In silence a painful expulsion

Article by Catherine Aubin, published in l’Osservatore Romano on April 1, 2017.

Tugdual Derville, spokesman of the movements for life in France, speaks of the loneliness of women who have had an abortion

Pablo Picasso, “Woman Squatting”, (detail, 1902-1903) For a woman loneliness is at the same time a cause and a consequence of abortion since the experience of a pregnancy is both intimate and, in a certain sense, solitary. Her partner, even if he is present has no direct part in it. A woman’s intimate discovery of the first signs of a pregnancy is often a cause of joy, even when there are problems. It is deeply personal, as is always the case for anything concerning life or death, and is thus experienced alone. Tugdual Derville, the founder of an association that supports women who have undergone an abortion, made these comments in an interview with women church world.

What kind of loneliness must a woman face before her abortion?

Where abortion is concerned there is no doubt that women find themselves alone. There are various reasons for this: on the one hand because motherhood is a female experience and on the other because the law in France has reserved this decision for women. From the legal point of view the ultimate decision rests with women. Men are not responsible because they do not know the problem and sometimes also because they are excluded from it by the law itself or by the idea that abortion is a matter that concerns solely women. Nevertheless there is a man behind every abortion and hence an immense loneliness lies behind every decision to abort.

Some people who are close to these women, believing that they are doing something good, leave them alone saying, for example, “It’s your decision, you are the one who has to decide…”, without taking into account that we are all interdependent and linked to each other and that the whole of humanity is involved in a child’s fate. Women, as John Paul ii said, are “sentinels of the Invisible” and also sanctuaries of the life which is within them. What makes the solitude even deeper is the non-recognition of humanity, in the sense of that humanity which unites us with the frailest people. It was once said: “Women and children first”, and this was the recognition of an intrinsic frailty in a pregnant woman. When a decision such as whether to have an abortion is left to a woman, as if it were up to her alone to cut the thread of life, the risk is the loss of the entire dimension of humanity which is passed down from one generation to the next through midwives, who accompany that experience of frailty and of death which pregnancy is.

As regards girls who find themselves pregnant too early, they must confront on the one hand a sense of joy and on the other the admonition that “It’s impossible”, and hence they feel that their family life and their personal life are threatened. The people close to them do not consider their pregnancy possible, for example in the name of religious or social values. These girls thus feel even frailer and experience an immense loneliness. They have to face a series of external and normative impediments which do not permit them to allow free rein to their maternal feelings.

Isolation and loneliness: what difficulties must a woman in this situation face?

The most painful aspect for the woman is that she must make an impossible choice. Because the choice is between the life and the death of the child she is carrying in her womb (however aware she may be of this child’s existence), the fact of cutting off that human destiny, is inhuman. It is the hardest thing. The great suffering – of which isolation is part – depends on the fact that she is trapped in an impossible decision. It is not in the power of humans to decide on the question of life, and even less on the life of one’s own child, but society has asked women to say “yes” or “no”.

The first question that gynaecologists ask women who are expecting a baby is: “Do you want it?”. I would dare to say that this is a question which kills. In fact every pregnancy is experienced in an ambivalent manner, with its share of life and death, frailty and anguish, without forgetting the importance of the environment into which the child will be welcomed. And will the woman’s partner welcome it? Thus a state of turmoil and psychological recomposition is created which psychologists have described well. So in this moment of great frailty and of natural ambivalence (there is desire but also fear, joy but also anxiety), the woman is asked to give a radical answer (which is similar to the answer of a computer: “yes” or “no”), while an intimate story is being written which is always more complex than a “yes” or a “no”. These women thus experience a dramatic loneliness and should be accompanied, not left to a “presumed” individual choice which does not accommodate the complexity of what is so extraordinary, which is created when a life is about to emerge from another, when a body is about to be moulded within another. (…)

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