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A sobering book that explores the pain and grief caused by abortion

Anne R Lastman’s Redeeming Grief avoids politicising abortion debate

By on Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Pro-life protestors at a vigil in Dublin

Pro-life protestors at a vigil in Dublin

I have just been reading a sobering book: Redeeming Grief by Anne R Lastman, (published by Gracewing at £12.99). The sub-title explains what it is about: Abortion and its Pain. Many books have been written on this subject, both by those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice.

This latter group includes the feminist lobby, but having said this there is also a group called Feminists for Life, who recognise the assault on their sisterhood that abortion represents. This particular book is compelling partly because its author admits in her introduction that she herself underwent two abortions, and partly because it does not try to “politicise” the subject; it simply sets out to explore the pain and grief, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged, that abortion causes.

What also struck me about the book is that it is not just about the babies lost; the author has as much compassion for their mothers (and increasingly fathers) who have to try to come to terms with what they have done.

She makes the point that pro-lifers can sometimes seem to be judgmental towards women in their zeal to bring the injustice done to the baby to the foreground. In an honest and challenging article on LifeSiteNews, published on May 14, Abby Johnson, who once had a high-profile position in Planned Parenthood and who later converted to the pro-life cause, says the same thing.

Referring to the appalling stories that have emerged about the clinical practices of the (legal) Philadelphian abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, she says that in condemning him, pro-lifers seem to condemn her for her own past; she asks, don’t they want Gosnell to ask forgiveness and to convert, just as she has done?

Lastman’s book is not about condemnation, unless it is condemnation of an indifferent society and a complacent culture that can allow the slaughter of millions of babies in this fashion; it is, as its title implies, about redemption.

Those who have undergone abortions and who have come to recognise the enormity of what they have done “will never be the same again…That instant of recognition will become the central point” in their lives, she states. The book is a conclusive rebuttal of the stance taken by pro-choice agencies like Planned Parenthood in America and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service over here. “A woman’s right to choose” is their mantra. But as Anne Lastman argues, “choice” is a complicated thing: “Over and above the rational mind there is the spirit, the soul, the emotions.” The mind might decide on something that is completely at odds with the heart – hence the psychological and spiritual damage that occurs.

Some people, reluctantly, think that abortion is acceptable because it is legal. They hesitate to acknowledge that the law can be unjust; just because something is legal, it doesn’t make it right. The same is true in the current battle over the meaning of marriage. Parliament has the power to redefine marriage just as it can redefine when human life begins; but the law, in both cases, will still be wrong.

Those who stand outside abortion clinics in order to draw attention to what is going on inside and to try to persuade the young women involved to think again, are just about tolerated by society, albeit often at the cost of verbal violence.

In the current climate I think it is less likely that the same grudging tolerance will be given in future to those who continue to say that marriage is about a man, a woman and the raising of children.

  • EH

    This is her intro to the book:

    “I came of age during the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I’m a former waitress, an ex-lawyer, a sober barfly, a Catholic convert, and a self-supporting writer. I’ve been financially independent all my life. But I’ve never much been able to reduce the mystical to the political. I’ve never been much moved to call myself a feminist. The feminists had said that sleeping around would be empowering. The feminists had maintained that “choosing” would make me free. The feminists had asserted that there’d be no repercussions. The feminists had been wrong. That I’m for life—and against abortion, war, the prison industry, capital punishment, and hypocrisy—is a given. That I’m for life is why I suffered, in silence, in guilt, sorrow, for over twenty years. Even women, who will talk about anything, don’t talk about abortion. But I do, in this 10,000-word essay that I hope might open the door to a new way of thinking about and talking about this difficult subject. Because abortion is not a political issue; abortion is a mystical issue. Abortion is a matter of emotional and spiritual poverty, of what we inherit from our parents and what we pass on to our children, of what we absorb from a culture that is saturated with violence. As Dostoevsky’s observed: “Love in reality is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” “Poor Baby” is the tragicomic story of a harsh and dreadful thing. May it shed some light on our collective yearning for love.”

  • EH

    Sorry – my previous comment has been swallowed. The extended essay I mentioned is by Heather King – a beautiful contemplative writer of the current day based in LA. Her book ‘Poor Baby’ is a reflection on the reality of abortion in her own life. I believe she had 3 while alcoholic and before discovering Christ and His Church.

  • Andrea

    Thankyou so much for posting this EH. Her message reflects my own.

    Thank you also to Francis for encapsulating Anne Lastman’s message. I am, because of my experiences, a firm advocate of the pro-life view simply because abortion destroys ( As Jesus said Satan is a theif, a liar and a murderer and abortion certainly shows this to be true. From comments I read on these pages it appears that some people seem not to realise that the Church’s stance on sexual ethics is because of this. The sexual liberation ‘revolution’ sold to people in the 60s and subsequent generations are lies which steal your opportunities and lead to death. In the case of abortion of the physical child and the souls of the parents.

    I am not talking here only in terms of their eternal souls but in this life too its rammifications are real; whether acknowledged or not.

    There appears to be a consensus to ignore these outcomes by those in positions of power. In order to combat it we must encouarge women to speak and they will only do so if they believe they have support.

    Also, as Abby Johnson points, conversion and forgiveness is essential if women and men are not to risk their eternal souls. We must encourage women and men to understand that God is waiting to welcome them home. They are in effect already forgiven and all they need to do is return to Him. This is what the prodigal son teaches us.

  • Kevin

    I could not concentrate on this one. It’s never the wrong time to talk about the crime of abortion, but the shocking killing in Woolwich today leaves me wanting to discuss the death penalty. 

    The current consensus among Catholics seems to be that we will not rock the boat on the abolition of capital punishment, with some suggesting this is the only consistent pro-life position. But is it actually an immoral position?

    This is part of what the Tridentine Catechism writes on the subject (being the primary source of Magisterial teaching until the 1990s):
    “Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to [the Fifth] Commandment which prohibits murder.”

    The current Catechism begins:
    “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty”.

    It then qualifies this with a frankly contingent political judgment on the capacity of every regime in the world to impose an efficacious non-lethal alternative punishment. The Church is no more infallible in its knowledge of efficacious penal regimes – which is a political fact rather than a revealed truth – than it is in its bygone acceptance of the geocentric theory of the universe.

    Finally, the modern reference to “taking away from [the murderer] the possibility of redeeming himself” appears inconsistent with the fact that the critical need of the convict to confess his sins before death has always been provided for in Christian countries. Assuming he is contrite he should not go to Hell (though theoretically his victim could). Indeed the Catechism states in an earlier paragraph: 
    “When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, [punishment] assumes the value of expiation”.

    The opportunity for worldly redemption, on the other hand, may in fact be an opportunity for the convicted murderer to inflict “Hell” upon the convict’s cellmates, his prison guards, on the general public if he escapes or even from within prison through his ongoing criminal contacts on the outside.

  • An onlooker

    This is a thought-provoking approach to a complex topic. Thank you

  • Andrea

    Hi Kevin

    You make some really salient points. I recently considered this, but in relation to the Gosnell case. I used to teach RE and stated with the PC capital punishment is wrong line. Then, studying the Bible, I realized Jesus doesn’t object to it per se, but offers mercy. That’s why in the case of Inell, no matter how horrific his crimes, I thought mercy was better.
    I think the most interesting line in your comment is that will these people continue to persecute his victims. I think it’s something I started to think about as in the same week Ian Brady popped his head up and the case in the Ntherlands was tried whe he said he was sorry he didn’t kill more people. It’s n interesting point. I think it will give me food for though for some time.

  • Julian Lord

    The Church is no more infallible in its knowledge of efficacious penal
    regimes – which is a political fact rather than a revealed truth – than
    it is in its bygone acceptance of the geocentric theory of the universe.

    Neither of these things has ever been infallibly declared as Church doctrine, and as for cosmology and astronomy they have nothing to do with Faith and Morals in the first place.

    As for the death penalty, the Church is incapable of providing teachings contrary to “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. That killing in self-defense and in some other cases may be morally unavoidable is a fact, but every single one of these killings remains a mortal sin requiring absolution and penitence. The death penalty, being the deliberate commission of mortal sin, cannot be praised.

  • Hermit Crab

    That we reject the death penalty for murderers, and yet promote abortion, is a measure of the extreme decadence of our society. This is not Catholic.

    Catholic societies did the opposite. They were civilised. We are decadent.

  • $24570317

    ” Parliament has the power to redefine marriage just as it can redefine when human life begins; but the law, in both cases, will still be wrong.”

    I do not agree that parliament has, or has attempted to, redefine either of these matters. In the case of marriage it will only “tweak” the meaning (albeit in an necessary way), in extending it to same-sex couples.

    But sticking with the topic, can you not differentiate between human life (in a strictly zoological sense) and a human being or human person?

  • Lynne Newington

    Reading all these comments not one person has touched on the lives that made it outside the womb, into the loving arms of their mother’s only to have them destroyed by those that baptised them into the family of God.