Presenting about Abortion: Sharing Experiences

Posted on May 9, 2023 By

by Fr. Jim Hewes

In the early 1970’s, I was on the speakers’ bureau of the Rochester Right to Life Committee, giving talks to many groups in our area. ;where I began the presentation by showing slides/photos of the developing pre-born child. Today, with not only the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but the deep polarization and intense inflammation in society, I am not sure if that same approach will still work.

If roughly 1 in 4 women (according to the Guttmacher Institute) will have had an abortion by the time they are 45, there will be a significant number of people hearing the presentation who either had an abortion or in some way interacted with a woman who has had an abortion. It is more of a problem this way than the death penalty or immigration or some other issue about which one might more easily change one’s view. For this reason, changing one’s position on abortion after hearing a presentation may have far-reaching consequences for people, including changing one’s way of life. Any person hearing a presentation on the evil or immorality of abortion may translate it to herself by saying that “I am bad,” or “I am no good,” or “I am irredeemable.” So, I have come to the conclusion that a modified presentation might be the best way to approach the abortion issue at the present time.

First, I would ask the people present: How did I come to my position on abortion? What experiences in my life have brought me to my present stance on abortion?” I would give them enough time to reflect on this question, then I would share what has influenced me, because if we are going to persuade others that the pre-born are human, then we are going to have to come across as human as well, and this sharing is an opportunity to show this.

After asking those present to also reflect on this question, I would give them time and ask them to reflect on three other questions:

  1. If there is such a thing as truth, is there more than just my truth or your truth? Or is there an absolute, universal, objective and unchanging truth?
  2. What does equality really mean?
  3. What is the pre-born child? What is an abortion?

I would answer the first question by holding up the front cover of Newsweek for March 3, 1975. In addition, I might also hold up the picture of Samuel Armas, as well as the photo of Sarah Marie Switzer from the December 1999 issue of Life).

I am convinced that these pictures are a powerful instrument in the abortion debate because these magazines are not from pro-life or religious resources but are from secular publications; it brings the discussion from an abstract concept to the actual reality of who the pre-born are.

Second, I would share one of the most powerful experiences of my life, one I will never forget, despite this happening over 35 years ago.

I received a call one day from a couple whom I had married over a year before. They asked me to come to the hospital to baptize their son Jose, who had been born prematurely. I met them in the waiting room and then we went into the neo-natal unit.

My jaw dropped when I saw Jose because he was born at only 22 weeks gestation. Even though I had been involved with the pro-life movement for many years and had seen all the pictures of the pre-born child at various stages of development, this was the tiniest human being outside the womb I had ever seen.

He was so small that I could literally hold him completely in my hand. At the time it made me think of the passage in Isaiah that says that God will hold us in the palm of His hand. The nurse brought me an eye dropper and I baptized this incredible gift of life.

After this experience, I went outside and the cool air hit me. It struck me that in another part of this hospital, the life of a pre-born child at the exact same gestational age could be ended through an abortion and the only difference between the two identical lives was that one was wanted and the other was unwanted.

Third, I would share about being director of Project Rachel, a post-abortion ministry, for 18 years. One woman described her abortion as if her leg was caught in a bear trap and she gnawed part of her leg off to get out. Another woman described her abortion as someone crawling through a field of sharp broken glass and trying to get to the other side.

I saw first-hand the devastation that abortion does to women (and men). I would talk about having the fortune to witness the incredible transformation of many women (and men) from brokenness and despair to healing and peace. I have not been able to find the words to adequately describe this amazing transformation of grace that I have seen in the Project Rachel process. Project Rachel was probably one of the most transforming experiences of grace that I have witnessed.

If I had the time, I might share one particular experience in Project Rachel. A woman came to see me because her sister had recently had a baby. This experience brought to the surface the abortion she had gone through ten years earlier in college with her boyfriend (who had become her husband).

This woman told me that she and her husband had gone through every fertility option that was known of, for all their married years, and yet she had been unable to become pregnant. She said that she felt she was being punished through the abortion, because she had thrown away the gift God had first given her.

This type of situation is not something that can be quickly fixed with words. So, I took her through the loving, non-judgmental, and amazing experience of Project Rachel. We finished this wonderful healing process in early December.

Ordinarily I never hear from these women again because they have brought a deep closure to that part of their life. Yet in late January this same woman called me with such excitement to tell me she was pregnant. Then seven months later I received another call from her. She said that she had to call me first to tell me that she was holding her son, and she found it almost unbelievable that God had given her this second chance. I might end this section by reading one or two of the actual letters written by mothers to their pre-born children.

The fourth reason for my position on abortion would be a personal one. I grew up in a home where the disease of alcoholism was present. After many years in Adult Children-Al anon, I realized that I (along with others in the program) had the experience of being an unwanted child. The priority in the family wasn’t us as children but drinking alcohol and coping with that disease. We felt secondary to the side effects of the disease. In the same way, 97% of  abortions are done because the pre-born child, for one reason or another, is unwanted.

That is why Project Rachel would be an important part of any presentation on abortion. But an equally important point is this: with 2,500 pre-born children killed every day, as Bishop Fulton Sheen has stated, “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision.  It is a silent acquiescence.”


For more of our posts on dialog and persuasion, see:

Tips on Dialogue

Two Practical Dialogue Tips for Changing More Minds about Abortion

Dialog on Life Issues: Avoiding Some Obstacles to Communication



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