This was syndicated from Fr. Stephen Imbarrato’s blog for Priests for Life. Fr. Stephen Imbarrato provides his abortion testimony for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign

Within a few years, after Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion in our country, I was away from the sacraments and the Catholic faith, living with a woman outside of marriage. It wasn’t long before she let me know that she was pregnant with my child. On a positive note, I did not ask her as many men do when given news such as this by their mate, “how did that happen” as if they weren’t there when the pregnancy happened. I knew I was responsible. On a negative note though I did as many men do in these situations. I did not tell her that I would stand by her and our child and that she should have the baby. On the contrary, I told her that I would support her in whatever decision she made and then I preceded to tell her all the reasons why the timing of the pregnancy was not good. I reminded her that we just started living together, that we had expenses such as car payments, rent, and the such, and that I was still going to school…all the worldly reasons why it was not a good time to be responsible. Of course, I concluded, though, with, “But it is your decision and I will support you in whatever decision you make.”

Clearly, I told her it was her responsibility; not mine. In hindsight, years later I realized that she had the abortion for me. After all, women are intuitive and I am sure she thought, “well if he wants me to have the baby, he would just say, ‘have the baby and we will work it out regardless of the difficulties.’ Since he didn’t say that and gave me all the reasons to not have the baby, he must not want to have the baby.”

So she aborted the baby…for me. She never said then it was for me, but it was for me. I didn’t even go with her. Of course, back then, there was no real pro-life movement. It was a simple medical procedure in my mind. Again in hindsight, I realize that I was just exhibiting more cowardly behavior and rationalizing later on that maybe if I went with her, I would have stopped her or rescued her at the last minute, taking her out of the abortion center. Maybe, but in hindsight, I doubt it. Maybe I really didn’t even want to be in that position of responsibility. After all, a lack of responsibility seemed to be my character at the time.

Regardless, it wasn’t long after the abortion that I began to realize that she had changed. I asked her about this change of personality and she had no hesitation in telling me that what we did was wrong; that the abortion was wrong. To be honest, I told her, I felt guilty too and that she was right.

I then made arrangements for us to go to confession and see a priest friend of my family. We actually, after the confession, if I remember correctly, started living the faith again, but that was short-lived and we fell back to where we were before. After a few years, we parted amicably.

Fast forward over 25 years (shortly after 2000) and I am not only now in the seminary, but through my pro-life work (which I started in the 1990s), I am sidewalk counseling in front of the same abortion mill where she had gone for her abortion decades before. It is interesting that upon going there for the 1st time to counsel, I did not remember ever being there before and that is how I came to realize she had gone alone, by herself, that day. This is significant because, in my experience, I have rarely if ever encountered a woman come to an abortion facility completely alone…there is always someone with her.

Yet, here I was, my 1st year in the seminary, in front of Metropolitan Medical Associates in Englewood NJ, sidewalk counseling women, and their accomplices as I had been doing for over a year. This one particular morning, I was speaking to a young man and I was telling him what I had told many men I have encountered outside of abortion mills who had related to me that they told the woman that they would support them in whatever decision they made. “She is having this abortion for you and unless you go in and tell her you don’t want her to have the abortion, she thinks you want her to have the abortion…so she is doing this for you.” I have actually, in the many times I have said this, had 2 men going in and save their babies. On this occasion, something different happened. I heard a voice inside of me say the same words that Nathaniel said to David to convict him of his deadly sin, “You are that man.” At that instance, I realized that this is exactly what I had done to my girlfriend decades before.Being convicted now, not just of killing my child, but also wounding my girlfriend, I discussed all of this with my Spiritual Director. I asked him if I could look my girlfriend up and apologize to her for my sin. I felt I could do this prudently as we still had mutual friends and I, through them, had some knowledge of her situation in life. My spiritual director gave me permission and after sending her a letter asking her to meet to catch up, and her agreeing, we met for lunch.

I had not seen her in years. She knew I was in the seminary.  At lunch, I immediately told her why I reached out to her…to discuss something unresolved from our relationship of many years before. She said there was nothing resolved and that we parted well. I then told her it was about the abortion and that I needed to apologize to her for not standing by her and not standing up for our baby. I told her that I came to know that she had not wanted to have the abortion and that she did have it for me. Her eyes began to tear up and I knew immediately that I was correct and that she had needed to hear this…maybe had even waited to hear this for years. I continued to tell her everything I had come to understand including that our baby was in heaven. I told her, hoping she would not mind, that I named our baby Mary and that it brought me comfort over the years to be able to ask Mary for her intercession and help. At that point, she said, “We have two babies in heaven.” Startled and not being able to think of anything else, I responded, “you had two abortions?” She answered, “No, I never told you, I was pregnant with twins.”

Immediately I realized a few things. She had carried this secret for years, obviously in guilt. And how difficult this must have been for her and how much more difficult the abortion must have been for her. There were no ultrasounds in those days. Everyone who does our ministry knows a couple of things. There is a doctor’s assistant to every abortion who is charged with reassembling the baby on a table nearby to make sure all the baby parts are extracted from the woman’s womb. This meant that the day of the abortion, my girlfriend must have heard the doctor or nurse say at some point that there are two babies. The other fact that is consistent even to this day; women who find out they are carrying twins are jarred into a reality that keeps them from going through with the abortion and that most facilities will not abort knowing there are twins because of liabilities.

Knowing all of this had even a greater impact on me and I immediately realized that Our Lord had His hand in all this. I also realized that I now needed to heal from my complicity in wounding my girlfriend and in the death of my 2nd child whom we named Thomas.

In conclusion, it is important to point out a few things. First, I started giving my post abortion testimony a few years before I entered the seminary and well before apologizing to my children’s mother. Thus my story evolved over the years. When I met with my girlfriend, I asked her permission to tell this story and she readily said yes if it would save babies (which it has) and if it would help others come to healing (which it has). She asked, of course, that I am discreet in telling the story which I have tried to be.

Second, men encounter different situations as to women having abortions. Some abortions happen against the wishes of the man. This is devastating to the men I have counseled, but it is also not the most common circumstance. There is also the situation where the man does not find out about the abortion until after the fact. This is also very difficult and also relatively uncommon. Other men forcefully make the woman have the abortion…most devastating for the woman and a serious issue for men who subsequently come to conversion. In my experience, the most common abortion scenario is what I did….persuading the woman in her weakness to have the abortion. This is the most common example of what Norma McCorvey spoke about when she said, “Women do not have an abortion because of choice. They have an abortion because they feel they have no choice.”

When I tell my story as I did at the foot of the Supreme Court, January 2005, as the 1st male witness of SilentNoMoreAwareness, I always identify with “Everyman” and apologize to all women who have suffered from abortion especially those who are victims of men who have done what I did. It is so important that men stand up for women and their babies and, when prudent, apologize for not being real men. Of course, we must always ensure, in a desire to apologize, that we do not impose on these women and their lives.

Next, it is important for people to understand that as much as I am a priest now, this occurred years, decades before I entered the seminary. Being complicit in an abortion is an impediment to ordination as a priest. However, it can be dispensed. If you are a man discerning the priesthood and you have experienced an abortion, please see your spiritual director.

Finally, this common scenario regarding abortion; how I failed my babies and what I did to their mother and how I did it, I refer to as the “sin of Adam.” Adam was present when Eve was tempted and confused by the evil one, the serpent. At no time did Adam stand up for Eve, protect her, confront the evil one, or remove her from the danger. Yet when God comes to find them after the sin, Adam blames God and Eve for the sin. “The woman you sent me gave me the fruit to eat.” He did not take responsibility for not protecting the “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Then he blames Eve and insults God. This is what is happening in the vast majority of abortions. Men are not standing up for their women and babies and then washing their hands of any guilt. We must not be Adam. We must recognize that we are called to “lay down our lives for our friends” and when we fail, we need to seek mercy and healing in Our Savior, Jesus.

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