A new article at Romper purports to help women who have had abortions break the so-called abortion stigma: by telling their surviving children the stories of their other abortions. The author, Priscilla Blossom, explained that she was already considering how she would, one day, tell her son of her abortion.
“I want him to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that his mother believes in a pregnant person’s right to choose,” she wrote. “I want him to know someone, first-hand, who can talk about abortion, and who doesn’t regret her positive experience. I want him to know that if he should ever know someone who is in need of an abortion or considering one, that I can be a trusted individual and, moreover, a resource. I want him to grow up acknowledging everyone’s bodily autonomy (something we already practice via lessons in consent). And a conversation about my abortion experience will help me facilitate all of these messages and lessons.”
One mom said that the story of her miscarriage gave her children nightmares, making her realize that she couldn’t tell them about her abortion — yet she said she worried that not telling them violated her “work values,” as she works as an abortion activist. Another mom explained that she wrote an “open letter” to her children that was about to be published online, so she let them read it first and admitted that she had an abortion as well. Another said she chose abortion because her marriage was going well.
“I explained (truthfully) that while I still had baby fever after having had her, I got pregnant at a time when her dad and I were doing really well and focusing on our own relationship,” she wrote. “It was not a good time for us to have another child.”
Noticeably absent is any discussion of how news of prior abortions affected the children. And telling children that you’ve aborted their siblings isn’t a great way to destroy stigma, but is, in fact, cruel. It causes them immense pain — as sibling survivors have explained.
One sibling wrote of the pain they felt after learning of their mother’s abortion.
“We let it drop and I forgot about it,” they wrote. “But I had not really forgotten. I didn’t think about it consciously for years.” They continued that years later:
Suddenly I found myself thinking about my little brother! I became disoriented and lost control of the car for a moment as I burst into tears having lost him. I was astounded by my reaction, but I couldn’t shake the sadness and longing to have known him.
Other siblings have similar feelings.
She tells me that she speaks to him sometimes, in her mind and in her dreams. She wonders about the life they would have had growing up together. Would they have fought a lot? Would he have counseled her on boy matters? Would he have scolded her for her overzealous high-school drinking?
She believes that in this other world, she is already an aunt. Her brother would have met a girl. Married her. Had babies my friend would babysit and spoil shamelessly.
She feels cheated. She feels lonelier than an only child should feel.
Feelings of survivor’s guilt are not uncommon, according to Dr. Philip Ney, who says that sibling survivors have “lifelong struggles about existing” after learning that their survival is based on arbitrary decisions on whether a child was wanted or not.
Theresa Bonopartis helped found a ministry for sibling survivors after seeing the effect that news of her own abortion had on her surviving sons.
“So much of their life made sense to them after learning about my abortion, from the poor relationship I had with my dad who pressured me to abort, to me marrying someone like their father, who had a problem with drugs and alcohol,” she said in an interview with Live Action. “I did not think I deserved better, so their lives were impacted by my abortion.”
Once Bonopartis got involved with post-abortion healing ministries, she began to see that her family’s experience was not unique.
“I just became very aware of the damage [abortion] was doing to living siblings,” she recalled. People from across the country travel to attend her retreats, showing that the pain from abortion affects many people.
“I have not forgotten my siblings and I never will,” one sibling survivor who attended a retreat said. “I miss them although I never knew them.”
Another person who attended the retreat said, “I thought about my siblings deeply for the first time… ever. It hit me that had any of them been born, I would not have been ‘the eldest’ but the second youngest. The more I thought about it, the more I felt a certain identity crisis.”
Yet another attendee spoke of how the feeling that something was missing was explained by the knowledge of their mother’s abortion:
As a child, I can remember feeling like someone was missing from my family. During my teen years, I pushed those thoughts away because it seemed not true or possible. Six years ago, when I learned my mom had an abortion four years before I was born, suddenly everything that didn’t make sense to me came into focus.
Bonopartis’ Entering Canaan Retreat for siblings helps give survivors the ability to heal from the pain of knowing they are missing a brother or sister, and help them find the support they need.
“I think our main goal always is the truth. Their life has dignity and value in the eyes of God, just as much as their siblings,” Bonopartis said. “God created them and wants them to be whole. There is hope and healing. You are not alone; there are millions of siblings out there.”
Being honest about an abortion may help an entire family heal. But dropping on a child the knowledge that they only exist because their parents decided they deserved life while another sibling didn’t, doesn’t do anything for abortion stigma; it’s cruel and selfish. No child should have to live with the knowledge that their life is dependent on the whims of their parent.