Abortion and God’s Mercy and Grace
By Amanda Bradley
I have been an Anglican Priest for many years, also a contributor to Project Rachel in the form of counseling those who wish to come for reconciliation following a termination of pregnancy.
Over the years, I have spoken with, and listened to, many young women, and some men, for whom the experience of an abortion is new and raw. However, I have also met those for whom the experience is years old but has never gone away. One such meeting was with a woman of 93, in a Rest Home, who was very much afraid to die. I had been called by staff of the Home to speak to her because of her fear of dying.
She felt that God could never forgive her for a ‘sin’ she said she had committed more than 75 years previously. As an 18 year old student she had met a 20 year old man and they had fallen in love. She had become pregnant.
She did not know she was pregnant until after she experienced bouts of nausea and had fainted several times at her home where she lived with her father and stepmother. The doctor was called and the pregnancy was subsequently discovered.
The decision was then made that the doctor would carry out a termination at home and nobody would be any the wiser. This was carried out, she was forbidden to see the young man again and she was told, by the stepmother, that she would be going to hell for killing a child.
Some 4 years later this woman met her young man again, married him and they had many happy years together, as well as 5 lovely, successful children who, at the time I met her, were all middle aged.
Neither her husband nor her children knew about her abortion. Neither did this woman share her burden with anyone else. She lived all those years with the fear of a vengeful God waiting for her when she died. We talked at some length about the nature of God and of God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace. Eventually she agreed to tell her daughter in law, a school counselor, about her experience of so long ago. This she did, along with others in the family. Her family were all very supportive and sad that their mother had had to carry this burden alone for so long.
She died soon after, peacefully and unafraid.
Before she died she gave me permission to tell her story to anyone whom it might help.
I buried her, moved out of the family’s lives and changed parishes but I have often recalled this woman and given thanks that I can freely share her story to assist others.
During my next period of ministry, I attended a large church gathering of clergy and lay people where the subject of abortion, among other things, was raised. Some very judgmental opinions were voiced by a number of attendees and various punitive measures proposed by some. Eventually, I felt called to go to the microphone to tell the audience of my experience of Project Rachel. I reminded them of forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption and the mercy of God.
At lunch three women approached me. Two were tearful, admitting that they had each had an abortion when very young. The other shared sending her 16 year old daughter to Australia via SOS (Sisters Overseas) to terminate her pregnancy.
The four of us missed the next session as we talked together. All three expressed their gratitude that, after living for many years in silence, they had at last found an opportunity to tell someone about their regrets. I reminded them, as I gave them the prayerful absolution they craved, that God was waiting in the wings for them to turn to him in prayer and always had been. We then shared a time of prayer and while I felt gratitude that I had helped these women move on, yet I was saddened to see that all three had removed their name tags, not fully trusting me with who they were.
These were women who were very active in the church, in responsible positions, purporting to bring the love of God to others, yet they still could not fully trust God with their regrets or a priest working for Project Rachel with their identities. Work in the church-yes; prayers for others-yes; abortion details- yes; reveal their names- no.
It makes me think: ‘Just how many more women and men are out there living needlessly with such burdens?’
Rev Amanda Bradley is an Anglican priest who has worked as a nurse, taught at university, was a foster mother to seven children, and has worked with and counselled men and women post-abortion. Amanda and has been associated with Project Rachel for a number of years.