If evil is the distortion of the good, then it would seem that abortion and all the trauma that comes with it is one of the preeminent evils of the modern age. Fifty years ago, when the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade and thus legalized the right of a mother to terminate a pregnancy, nobody could have imagined what such a “right” would have morphed into in 2022 — save, of course, for Blessed Pope Paul VI, who essentially prophesied it in his papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.
This act of abortion, which is touted as something to be proud of and even to “shout” nowadays, has left indelible scars on the many women who have undergone one. Try as we might, none of us will leave this life unscathed from the scars of trauma, and these scars are only deepened and widened on the women who have suffered from the evil of abortion. Many women have undergone the procedure for what they might innocently perceive to be the greater good, but no one can take a life and get away cleanly — despite what the world might tell us.
Thankfully, by the grace of God, there is hope and healing to be found for any and all women who have had an abortion, as well as for fathers and other family members who have been affected by that trauma. It takes a tremendous amount of work and courage to face the trauma left by abortion, but Dr. Bob Schuchts attests that it is not out of reach for any woman, and that it is possible to find a transcendent peace. Dr. Schuchts is the author of several books and the founder of the St. John Paul II Healing Center based in Tallahassee, Fla., whose mission is simple: to help those who have experienced trauma, of any degree, to find the healing that only Christ can bring.
In a conversation with the Denver Catholic, Dr. Schuchts lent his unique expertise and insight into the ways in which the wounds of abortion manifest themselves in the women who have had them, but more importantly, the ways in which Jesus wants to heal those wounds — and he does.
What kinds of struggles and trauma have you witnessed when working with women who have had abortions?
It’s a tremendous amount of trauma. But most women don’t come initially because of the abortion. They come for other reasons. And it takes, at least what my experience has been, quite a bit of trust and healing in other areas of their life before they even venture into the trauma of the abortion. A lot of times, for the women that I’ve met with who have had abortions, it’s not in their conscious awareness when they begin the healing process. It doesn’t matter whether they’re radically pro-choice or radically pro-life, if they’ve had an abortion, their initial denial of trauma is similar. They may take their ideological perspective as a buffer against the pain and the shame of what they’ve experienced. So, on one hand, for somebody who’s radically pro-choice and has had an abortion, it’s almost a way to fight against their shame. It’s a defensive response out of denial until they enter into the trauma. Whereas somebody who’s had an abortion and is very pro-life, there has been a certain awareness and a repentance at a level, but sometimes they can become just as aggressive in the stance of pro-life as a buffer against their own shame and pain.
What have you observed in the overall behavior and demeanor of someone who has dealt with the trauma of their abortion?
You can tell the difference between somebody who’s received healing from their abortion wounds from somebody who hasn’t. Somebody who’s healed from it approaches men and women on every side of the political debate with a lot of compassion. In those who haven’t received healing, there tends to be this militancy with accusatory anger and judgment. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they start blaming each other. But underneath their blame and condemnation of others is a projection of their own shame and self-condemnation. Whereas when somebody is being healed — let’s just take a woman who’s more pro-choice — a woman who is healing suddenly begins to recognize the falseness of their position. They realize this is a human life. This is a baby that I killed. That realization for a woman who’s been defending herself via a pro-choice argument is extremely painful and horrifying. It really takes a lot longer for a woman who has been in denial to come to that awareness because of all the defenses that are built around it. But I’ve seen several of those women come to know Jesus as they go through this process of healing. They come to recognize they need a Savior; they need his merciful love. As that recognition happens, some of their self-reliance, that really strong sense of self-reliance that we all use to protect ourselves, starts to dissolve, and you begin to see a very vulnerable person who’s reliving the trauma around getting pregnant, first of all, and then the trauma associated with the lack of support and lack of affirmation for their pregnancy by the people around them. And then they face the trauma realizing what it was like when they went through the actual abortion. I’ve heard so many women who dissociated from that trauma; they cut themselves off emotionally. Many of these women already had so many previous experiences that hardened their hearts. They learned how to disconnect from their emotions long before they came in for their abortion. So it’s this whole history beforehand that’s allowed them to be hardened or powerless enough to go through with their abortion. Many realize they were forced to go through with an abortion against their desires. This is another aspect that needs to be healed, through forgiveness of the people who coerced them.
How does the wound of abortion manifest itself in the women who have undergone one?
I have heard so many horrific stories of how a person just gives up hope after an abortion. That could manifest in any number of ways, such as becoming sexually promiscuous, taking drugs, or having multiple abortions, because it doesn’t matter anymore, because they’ve disconnected from their body and soul. They’ve disconnected from their heart, and life is now hopeless. That reckless behavior could go on for years. Or it could manifest in that kind of radical militancy, “I’m going to fight for this cause to defend against my pain and shame.” But, inevitably the trauma of the abortion bubbles to the surface, and they have the opportunity to deal with it in a different way. Once they start to face it, there are at least two layers of wounds that need to be resolved. Initially they face their shame and guilt (“what have I done? How could I have done this?”). Then there’s the trauma of facing the loss of her baby, who she carried in her womb. These areas all need healing, in addition to the relationships surrounding their abortion.
What happens when a woman truly discovers that trauma of abortion that you speak of?
They’re often shocked because they’ve started to open their heart, to heal in other ways, and then suddenly realize that this trauma has been stored in their soul the entire time. It’s been buried. They realize for the first time that they’ve disconnected their heart from the reality. This denial happens even with people who know that abortion is wrong, but they still do the same kind of disconnection just because the reality is so painful. But I think there’s another dimension here, too, which is the spiritual dimension. We have been reading and hearing about the pro-abortion groups that are saying, “you think the riots and the destruction of property and everything’s been bad, it’s now going to get really violent. We’ve given you this period of mercy. But now there will be no more mercy.” What kind of demonic influence is underlying these threats? I believe, the same spirits of violence, destruction, and death which instigated a similar violence, destruction, and death of a helpless baby in the womb? And now we see organizations who turn their trauma into a murderous response, a violent response to those who would oppose abortion. To me, that speaks to not only the amount of trauma that’s there, but also to the spiritual realities that are undergirding both abortion and the political fury that we see today.
In your experience, for the women who find peace and healing after an abortion, what is at the root of that?
Let me say what’s at the root of the trauma first before I address the root of the healing. At the root of the trauma is ungrieved loss, ferocious self-hatred, shame, and guilt. My experience has been that self-hatred matches the level of trauma. When there’s that level of trauma, the level of self-hatred and the inability to forgive oneself or forgive the other people who are part of the abortion can be severe. So, part of healing process involves grieving, facing reality, and repenting, but part of healing also involves forgiving oneself and being forgiven by God. There are a lot of women and men that I know who have gone to confession but can’t really forgive themselves. They know formally that they’ve confessed this sin, but they haven’t really faced the depths of their pain and shame, and that’s usually a longer part of the process. The only way shame can be healed is through love, and the only way guilt can be healed is through forgiveness. We can’t rationalize guilt and shame away. That never works. Healing requires an encounter with God. I’ve experienced beautiful encounters where we’re inviting Jesus to meet these women in that moment of their abortion, that moment for which they’ve been silently hating themselves, to experience Jesus or the Blessed Mother or the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts with such tenderness, such love and such compassion is truly amazing. This encounter with love and truth pierces and penetrates the shame. Anyone who has an encounter like this knows the truth and knows they are deeply loved. It’s one thing to rationalize why you had the abortion, but it’s another thing to experience God’s heart for you in that moment of your greatest shame and trauma. When I see a woman get to that place of accepting God’s love and mercy and forgiving herself, that is when I see them experience true freedom. Then we can move to the next part, which is to grieve the loss of her baby. Then the mother can freely acknowledge that this was a baby she was carrying in her womb. She can give her child a name and give the baby to Jesus who often (in the prayer experience) brings that child into his Holy Family, with Joseph and Mary.
What are the ways that Jesus wants to come in and heal the wound of abortion that many women live with?
Every mother (and father) needs God’s grace to receive this level of healing. It’s not something they’re going to be able to manufacture on their own. They are going to need a deeper level of trust and security to enter into the process. They can’t go to those places of the heart by yourself. It’s really a mystery how that encounter happens. It’s difficult to put an experience like this into words; in the prayer experience, some people see Jesus in their imagination, other’s see Mary in their imagination. Some just have a sense of awareness of his presence. They may feel the Holy Spirit, or they may hear a Scripture passage that really penetrates to the depths of their heart for the first time. God’s healing is uniquely designed for each person, but when it happens, we all know that it’s real. They know it’s not something they’ve talked themselves into or that they’ve made up or they’ve imagined; they know it’s real because of the power of the transformation that takes place. It penetrates to the depths of their body and soul. It’s so beautiful to witness. You see the person in front of you go from anguish to joy, from self-hatred to peace, from guilt to freedom, from deep loss to fulfillment.