to be healed, Ms. Burke has seen how many of our sisters have suffered in the aftermath of abortion.
No matter what your stance is on abortion, she said, "it is important to accept their experiences with tolerance and sympathy. They have something compelling to teach us about female oppression, discrimination and a society that rejects women and the children of their wombs; about a planet where women are forced to be flattened in the name of freedom; about a tyranny which violates female instinct, femininity and women's unique role in procreation."
Many women have come to regret their abortion, a fact that even the Supreme Court has acknowledged. Why is it that the pro-abortion groups that claim to be the voice of the women in America and say "listen to the voices of women" won't acknowledge the voices of the women from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign? Those groups would like the Silent No More women to remain silent about their regret, but these women want to reach out to those considering abortion and say, "Listen to our stories." Experience trumps rhetoric. So many who now regret their abortion were once saying the same thing as the women who are tweeting that their abortion was a good decision. Eventually, one's true feelings surface. Abortion is not an empowering decision for women. It causes the death of their child and - like it or not - a part of them also dies.
My colleague Alveda King leads the black outreach for Priests for Life and is an outspoken voice for Silent No More after her own two abortions. She knows firsthand the pain of abortion, and she has seen how it cuts deeply into the black community. She has become one of the leading proponents today for women's reproductive rights, which do not include the "right to choose."
"We should recognize that women become mothers the moment they are pregnant," Ms. King says. "The baby in the womb is a dependent, but fully human individual who is nourished and safeguarded by his or her mother. Any program that seeks to assist mothers should begin when motherhood begins, at pregnancy."
Ms. Burke agrees. "True women's rights and freedom will never exist until our reproductive capacity is valued and the children we create are cherished by society and the men who father them," she says. "Violence against women will never end until society recognizes the benefits of fashioning life, instead of insisting upon its necessary destruction. So-called reproductive health by abortion is a counterfeit lie that threatens women and their children with violence and abandonment. The number one cause of death during pregnancy is murder. Abortion on demand has created a mindset that killing is the solution to unwanted responsibility - not just for the baby, but for the woman who won't exercise her 'freedom of choice.' "
Like the women who came to the National Memorial for the Unborn last month to place plaques with their babies' names on a memorial wall, Ms. King knows motherhood does not end with abortion.
"Women never forget the babies they gave up," she says, "no matter how compelling the reason seemed at the time."
As the tweeting goes on, the I Had an Abortion campaign is logging a growing number of posts from women who have not had abortions but want to keep their options open. Pro-lifers who post opinions are sneered at by the pro-aborts, several of whom have vowed that for every "anti-choice" post that pops up, they will donate money to an abortion fund. (As if they won't donate anyway.)
Georgette Forney, president of Anglicans for Life and the co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, added several or her own tweets, sharing a history that includes psychiatrists and anti-depressants.
"Typical exploitation of women w/difficult choice ... solicit money for abortion funds instead of help at optionline.org," she wrote.
But unlike many of the posters who have no idea what it's really like to have made that choice, Mrs. Forney can say, "#ihadanabortion." She, like countless others, will always regret it.
I challenge all those posting on the hashtag #ihadanabortion to visit the website SilentNoMoreAwareness.org to read the testimonies of thousands of other women who have had abortions and to seek the healing that is there for the taking.
Janet Morana is executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.