At the beginning of life
In my ministry with Project Rachel and Rachel's Vineyard, I have come to recognize that a decision to have an abortion is often made with the intention to ease or avoid an uncomfortable or seemingly difficult position in life.
In retrospect, a decision to have an abortion many times causes a myriad of disruptions and difficulties for the men and women who make the decision, as well as for those who feel that the decision to have an abortion was made for them by others or by circumstances. Whether a man or woman exercises their choice to have an abortion or whether they feel that they have no other choice, the ultimate results of their decision can be devastating.
Because the emotional and psychological impact of making a decision to have an abortion often remains latent, dormant, hidden, suppressed, or denied for many years, studies which seek to identify the impact of abortion are usually misleading.
A man or woman who has not been able to realize or deal with the emotional impact of their abortion decision may employ a protective barrier of denial of the underlying grief, regret, and guilt for an average of seven to 10 years (for some, as many as 30 to 60 years), allowing them to continue to function at some level.
The possible repercussion of such suppression may eventually result in gentle malaise, difficulty sleeping, memory or dream flashbacks, and pervasive sadness, which may affect a man or woman's general outlook on life, their relationships with others, and their health status.
Such feelings, along with a man or woman's response to their regrettable loss and unresolved grief, may increase, and eventually be experienced as deep anguish, inconsolable grief, and profound, uncontrollable sadness, which may, in turn, be expressed through depression, drug and alcohol abuse, family disruption, and other related health and spiritual disturbances.
In such cases, a choice, seemingly made in an attempt to preserve the quality of a man or woman's life by terminating an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy, may in fact have the exact opposite result, leading to a far more devastating, lifelong destruction of the man or woman's life and often the lives of all others around them.
The very quality of life a man or woman seeks to preserve by choosing to have an abortion may ultimately result in a tragic and devastating quality of life no man or woman would ever want or choose.
At the end of life
As society and the courts debate the quality of life of Terri Schiavo and of others who appear to have lived beyond their purpose, one debatable item that seems to be missing from the discussion is: whose quality of life is being considered?
Who, besides Terri, is being impacted or affected by her continued life? What does God have in mind for the souls and spirits of those who are called to care for her, tend to her, oversee her, protect her, pray for her, debate her fate, and soul search their own welfare and end of life issues? Even in her altered health state, does not Terri and her life have tremendous meaning?
Is Terri and Terri's life not impacting an entire country to think and rethink, to pray, to raise their moral and emotional voices, and to contemplate? What would be the quality of the lives of those same people without Terri Schiavo and the other "Terri Schiavos" of the world?
I believe it is with each and every life, at every second and every point of existence, that God has a purpose and use for each of us - in our health and in our disease, in our constant activity and in our inability to move, in our consciousness and in our unawareness of our surroundings, in our independence and in our total dependency on others.
The quality of life that may be a measurement of one person's purpose may have little or less to do with that one person, but more to do with the quality of life God is forming and developing in the people around them.
By making a choice to remove a Terri Schiavo, or by allowing someone like her to die, we, as humans, have determined that all those other needs, which only God in his wisdom can determine, are unnecessary or unimportant needs that can be ignored. God may have designed, or allowed, a very difficult situation for the very purpose of purifying another soul, molding another spirit, bringing about a change of heart in another person, or bringing others to prayer.
We shortchange not only those like Terri Schiavo but the greater good that may be realized in others impacted by her existence when we choose to interfere with God's plan in any way. Only God knows the quality of life for every person and only God can determine when a life, either at its beginning or end, has accomplished its purpose for all concerned.
When we make life and death decisions based on "the quality of life," we are often inadequately equipped to look beyond the comfort, ease, and health of only one life. When we take it into our human minds and hands to disregard, diminish, or discontinue life, or when we pressure others to hasten or terminate life, we are totally unaware of the understanding and appreciation God has for the quality of life each individual life has on the quality of so many other lives.
Thus, we must rely on the creator and designer of all life to determine the existence, purpose, duration, and quality of each life - from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.
Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
Phone: 608-821-3070 Fax: 608-821-3071 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org