Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more (Matthew 2:16-18).
The passage records what has become known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents,” when Herod killed baby boys under the age of two in order to destroy Jesus, thus preserving his own rule. The lines above also record the effect of the slaughter—having lost their children, the mothers were undone. Rachel wept, for her children were no more.
Today, however, Rachel no longer weeps. In our abortion-committed culture, she is not allowed to.
Contemporary examples are legion, but let me give you two. The first is last year’s season finale of ABC’s Scandal, which shows the main character, Olivia Pope, undergoing an abortion—doctor with scalpel in hand, suction machine in view, Christmas hymns in the background—apparently without regret or significant emotional consequences. The show’s message, embedded in an episode that explicitly supports the funding of Planned Parenthood, appears to be that abortion is a normal procedure, causing little turbulence. Such is certainly how Jennifer Conti, an OB-GYN writing a response to the episode on Slate, took it: “Abortion isn’t what you may think it is. Abortion is normal. It’s not rare, and it’s rarely tragic.” On the other side, Georgette Forney, president of Anglicans for Life, saw it similarly (if more sympathetically): “In the scenes following the abortion, Olivia’s reaction is pretty realistic. She goes on a rampage in search of alcohol to numb the pain she is feeling, has a huge fight with the President and father of her baby, and ends the relationship. The last scene shows her drinking wine on her new sofa, alone and sure she did the right thing. She looks up at the Christmas tree and smirks, affirming her empowered choice.” Olivia Pope is not weeping.
The second example comes from a paper concerning the emotional effects of abortion, available on Planned Parenthood’s website. Speaking of pro-life advocates, and their claim that abortion harms women emotionally, Planned Parenthood writes:
They have called this nonexistent phenomenon “post-abortion trauma,” “post-abortion syndrome,” or “post-abortion survivor syndrome.” They have hoped that terms like these will gain wide currency and credibility despite the fact that neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognizes the existence of these phenomena. More recently, they have suggested that women who have abortions are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, but there is no substantive scientific evidence that this is true (AMRC, 2011). The truth remains that most substantive studies in the last 30 years have found abortion to be a relatively benign procedure in terms of emotional effect—except when pre-abortion emotional problems exist or when a wanted pregnancy is terminated, such as after diagnostic genetic testing. (www.plannedparenthood.org/files/8413/9611/5708/Abortion_Emotional_Effects.pdf).
Notice the term “substantive,” used twice above. Apparently Planned Parenthood isn’t interested in all the evidence, only the “substantive” scientific evidence. And, unsurprisingly, the most “substantive” studies seem to agree with their claim. The criterion by which they judge the substantial from the unsubstantial is apparently unimportant, for Planned Parenthood does not bother to tell us how they determine what is substantial. Regardless, the implication is obvious. If a woman experiences emotional trauma post-abortion, something is wrong with her. The problem is not the experience of the abortion, and not what has been done to her and to her baby, but with her. The “substantial” science has shown that abortion is benign. Rachel is not allowed to weep.
One doesn’t really need to track down the numerous studies (those Planned Parenthood obviously deems unsubstantial) that show the profound and disturbing emotional effects upon women that an abortion leaves in its wake. Only those with a prior commitment to keeping abortion acceptable and available would consider it abnormal for a mother to have emotional problems when her child is no more. Common sense indicates otherwise. But the impulse to bury such unpleasant effects is understandable. Better to maintain this façade, for if people really knew what abortion does to women, what might happen to abortion?
Yet isn’t it interesting that those who claim they want to support women in effect shame women by implying that there is something wrong with them when they weep? And isn’t it also interesting that those who are said to be engaged in a “war on women”—denying them their basic reproductive rights—are the ones available to comfort those who do weep?
Of course Rachel still weeps. This is what mothers do when they lose their children. For even when women are told to get over it and stuff their emotions, reality has a way of surfacing. No, not all women are the same, and all do not respond to abortion in the same way. But they do respond, and in a myriad of ways: depression, suicide, broken relationships, sleeping difficulties, anger, the loss of the ability to trust, hardening. And even weeping. The effects are real.
As much as our culture would like to, it cannot keep Rachel from weeping.