Following is my August column that appears on this month’s book page of the print edition of The Catholic Post.
The definition of a “trigger warning” is a statement before of some form of media so people can be aware that something distressing will be shown or discussed.
Consider yourself warned.
The other day, in the midst of one of the worst (so far) videos released on the Planned Parenthood outrages, a dear, wise friend shared on Facebook the William Wilberforce quote, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” So I shared it, too, and included her #DefundPP hashtag.
But within a few hours, I felt like I was not telling the truth.
The whole truth? I’ve looked away.
I’ve only watched part of the first video, where the Planned Parenthood medical director eats her salad as she calmly describes how her staff alters abortion methods to obtain highly prized unborn organs for research. I just couldn’t watch any more.
Even seeing screenshots or reading brief descriptions of the subsequent, even more graphic, videos has been profoundly distressing. I have felt sad and helpless to act. I know I’m not alone.
I’m somewhat heartened by Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s comment about our natural horror at it proving, “that despite over forty years of legalized abortion, the human conscience has not been completely deadened.”
I recently heard a podcast interview with journalist Rukmini Callimachi, who covers Islamic terrorism for the New York Times. It’s her job to watch videos of beheadings and gruesome killings by terrorists that were all over the news and horrified the world last summer, but which are still happening, once every few days.
Callimachi shared that while she must watch the videos to write about terrorism, she looks away during the most graphic footage to “just see the edges of it” to lessen its effect on her psyche.
It’s not just okay, but often the healthiest response, that we “look away.” Setting boundaries on media consumption is a mark of maturity, not lack of toughness.
But that doesn’t mean we know or do nothing.
As I learn even from the “edges” of these graphic Planned Parenthood videos, my heart breaks not just for what’s going on. I also mourn for the women and girls who feel they have no choice but abortion, and for all those involved in the abortion industry.
First, let’s consider the women and girls affected by abortion.
No One Told Me I Could Cry by nurse and health educator Connie Corso Nykiel, is a revised and expanded update of her bestselling and groundbreaking work on healing after abortion.
In this 20th anniversary edition, the book has been updated to reflect the latest research on pregnancy and abortion; the increased support offered to young women, especially college students, to allow them to have children and continue education; and the wealth of resources and groups for women and families to grieve and heal after abortion.
No One Told Me I Could Cry is a sound, non-judgmental resource. It walks alongside women. It’s written expressly for “the young” going through the grieving process after abortion, but as the author describes, it can be for women, either recently or many decades later, who need healing and closure from the wound.
Next, let’s consider those in the abortion industry.
I’ve previously recommended Abby Johnson’s groundbreaking memoir, Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line.
Re-reading it in light of recent revelations is especially heartbreaking, to see how the natural idealism of a young person can be exploited. If you have not yet read this book, don’t miss it.
Another, more recent, account inside the abortion industry is Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Womans Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back by Ramona Trevino, with Roxane B. Salonen.
Trevino’s story explores how good people drift in our culture, and how the prayers and support of others can help them change paths.
Trevino’s encounters with various Catholic priests over the years was especially moving. One priest is curt, sharing Church teaching in a condemning way. Another time, at a turning point in her journey, a priest shares with her gently, “This isn’t going to be easy, and it might not happen right away…but it’s important for you to realize that where you work … is contrary to the will of God. In fact, by working there you’re putting your soul in danger.”
Reading books like UnPlanned and Redeemed by Grace inspires action, whether it’s prayer for the conversion and healing of those involved in the abortion industry, or providing support to groups like the charity And Then There Were None, which equips those leaving the abortion industry with material, spiritual, and practical assistance.
Praying for those affected by abortion is a vital work anyone can do. Venerable Fulton Sheen promoted the concept of “spiritual adoption” of the unborn. Another book takes it to the next level, and is relevant to praying for all those impacted by abortion.
Adoption Movement: Saving Souls by Esmerelda Kicsek is a brief and prayerful book about the importance of interceding for others. Kicsek makes the case that it’s good for us to spiritually “adopt” others persons and pray for them as we would close members of our family.
Adoption Movement explains of the concept of spiritual adoption through quotes and stories from the saints, Kicsek’s own story of being called to spiritually adopt, and numerous simple, doable ideas of how the reader can make spiritual adoption a part of one’s prayer practice.
For instance, Kicsek recounts the well-known story of St. Therese praying for the conversion of condemned criminal (who converted before his death) and who called him her “first born.” Kicsek also shares how the practice of spiritual adoption has been fruitful for her and others in ways beyond understanding.
Reading this book gave me many realistic and small ideas of how to spiritually adopt those affected by abortion.
God, who loves us more than we can imagine, despite anything we have done, wants us to be whole and well. He desires our human flourishing here on earth as well as in heaven. Part of bringing about the Kingdom of God here involves us sharing that message with those close to us.
Consider reading some of the books discussed here and then praying about ways you can offer hope and healing to others.