Something Positive Religion Could Do for Women Who Have Had Abortions

Instead of male clergy raging against abortion and thinking they have been anointed to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, they might take notice that there is something useful they can offer around the abortion reality.

Light diving into the shadows of the cave. Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash.

Several years ago, when I was conducting a retreat at Big Sur in California, a woman took me aside and said she would like to talk to me privately.  When we met, she told me how she had had an abortion a number of years previously and was still processing her feelings around it.  Feelings of sadness and guilt and wonderment about her relationship to the deceased fetus.  We talked about it, and we created a simple ritual whereby she blessed the fetus and herself so that both could move on.

A year ago, I received a letter from a smart, older, catholic (now an ex catholic) whose 48 year old daughter had just told her–and broke down doing it–that she had an abortion her last year of college.  

We need rituals for women who have had abortions.  Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes created such a ritual which she led women through at my University of Creation Spirituality a number of years ago.  She gathered women who wanted to deal with the issue in our “cave” which was our chapel in the middle of the University building and together they processed their feelings and healed one another’s souls and those who have moved on. 

Diné (Navajo) Elder offering traditional teachings on death and grieving. Originally posted to YouTube by Navajo Traditional Teachings.

It was important and healing for the women who chose to attend.  

Instead of denouncing women who have had abortions, and forbidding people from safe access to abortion, and electing kooky politicians with bad track records with respecting women to do the same, and salivating to deny communion to politicians who know the difference between good morality and good law, healthy religion could assist whatever healing process is needed by creating rituals for healing.  

To do so, clergy need to get off their high horses of righteousness and blame and misogyny and power-over and invite people into circles to create a much-needed ritual together.  

Is that too much to ask?

See Matthew Fox, The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, p. 331.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: The “hand of grief” reaching out for support. Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree that rituals for persons who have had abortions are a contribution religion can offer if they are requested to do so?  And putting effort there might prove far more beneficial than arousing shouting about abortion and pitting the Supreme Court against 70-80% of the population that believe Roe vs. Wade should remain? 

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15 thoughts on “Something Positive Religion Could Do for Women Who Have Had Abortions”

  1. Avatar

    Hurrah for this latest DM! My mother had two abortions. I was born following her second abortion and she later told me she had spent hours counting my fingers and toes because she believed God was going to punish her for the abortions. Knowing my mother very well indeed I know she would not have done it if she had not been at the end of her tether. She loved her babies, all 7 of them!

    Guilt inducing religions need to change their ways. God is LOVE. Period. period. period.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Maria, you are right, “Guilt inducing religions need to change their ways. God is LOVE. Period. period. period.” AMEN !!!

  2. Avatar

    Having rituals for those who have had abortions and desire the healing of a ritual is an
    excellent idea. I have heard the Japanese have such a ritual. I also suggest
    a ritual to acknowledge a miscarriage. Miscarriages are poorly understood
    by many and often lead to dismissive, insensitive comments and behavior even by religious people.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Isabel, I know the United Church of Christ has a ritual for divorce, so why not for abortions and miscarriages?

    2. Avatar

      Miscarriages are still treated as taboo subjects, resulting in women being completely unprepared for the experience, even though something like 20% or more pregnancies end in miscarriages. And the downplaying or, even worse, blaming, by acquaintances makes the horribly painful loss even more devastating.
      Women need to be told that it is ok to grieve their loss, even if it was early in the pregnancy (when most miscarriages occur). If they want to just do a private ritual to mourn, or if they want a larger shared group, they should be encouraged to do so. When I had a miscarriage and ended up in urgent care, I was very fortunate to have a night nurse who had gone through three miscarriages, and who honored the dates of the losses with ritual remembrances. This “permission to grieve” was the single most helpful, healing part of my hospital visit.

  3. Avatar

    Abortion will always be the story of at least two lives. The baby that you refer to as “fetus” is a person. I believe a woman who has been rendered pregnant against her will or through ignorance should not be forced to carry the child to fruition. But it is wrong to deny the child as a person. To offer support to those who have suffered abortion is “right and just.”
    J. Brian

    1. Avatar

      With respect, not everyone of faith and reason holds your beliefs. There has always been disagreement about when life actually begins, if we go beyond mere biological life. Even the RC church has changed its mind over the centuries. I agree that we must offer support to those who have suffered abortions, and thank you for that.

  4. Avatar

    Everything is sacred in our sacred cosmos. This must mean that everything, and everyone, matters.

    When women choose an abortion they are not denying that the fetus matters from the moment of conception. Viability at six weeks is a linear- arguably Newtonian – technical measure that seems to belie a pregnant woman’s instinctual response to the fetus as ‘someone’ on its way into the world, a person who will need her care. Many women realize/fear/regret that they do not have what is necessary to care for their child/person. This may be why they often seek and benefit from a healing ritual.

    What about our living planet, Mother Nature? We are on the verge of ‘aborting’ the potentially first born planet of our galaxy by our mindless species behaviour. Much of the worst assault on Mother Nature is done by toxic weapons that virtually rape and degrade the planet. Yet there are no universally applicable laws that allow us to put a ‘chokehold’ on the weapons industry’s infernal testing and wholesale deployment. Jesus warned that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. I think he would update ‘sword’ to include ‘gun’ and ‘bomb’.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, You comment that “We are on the verge of ‘aborting’ the potentially first born planet of our galaxy by our mindless species behavior.” Very good and insightful point !!!

  5. Avatar

    I remember having a discussion with my granddaughter about the issue, and she complained of young women she knew who were having more than one abortion, rather than using birth control. This is a common argument and based upon a minority of women. My aunt had an abortion in the mid-1930’s because her fiancee was still in dental school, and it was not convenient. My mother was a nurse, and between her and his medical contacts, she was able to have a safe procedure. However, it left her with a deep bitterness against him and an exacerbation of her manic depressive tendencies. A dear friend had an abortion in the early 1970’s because she had had a stillborn child and was then exposed to rubella in the first trimester. She spent two weeks virtually in bed from grief as it was against her religion and culture as a black woman whose daddy was a Southern minister. So, yes there should be a ritual for abortion, and also for miscarriage. We need compassion, not judgement.

    1. Avatar

      Legalizing abortion with accompanying counselling and supports is a much safer and more compassionate solution than criminalizing abortion and making those who participate in the process subject to legal penalty, as well as unregulated vigilante justice. Unfortunately there will always be females who use abortion as a method of birth control as there always be males who won’t take responsibility for impregnating a female, by force or her consent.

  6. Avatar

    Fortunately I have had the privilege, honor and blessing of being apart of several circles of women, whom created together a variety of rituals and ceremonies for the many different rites of passages that women go through, throughout their life experience. These circles of women, ranged in age, mirroring maiden, mother and crone. In the creation of ritual and ceremony, we were able to weave together threads from various spiritual, religious and cultural traditions.

    These experiences were very powerfully moving and healing for all the soul sisters involved. Women have kept alive these wise women’s ways throughout time, yet often women have had to keep these rituals and ceremonies hidden underground, meeting together in secret, outside of structured institutions.

    There has been alot of what is known as womb wounding regarding women, not only from the imbalance of the masculine, but also from the imbalance of the feminine as well. There is a great need for ritual and ceremony that can be a powerful method of healing, transformation and empowerment, and this need can be met when women choose to reach out to one another, gathering together as soul sisters, vulnerably sharing heart to heart and womb to womb, not only the pain and suffering, but the wisdom, power and creativity that does arise from within, in order to meet that which we need.

    In all honesty, in my experience, as women gather together in these circles, the much needed rituals and ceremonies will naturally unfold, as it is apart of who we are as women. All one has to do really, is surrender in trust to the leadings, prompting, guidance and wisdom ways of the Holy Spirit of the Divine Mother and Her creative, inspirational and empowering movements; and as we respond to Her presence and essence, we join our wombs to her Great One Womb, that desires to give birth to all that we need in our transformational journey of healing.

  7. Avatar

    we are eternal and the soul knows the status of the fetus….there is intelligence in coming into a new body…..nothing dies…we wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t true ….as a soul has very specific circumstances as reasons for coming here many times ……here at earth school….this changes the whole dialogue and is an absolute fact … being dies and religion has dumbed down all of creation over the years….and evolution is the force of the divine…expansion = growth=life…waay more to a human being than what is taught to most of us

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