The BLOG: Voices

Markings of mercy

The following is the introduction to the book “Markings of Mercy: The Story of After Abortion Helpline.”

The reality of post-abortion suffering is denied or ignored by many people and by most of the news media. Denying the reality doesn’t mean it does not exist. It is no wonder there is so much denial. So many people have been party to one or more abortions, and each one can be a devastating event.

For the last 25 years, I have been helping women and men recover from the trauma of abortion. The reality of this pain dawned on me gradually. In a beautiful way, God, who loves us all, began to show me the pain at my son’s graduation at Harvard University on June 10, 1982. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who received an honorary degree that day, showed me the way. Her presence and prayers were a source of God’s grace for all of us. At the Class Day speech she had spoken bravely about the love we owe one another. She said “love until it hurts.” On that day, I began to see that people suffering after abortion suffer from a kind of pain that mirrors the deepest pain in my own life, my mother’s sudden death when I was 7. For years I believed that her death was my fault. Grief, loss and guilt were my constant companions.

As I sat in that audience, I wondered, “There are people here who might be able to understand me and my pain. And maybe, just maybe, I can understand them.” I felt a new calling: I had to follow the course of connecting with people suffering and troubled after abortion. The first part of this story is meant to trace the events in my life that led me to that point of challenge. The second part is about helping people recover from abortion. I chose the title “Markings of Mercy” because I see these life events or markings, as just that, God’s loving mercy for me. “God’s mercy is everlasting” (Daniel 3). In a way, the first section, which summarizes the early parts of my life, is praise to God for being so merciful to me.

God’s mercy sums up what we all need during difficult times, individually and collectively as a people. In many cases, this involves those who sanction abortions and have abortions. I think most people do not know or want to know what abortion is doing to women and men, their families and friends. Perhaps they wouldn’t know, out of ignorance or inexperience, how to handle the pain. There is such a riptide out there trying to prove it’s a good thing for women.

Perhaps people do not realize how merciful God is. Perhaps they do not know Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and His loving, truthful ways. Perhaps a friendship with Jesus Christ seems a distant hope for others.

Because I believe Jesus Christ is merciful, forgiving and Love itself, I have hope for people suffering after abortion. Jesus said:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me;
Therefore, he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
To proclaim liberty to captives,
Recovery of sight to the blind
And release to prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the Lord.”
— (Luke 4, v 18,19)

Jesus, God’s chosen one in whom God is pleased,

“shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
And a smoldering wick he shall not quench.”
               — (Isaiah 42, v3)

My hope in Christ enabled me to write this story, to share these little vignettes and information. I hope that others might be encouraged by my story to find healing and to help others find healing.

My journey resulted in After Abortion Helpline, a free, non-sectarian, and anonymous telephone service staffed by trained compassionate volunteers, willing to listen and help people troubled after abortion who would call the Helpline. I have described its planning and development with a two-fold purpose. One is to tell its story. And, more importantly, to help others prepare to reach out to someone in their lives who is troubled after abortion. The newspaper articles about conferences and programs we’ve conducted are meant also to educate and enable readers to help others. I have tried to pass on as much as I could.

Many of the names, dates, places and times related in the book have been changed to protect the identities of the persons involved.

© Joan Pendergast, 2012

Joan Pendergast

Joan Pendergast

Joan Pendergast founded and ran After Abortion Helpline, Inc., in Rhode Island, for 20 years, and helped develop and run Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats for the Diocese of Providence. Joan is the author of “Markings of Mercy: The Story of After Abortion Helpline.”