Of the generations born after 1973, many have been killed by abortion, and many of those remaining, the survivors, are siblings of those who have been lost.
I am such a survivor.
I had not given much thought to the effect of having lost a brother to abortion but my arrival at The Survivors as their Training and Apologetics director corresponded with a national campaign put on by Silent No More. The initiative is called Healing the Shockwaves of Abortion. Each month they focus on a different aspect of the fallout of abortion, how it affects different groups of people who are connected with it: mothers, fathers, grandparents, families, friends, communities, abortion providers, pro-lifers.
This month highlights sibling survivors.
But do siblings really need healing? How could abortion possibly affect siblings, especially if they came after the abortion or did not even know about it? Dr. Philip Ney, a clinical child psychologist and psychiatrist who has for decades studied the effects of abortion on families would answer that question with a resounding yes!
This topic felt like an onion of information, layer after layer of facts and insights and theories. It is my plan to continue to look into and to write about the complexities of this very real syndrome.
I could focus on the correlation between abortion and child abuse. Or how abortion inhibits parental bonding with subsequent children. There are a myriad of discussions, but I would like to primarily focus on one aspect for today that I found insightful, convincing and something we as Christians should work to change.
The distinction between being wanted and being welcome.
We have all heard the battle cry of the pro-abortion activist: “Every child a wanted child!” Problem is that what we are saying is someone’s worth in something extrinsic to himself, in being a “good” or “perfect” child (as determined by others), by being conceived at the “right time,” and the “right circumstances,” or without any biological defects, whether real (e.g. Down’s Syndrome) or perceived (e.g. sex).
On the other hand there is the welcomed child. Being welcome places one’s worth in something intrinsic, in the mere fact that you are a human being created in the image of God. You can be welcome without necessarily being wanted. This is the virtue of hospitality that God calls us to. You don’t have to want people in your home to be hospitable. The virtue of hospitality says to the guest, “Please, come in. Welcome to my home” even when it is inconvenient. That’s what makes the welcome of hospitality a virtue.
Merely being wanted means that you are the product of your parents’ will, as if they were your maker. I sometimes joke about my children saying, “Look what I made!” Or as my dad used to say, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!” Even though they are jokes, they effectively illustrate a profound point. If we are made, or brought about by being wanted, we are subject to our makers, and liable to be disposed of if we stop being wanted.
Oliver O’Donovan, a Christian ethicist, put it this way in his book Begotten or Made?:
A being who is the “maker” of any other being is alienated from that which he had made, transcending it by his will and acting as the law of its being. To speak of “begetting” is to speak of quite another possibility than this: the possibility that one may form another being who will share one’s own nature, and with whom one will enjoy a fellowship based on radical equality.
We don’t make children. We don’t construct them like cars. God makes them. We beget them.
So being wanted is not really what we need. We need to be welcomed, to be shown that our dignity doesn’t come from being wanted or loved by our parents, but from the God who created us out of love. We need to be shown that we are loved because He first loved us. We need to be wanted because we are welcomed, not welcomed because we are wanted.
The problem for sibling survivors of abortion is that unless this lie that human dignity comes from wantedness is shown for what it is, parents and their children will continue to believe it, which tends to lead to abuse and all its attendant consequences. Dr. Ney points out the counterintuitive nature of wantedness.
For many years it was argued that: a) unwanted children would be abused and later become criminals, b) if abortion was freely available, there would be no unwanted children and rates of abuse and criminal behaviour would decline. The logic is wrong and statistics clearly show it doesn’t work. The best evidence from our research and others is that, as the rate of abortions has increased, so too has the rate of child abuse. We found statistically significant evidence that wanted children are more likely to be abused. (Emphasis mine)
The reasons given are that wanted children can have too high of expectations placed upon them, which causes disappointment and harshness; that abortion upsets the instinctual constraint to control the anger that is felt toward the helpless cry of the young children; that abortion interferes with parent-child bonding and touching; and that abortion causes high rates of marital breakup where children don’t develop as well.
What are the attendant consequences of abuse from wantedness? They can lead to something called Post Abortion Survivor Syndrome (PASS), a constellation of symptoms caused by this bad relationship between the generations. The symptoms include pervasive depression, survivor guilt, existential anxiety, anxious attachment, pseudo-secret collusion, distrust, self-doubt, ontological guilt, and dislike of children. Many of the symptoms are similar to what used to be called Concentration Camp Syndrome.
Many of you know that Survivors came about partly because my mom repented of her abortion that killed my sibling. I can’t tell you the exact effect being a sibling survivor has had on me, but I can tell you the more I read the more I realize I suffer from many of the symptoms. Even with repentance, there are still natural consequences.
I can also tell you that I think the symptoms of my being an abortion sibling survivor could have been a lot worse had my mom not told me about her abortion and encouraged me to be actively pro-life. She repented, and that undoubtedly helped me. Even though many of the symptoms are there, they aren’t as pronounced as the case studies I have read about. Dr. Ney says, “It seems that when [abortion survivors focus] their deepest anxieties into helping prevent people from becoming abortion survivors they are functioning best.”
That is true. I feel most alive when I am fighting for my brothers and sisters. I think I could benefit from Hope Alive, the group counseling that Dr. Ney has pioneered, but I think I have already been helped immensely by my work with Survivors. Thank you, Survivors, for this opportunity!
Yes, all children should be welcome despite the circumstances or timing of their conception. As Christians and pro-lifers we need to proactively speak of the intrinsic value of life and the child made in the image of God.
If you are, or think you are, a sibling survivor or suffer from PASS, take Dr. Ney’s advice. Focus those anxieties into preventing other people from suffering the same way. Survivors can help you get started and give you the training you will need.
Resources about Sibling Survivors, PASS, and recovery:
http://www.messengers2.com/ Dr. Ney’s website with books, articles and other resources.
http://mtjoycollege.com/ Dr. Ney’s college, which trains PASS counselors.
[23 April 2015, http://www.survivors.la/blog/2015/4/23/many-remaining-are-siblings-of-those-who-have-been-losti-am-such-a-survivor ]