I have been a part of the AAA Center for Pregnancy Counseling for over 26 years. I think one of the most difficult things for me to face is a woman who is attempting to justify an abortion for the sake of her other children. I always want to tell them that they need to think of another reason because the best thing for her little ones is to have a brother or a sister. In fact, explaining to sons and daughters a few years in the future as to why they aborted their sibling will probably be the most difficult thing they will ever do (unless they choose to make it a life-long secret.)
I just read an article by Philip G. Ney, MD, a Canadian therapist, who dealt with just such a situation in a family. A 15-year-old girl, Susan, had been referred to him because her mood was becoming increasingly more irritable; lately she had been experimenting with drugs and had a series of relationships with boys. When the mother spoke with Dr. Ney, she carefully pointed out that Susan, as well as her brother, were both very wanted children, and had been deliberately planned. Yet, bonding had never seemed to occur with her little girl.
When asked about life, Susan kept responding that she didn’t feel her life was worth living. She felt guilty for just being there. “My mom keeps telling me I was wanted, but that doesn’t always sound so good. I wonder what happens if she stops wanting me. What happened to any of her pregnancies she didn’t want? If she had an abortion, that would mean that she killed one of my brothers or sisters.” As it turned out, her parents had aborted two siblings before Susan was conceived; but as far as they knew, they never told her.
Dr. Ney pointed out to the parents that it sounded like Susan had PASS (Post Abortion Survivor Syndrome.) One of the main symptoms of this is Survivor Guilt. The nature of abortion is so random. What makes a parent keep one child but abort another? Often it is a matter of economics. And, many times women will feel guilty about aborting one baby and have another child within months to atone for the first one. The children who are allowed to be born wonder why they lived while others died. If it is because they were wanted, what happens if they do something that will make their parents change their mind?
Abortion teaches children that they have worth because they were conceived in the right conditions and at the right time; that they have value because their parents want them. Up to 50% of all American children have lost a brother or a sister to abortion, making it much more likely that they live with a performance view of love: I was born because I was wanted therefore I better perform so they will continue to love me. How desperately our culture needs to be told that their value comes from God and is not dependant on what anybody thinks. Each baby has been created in God’s image from the moment of conception and is invaluable in His eyes.
The whole area that terrifies me is a case which is becoming more and more common all the time. With In-Vitro, sometimes more than one baby implants and begins to grow. Therefore, the parents randomly select which of those children will be allowed to continue on to birth. Can you imagine discovering that you were once part of a set of twins or triplets (or even more!) but that your parents had the others destroyed so your chances at survival would be greater (or simply because they only wanted one child.) The knowledge that they survived and others died because of a random choice is overwhelming for many. Some, like Susan, seem to know that siblings died without even being told.
I do not think every child with aborted siblings risks condemnation to a life of guilt. I know of families where the mother (or father) had aborted children years ago and then came to a saving faith in Christ. By the time their other babies were born, their mindset had totally changed. Their sons and daughters were valued because of their intrinsic worth in God and not because they were convenient. I can’t help but think that this will make all the difference.
Christ can set anyone free from Survivor Guilt, or anything else for that matter. He can forgive Susan’s father and mother for what they did so many years before. Unfortunately, our society continues to believe that there is nothing wrong with abortion. It is considered noble and responsible to only bring “wanted” children into the world (ie, Planned Parenthood!)
Tragically, abortion tends to become a generational curse: women whose mothers aborted tend to have abortions themselves. Wounded siblings now beget wounded siblings. Just how vast the ramifications are for our society may never be known. The death of an unborn child affects many, many people.
If you have had a sibling killed by abortion, please don’t hesitate to seek out help. Tragically, because of the pro-abortion sentiment in our culture, many so-called mental health professionals may deny your situation. Hopefully you can find a church with counselors who may be willing to listen. If nothing else, please call us here at the Center. Our number is 402-390-9700. We will try to set you up with a Christian counselor who will care about you.
Keeping it true! Barb