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By Mary Ann Wyand
“Forgiven. Healed. Set free.”
That’s the slogan for the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign, a three-year-old Internet-based organization for post-abortion women who want to speak out about how abortion has negatively affected their lives.
Post-abortion women participating in Silent No More rallies throughout the United States carry signs with the message “I regret my abortion.”
This interfaith abortion reconciliation ministry is supported by Priests for Life and NOEL , a life-affirming ministry in the Worldwide Anglican Communion. It was co-founded by Janet Morana, associate director of Priests for Life, and Georgette Forney, president of NOEL .
Silent No More’s goals are to “make the public aware that abortion is harmful emotionally, physically and spiritually to women and others, reach out to women who are hurting from an abortion, let them know help is available and invite women to join us in speaking the truth about abortion’s negative consequences.”
The National Silent No More Awareness Campaign received lots of media attention when actress Jennifer O’Neill became the national spokeswoman to help other post-abortion women speak out about the harmful effects of abortion.
O’Neill was the keynote speaker for a Silent No More rally and march on Jan. 29 in Fort Wayne, Ind., that attracted 1,800 people.
St. Anthony parishioner Debbie Miller of Indianapolis was one of four post-abortion women from Indianapolis who participated in the Silent No More rally at the Scottish Rite Auditorium and the march in downtown Fort Wayne.
Miller founded Healing Hidden Hurts, a 10-step post-abortion reconciliation ministry, in 1999 in Indianapolis and became active in the Silent No More educational campaign three years ago.
She shared her story during the Fort Wayne rally and also during a Silent No More rally as part of the National March for Life on Jan. 24 in Washington, D.C.
“This year was the first year that Silent No More was invited to be on the platform with the speakers at the March for Life rally,” Miller said. “Fifty women held signs that said ‘I regret my abortion.’
Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry, participated in the March for Life rally and said the Silent No More campaign is a very effective way to educate people about the tragedy of abortion.
“The women who publicly participate in the Silent No More campaign should be praised for their courage,” Sister Diane said on Feb. 8. “The trauma of abortion must no longer be hidden from the public eye. Pro-abortion advocates continue to deny the devastating effects of abortion, despite the cry of women who suffer from its aftermath.
“Abortion really has two faces,” Sister Diane said. “We are all familiar with the aborted face of the child. We must now become familiar with the face of the mother of the aborted child. It is a face that reflects regret and remorse for a choice that should never have been made.”
Miller said she was pleased that the Silent No More campaign participants were invited to walk at the front of the March for Life this year.
“We had our ‘Silent No More’ banner and were at the front of the march,” she said. “Father Frank Pavone and Father Denis Wilde of Priests for Life walked with us, and several bishops walked beside us. It was really exciting to be at the front of the march.”
Miller said the women carried “I regret my abortion” signs and chanted “Abortion hurts women,” “Abortion hurts families” and “Forgiven. Healed. Set free.”
At the end of the march, she said, they stood on a corner on Capitol Hill and sang hymns while the rest of the marchers passed them on their way to the steps of the Supreme Court building.
“A couple of the ladies were telling their stories and answering questions,” Miller said. “One woman kept asking for people to pray for us because it’s really difficult for women to share something so private in such a public forum. It’s very difficult, and it’s very important that we have the support of people who are praying for us because we can’t do it on our own. It takes a lot of courage.”
Miller said the Silent No More participants share their stories so other people won’t suffer from the trauma of abortion.
“We’re not doing it for ourselves,” she said. “We’re doing it hoping that women will hear the message that abortion is not a safe, simple solution to a problem pregnancy. It just leads to pain and suffering in your life for decades. People need to hear that—not only the women, but also others who force them or pressure them to that decision because they think it’s going to be a quick fix.”
Sadly, she said, “there’s so many people who fit in that category—husbands and parents sometimes, even parents who have raised their children in good Christian homes. Sometimes when that crisis [of unplanned pregnancy] comes, … the rationale [of being pro-life] goes out the window and they do what they think they need to do.”
Miller said she thinks that “if more people really knew the truth about what abortion is and does to women, that it would help them to make a more realistic decision.”
She was among 35 women who spoke out against abortion by sharing their stories in Washington and 10 women who gave Silent No More speeches in Fort Wayne last month.
The Silent No More rally in Washington lasted more than two and a half hours, Miller said, “because every woman who wants to share is given the opportunity to share her story. But it was in the evening, in freezing temperatures, and it was a sacrifice.”
She said Bishop John D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese also participated in the Silent No More rally in northern Indiana.
Abortion is a decision that a woman and her family have to live with for the rest of their lives, Miller said. Both men and grandparents are also deeply affected by the loss of babies in abortion, and also need some way to work through that grief.
“A lot of women are like myself, doing post-abortion reconciliation ministries that they feel God has called them to do,” she said. “Some women are active in Rachel’s Vineyard, which is part of Father Pavone’s post-abortion ministry and is affiliated with Priests for Life. There are a lot of women who are active in that, but there also are a lot of women like myself who are doing independent ministries because they feel like that’s where God has led them.”
Miller said when women start the post-abortion reconciliation process they experience a lot of pain but it leads them to healing.
Healing Hidden Hurts is a 10-step process that lasts from three to six months.
“It’s a big time commitment,” she said, “but it changes their life. It transforms their spiritual life and their emotional well-being. A lot of women are having panic attacks, eating disorders or nightmares, and by the time they get through the program all of that has stopped and they feel normal again. They’re not plagued with constant fears and anxieties. Everything is cleared up for them. When they start, their life is so scattered and disordered. It’s like puzzle pieces are just thrown all over the place. Over that period of time of reconciliation, they are putting things in their place.
“They learn to understand themselves and to forgive themselves,” Miller said. “But forgiving themselves is the most difficult step. One of the most important things I feel like I do in this ministry, and all post-abortion ministries do, I’m sure, is convince the women how much God loves them because they feel they are so unworthy. They think they don’t deserve to be forgiven, they don’t deserve to be loved by God because they feel like they are not worthy. They feel like they have failed in their femininity because motherhood is our basic gift that God has given women, so for a mother to deny that aspect of her femininity is really devastating when she comes to realize the reality of what she’s done.”
With the Silent No More campaign, Miller said, post-abortion women are telling other hurting women that, “We embrace you. We want to help you. That’s why we’re here. We’re coming out to give you the courage to also step out and trust that God loves you and that you’re worthy of his forgiveness. You’re worthy to be healed because God wants people to be healed. He doesn’t want us to stay in our pain and suffering and self-hatred. He loves us, forgives us and wants us to be healed and reconciled with him.”
Through this campaign, she said, women can learn to accept their abortion, address their pain, seek healing and help other women.
“But they will always say that ‘I still regret my abortion,’” she said. “You can be forgiven by God, but you’ll never forget your abortion and you’ll always regret that choice.”
(For information about the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign, log on to the website at www.silentnomoreawareness.org . For information about the confidential Project Rachel post-abortion healing ministry, call Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry, at 317-236-1521 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1521. For information about the confidential Healing Hidden Hurts 10-step reconciliation program, call Debbie Miller at 317-297-7578.) †