As the struggle continues in America, in Russia, and around the world against the terrible and grievous sin of abortion, and coming on the heels of the 2017 March For Life in Washington, DC, OrthoChristian.com offers the inspiring words of two people who have amassed great experience in dealing with women considering having aboritons. Fr. Dmitry Smirnov is a well-known and beloved Moscow priest who frequently speaks out against abortion, and Elena Smirnova is a psychologist for the “Family and Childhood” charity fund who, through her years of experience, has developed a series of questions that can help a pregnant woman refocus her thinking in a more positive manner.
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—Fr. Dmitry, in meeting with a pregnant woman who wants to have an abortion, what should a priest say so she would abandon this move?
—If she came to a priest, we should understand that she doesn’t want to do it, even if unconsciously. And this chord is why she called upon the Church, and we must find it in her soul.
In such situations, I say: “Why do you want to kill your baby? Give him to me. I’ll raise him and feed him. And moreover, I’ll take him at any moment, as soon as you say ‘I’ll give him to you.’ Just don’t kill him.”
I have just one rule:
You’ll give birth, but don’t tell anyone you’re giving it up. You breastfeed him in the hospital, and then we’ll quietly come for you in a car and take your child. Here’s my telephone number. If you change your mind we’ll bring him back, even to Vladivostok if you go there, so you won’t waste a ticket. If I deceive you, you can always “narc” on me: “This priest messed with my head. Here’s his number and address.”
You don’t need anything. I’ll give you money so you can rebound!
So explain to me: why kill your baby? What’s the point here? You will have a sin on your conscience. You don’t know how old women (who had abortions in their youth) come and weep. Stand here, wait, here comes one now. I’ll call you over—you listen to what she says, how she suffers now. And you’ll be suffering your whole life. But here you’ll have a clean conscience. They used to bring them and throw them into monasteries, giving them over to be raised, or to childless women who never married. Just don’t kill your baby!
And as practice shows, once they breastfeed, they don’t call me.
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This article is written for those who would like to stop a loved one who is contemplating having an abortion for this or that reason. Psychologist of the “Family and Childhood” charity fund Elena Smirnova speaks about which questions you can ask a woman who is seeking to end her pregnancy.
From the experience of psychological consultations in medical institutions we have concluded that certain conversation techniques exist, which can affect a woman’s decision to go in for an abortion. But it would be optimistic to assume that having asked her just a few questions we have reached the goal: that she rethinks and decides to give birth. In the best case scenario we can hope that she will at least ponder over the fact that abortion is not the only and best way out of her situation.
The work of a psychologist with this category of women is the work of eroding growing doubt. A woman has come to register for an abortion; she’s already made a choice, a decision, but she always has remaining doubts—something on the other side of the scale. The work of a psychologist is to uncover these doubts, “to give them voice.” Which way the balance is tipped we cannot know, because the woman has made a decision. But, all the same, you can try to “shatter” a woman’s bad confidence.
We offer ten questions which you can ask a loved one if you want to help her in a difficult situation. They are not relevant to every situation. You must evaluate how much she trusts you, her personality, her current conditions, how much time you have for a conversation, and so on. In reality they’re not questions, but themes that can be discussed in a conversation, inasmuch as a woman deciding to have an abortion is often in a crisis situation in her life, and she needs the chance to express herself, to speak in detail about her problems—about how she is truly worried. Therefore it’s better to construct the conversation in the form of a dialogue and not a didactic talk; although, of course, in some situations it is justified to provide information and give voice to the conscience. But it’s better to allow her to concentrate on herself, on her feelings. Thus:
1. How do you imagine the baby which you are now carrying?
This question is important because in that moment of deciding to have an abortion, a woman’s mentality is often tightly bound to the life circumstances enticing her to have an abortion, and she sees nothing else. Psychologists call this condition “tunnel consciousness.” When we ask a woman how she imagines her baby, she has to turn attention not to her circumstances, which compel her towards abortion (we’ll speak about them later), but to who it is that she wants to deliver herself from. There can be various reactions to this question, for example: “I don’t want to think about it,” or “I never imagined it.” In order to go further with such questions and still discuss the topic of interest—the development of the pre-natal child at this point—it’s enough to have some human sensitivity.
But sometimes it’s helpful to react harshly to such words. “I understand that you don’t want to think about it, but that doesn’t make the child stop being a person. Just because you close out such thoughts from your mind doesn’t change anything.”
After the question about the development of the child, a woman may withdraw within herself, and although she probably does not well understand from a medical point of view how her baby is developing at this exact moment, she is already beginning to relate to it as a separately-existing person. You can tell her all about how her child is developing at this point. For some it’s enough to see an ultrasound, how their children move, or to hear their heartbeat, to make them decide to save their child.
2. What name would you give your child? Would you rather have a boy or a girl?
These questions also help a woman to shift her attention from her circumstances to her child, to daydream a little.
3. How does this child in the womb differ from your older children?
This question is for women who already have children. “How does this child who isn’t born yet differ from those already born?” The proceeding conversation can turn into an intellectual discussion on the idea that it’s not yet a person, but the other is already a person; however, the discussion should return to its original course—that is, to continue to compare the two children. “And when you were expecting your older child, you also thought of him as nothing, which would be born and become someone? What was your first child for you when you were expecting him? When did he become a person, in your opinion? And how is this child different? You were expecting that baby, and now you’re expecting this one—it’s the same.”
Further questions on this topic: “And was everything rosy with your first child,? Did you have to overcome any difficulties to have him?” As a rule, the woman had to overcome some kind of difficulties with her previous children, if not in the time of pregnancy then after the birth of the child. It may be that for the sake of her child she overcame much within herself. And the next question arises: If she is able in principle to do something for her child, maybe at least some of what she did for her older child can be done for this one?
Then when she sees him, when she meets him, then her joy pays back all the expenses, and she already wants to take care of him.
“Imagine your child is already born, and you take him in your arms.”
Once the child is born, many women are unable to abandon it. Indeed, abortion is the rejection of your child. Abortion happens when there is a child and the woman refuses to allow him into her life, largely because she just doesn’t know him. When a woman takes her baby in her arms, she can’t say to him: “No, I don’t want you in my life, because I’ll have to feed you.” The thing is that a woman can’t imagine she would abandon a child already born, and the task is to get her to think of the baby in the womb as already born, because he will eventually be born.
4. Do you want to have children?
This is a very delicate and very complicated question. It needs to be asked at just the right time, with a lot of tact and attention to the woman. Because you can ask carelessly: “You want to have an abortion now? But do you want to have children in general?” And you’ll receive society’s stereotypical answer: “Yes, in general I want kids—I’m a normal woman. But right now my circumstances won’t allow it.”
Therefore this question must be posed at the right time and delicately, to avoid society’s stamp. The objective of this question is to give the woman a chance to ponder her life and destiny as a whole, to visualize her life perspective and remember her values, and to reflect upon what is primary for her. Then she won’t be tied concretely to this situation in life she has now that makes her want to have an abortion. She’ll think about herself as a person and as a woman. Generally speaking, does she want to have kids? What will her life be filled with? This look at her life in perspective will help her to understand that she actually wants to have kids. And this could play in favor for this particular child.
Answering this question, the woman can speak about her fears, about the rejection of femininity, about the revolt against her feminine role and other things. You can listen to her, discuss some important points, and perhaps help rid her of some fears or stereotypes.
5. What’s preventing you from having your baby?
Now we give the woman the opportunity to speak about the circumstances which push her towards an abortion. It’s a very important question, because it’s necessary to discuss these circumstances with her, to give her the chance to answer this question in full, to tell about her problems, fears, and doubts which cause her think about abortion. You need to sympathetically and attentively listen to her, as these problems are truly serious for her, even if they don’t seem so to you. Perhaps it will become easier for her just because you listened with understanding. Then you need to give her the possibility to see her problems from a different point of view, because, most likely, she has concentrated on them so much that she sees no other options except abortion.
You can ask her: “How does the situation have to change for you to decide to give birth to your child?” And discuss together with her what can be done to bring about this situation, and whether she can really give birth only under those circumstances. It’s necessary to try to discuss with her various solutions to the problem, and maybe you can find a simple and genial solution.
Many problems are in fact illusory, and for the casual observer and converser they are clearly artificial and groundless. Before an abortion a woman’s difficulties seem to her much scarier than they really are. Her interlocutor can try to allow her to see this herself, to lead her out of the state of “tunnel consciousness.”
There are women who out of dissatisfaction with life argue that their decision to have an abortion came from their unwillingness to deliver the child into hardship. They say: He won’t have a father, or he’ll be in poverty, or there’ll be any number of other difficulties.
For these arguments there is a fairly severe method, but it sometimes helps. You can ask: “If your child could speak right now, if he could control his own fate, what do you think he would say? What would he prefer—this life with its shortcomings, or that he ceased to exist? What do you think—what would he want?” Here we again vivify the child in his mother’s eyes, because one of the main problems of abortion is that the woman doesn’t absolutely conceive of him as a separate person. She sees him exclusively as a circumstance of her life. And by this question we openly place before her this alternative: we call abortion not a medical operation, but the deprivation of a child’s life. We don’t directly preach that it’s murder, but we indirectly indicate it, asking, “Would he want to live in poverty, or not live at all?”
6. Why do you think you have the right to have an abortion?
You can ask such an over-arching question. It’s actually a very big topic. The conversation can take various directions depending on how the woman answers. She might say: “It’s legally allowed.” Then you can ask whether she thinks that everything that’s legally allowed is morally permissible. No, of course, she won’t be sitting in jail after the abortion, but from a moral point of view how will her deed look to her? A pregnant woman may answer, “But I can control my own body!” Then you can ask: “How are you sure that it’s completely your body? Are you sure that this part of your body has the same sex as the rest of your body? And where have you seen parts of your body that would have a different blood type than the rest of your body?” Finally, to this all you can say, “So you’re sure that it’s your body? It couldn’t be that this is the body of some other person although it’s located inside you?”
You can ask the question in this way to believers: “Whose child is it?” The natural reaction is: “It’s mine, and my husband’s of course.” But for a believer you can remind them that, in fact, it’s God’s child. He has simply entrusted him to you for a time so you can take care of him. And you can’t simply dispose of that which isn’t yours. A believer should remember that a child does not belong to her and that she will give answer for what she did with the child given to her for a time to raise and care for, and for the fate of this child—the highest answer, before God. And there they won’t be asking about what brand of cell phone your child had, whether he had his own room, fashionable clothing, and so on.
You can ask her this kind of question: “Imagine that you died now—it sometimes happens—and after death you met with this child. He says: ‘Mama, why didn’t you let me live?’ How will you answer him? Do you think the explanation you used to justify yourself now will sound convincing for him? Or God will ask: ‘Why did you do this?’ And will your explanations be meaningful to God? Will they really be justifications?”
7. How do you imagine the abortion procedure? Do you know anything about the aftermath?
Here you can talk about the fact that she’ll be under anesthesia, but… First, this operation is carried out blindly. Many think that during the operation the doctor sees everything going on inside. But abortion is not an abdominal surgery, where, for example, the belly is cut open and you can see everything. In the case of abortion, the instrument is inserted into the hollow organ inside the body, and the doctor does the operation via the ultrasound, and actually by feel.
Many doctors have written about abortion’s undoubted harm to the health of a woman. For example, the doctor of medical sciences, professor, and director of the St. Petersburg Center for Clinical-Morphological Diagnostics of Reproductive Pathology Boris Glukhovets writes in his research that, “operations of artificial termination of pregnancy, even in first-rate gynecological hospitals, can be complicated by serious damage to the cervix and the body of the uterus and the development of uterine bleeding, which are risk factors for the occurrence of other complications that can lead even to a lethal outcome.” Not to mention that artificial abortion is one of the main causes of miscarriage and secondary infertility.
The professor gives the following data:
Abortion as a cause of secondary infertility constitutes
up to 41% in Russia;
After an abortion the frequency of miscarriages increases 8—10 times;
Around 60% of women older than thirty giving birth for the first time suffer miscarriages from numerous prior abortions;
After an abortion, 38% of patients are unable to return to their normal menstrual cycle for at least two months.
After speaking with a woman about the medical consequences of abortion, you can ask her whether she realizes that there are not just physical but also emotional consequences to abortion.
Is she familiar with the term “Post-Abortion Syndrome?”
Here you can lead the conversation this way: “Surely you have friends of various ages. Do you know any elderly women who had abortions many years ago? How do they now evaluate those circumstances which enticed them to have an abortion: Do they consider those circumstances truly significant or not? What are they experiencing now in their souls?” You can recommend to her to openly speak with such women, and perhaps even give her the contact information of one of your acquaintances who would agree to speak about her experience.
Or if you yourself have had this experience, it would not be bad to speak openly and honestly about what happened with you.
In the worldly sense we can understand abortion as an everyday, common event. But it’s very important how this event is seen years later, when life is coming to an end. The woman should really think about what she really wants—in the next year and a half sleeping poorly at night, getting up to go to her child, or suffering her whole life from her conscience and sleeping poorly at night from memories and nightmares.
8. Have you ever considered who it benefits to have such widespread abortion?
Such a question is appropriate for intellectuals. “You probably know that for us this is a common procedure,” we tell her. “The majority of women [in Russia—trans.] have resorted to this procedure at least once in life. According to statistics a few thousand abortions are performed every day. Have you ever given much thought to who benefits from this?”
Abortion as an operation, as a procedure has long been known, but from a moral point of view it’s always been condemned. Now it is not only not condemned, but practically welcomed. The attitude towards abortion has radically changed. And from this there arises the question: “If the attitude has so seriously changed, that means there is someone who is interested in the public opinion being this way. Who could it be, and what is his interest?”
With a believing woman you can raise the subject of the efforts of the godless powers to capture the human soul. With this you can say that the struggle is not so much for the soul of the child, but mainly for the soul of the mother, because the decision to have an abortion is a very harsh and cruel decision which stays on the woman’s conscience.
But there are also practical aspects from the secular world. Abortive material—the placenta and stem cells—is very expensive material, widely used, and they need to extract it on an industrial scale. Of course, we can hardly say that abortion was legalized for the purpose of getting these materials, but now these materials are actively procured and those who make money from them don’t want to lose them. And they have a wholly pragmatic interest in the number of abortions not going down—or, if it does, then only slightly. And further, you can ask a woman whether she agrees to be used this way by such powers?—by organizations and people who have no relation to her life and who are completely indifferent to her fate.
9. In your family, who is against having a child and who is for it?
Returning to the woman’s circumstances in life, you can ask this question. At first it’s better to ask who is against having a child, because it might turn out that the woman says everyone is against it, and she might even call them all by name. And then you can agree that, indeed, under such pressure it’s difficult to maintain your own opinion. But is there not a chance that she accidently entangled herself in a hostile environment? That she herself wants the child? Then give her the chance to talk in detail about why she doesn’t want them to stop her (see above).
It may emerge that someone amongst her relatives is really against it. What arguments do they bring forth? Why are they doing this? Did they have an abortion themselves and how do they relate to such a step? Having ascertained these important facts, it’s necessary to help the woman fight with the pressure inside her family and even, possibly, with abuse—physical, emotional, moral, material, etc.
It’s very important to find out whether there is at least someone who would be able to give some support for the baby, including, for example, to take upon themselves the confrontation with those who are against it.
10. How can I help you so you would decide to have your child?
And finally, it’s good to ask a woman how precisely you can help her. It’s better to ask this at the end of the conversation, so that she has already managed to express her doubts and fears, and after some of these are “unraveled,” when some kind of alternative to abortion appears before her.
When a woman speaks about how she wants to have an abortion she is completely connected with those conditions preventing her from keeping her baby. And if at that moment you ask her: “And what can I do?” she, most likely, will answer that there’s nothing, and that, in general, she doesn’t really need any help. When she is detached at least a little bit from these life circumstances, then you can tell her about how these circumstances can be changed, and offer your help. “Still, what precisely do you need in order to withstand these circumstances in this situation?” Perhaps she just needs help finding the necessary words to say to her husband or relatives, for you to recommend a good doctor or help with a stroller and crib for the baby. Maybe she needs emotional support. Every woman has her needs. For many, just your offer to help can already be healing, because such an offer means your recognition of the woman’s problems, and at the same time the value of the unborn child—such essential value that you are ready even to do concrete things, make an effort, and perhaps make some sacrifice so that the child would be born.
You can advise her to contact organizations which help pregnant women finding themselves in difficult situations.
In conclusion, I would like to say the following: it’s not so simple to awaken the heart, and there are no special techniques for doing so. We can help a woman who is in a difficult situation, but only on the condition that the helper truly and genuinely wishes her well. Don’t try to prove your correctness or to convince the woman that abortion must never happen (although of course we agree with this), but precisely to wish her good. No woman wants to be just an “argument” in proving the correctness of some person or idea.
These questions we have offered can help a woman decide to keep her baby. But here it’s important to remember that a conversation with her should be accompanied by a sincere, good attitude, and spiritual warmth and care for her and her child above all. We hope that these questions will help someone, that children will be born, and life will continue…