spirituality of abortion

January 25, 2018

Seeking the “Spirituality of Abortion” at Harvard Divinity School

A Harvard Divinity School student, Kassi Underwood, shared about her post-abortion pain and spiritual-but-not-religious efforts to transcend her grief in an article published on the school’s website in March 2017. While the purpose of the article was essentially to promote Underwood’s memoir, one can’t help but lament the young woman’s faltering attempt to mask the loss of her child with self-defined spirituality and Eastern religious rituals.

After describing her circumstance as a 19-year-old undergraduate student whose abortion wrought heartache, loss, and drug and alcohol addiction, Underwood set out on a journey to uncover what she calls the “spirituality of abortion” through religious rituals. She explained:

I didn’t even know I needed to grieve until a Buddhist abortion therapist named Ava Torre-Bueno told me. She told me every choice involves loss.

And:

Grief is part of everyday life. If I’m looking at the dessert menu and choose the key lime pie over the chocolate cake, I’ve experienced a loss—a tiny loss. I got married a couple of years ago, and there was a loss involved with that choice. If we’ve chosen something, we’re supposed to be happy about that decision because choice is a function of power. But the reality is, we’ve killed off all other possibilities, so we have to grieve them.

Sure, every choice has a consequence. But abortion leaves women and men grieving more than mere possibilities. As I type, I’m striving to be as understanding of Underwood’s comments as possible. As I’ve never experienced the loss of an unborn child, my perspective is admittedly limited here. However, it seems likening the choice to abort an unborn child to a missed dessert option belittles Underwood’s own post-abortion journey and those of other women.

She does decry radical feminists’ efforts to erase the emotional trauma of abortion as “ancient forms of patriarchal oppression.” But throughout the article Underwood shrewdly avoids taking a pro-life stance, though she testifies to the pain and heartbreak associated with abortion. Instead she argues for “a completely new way forward around abortion, based on nothing we have ever seen before.”

What’s unfortunate is the solution Underwood offers to others dealing with similar grief. “Everyone who has an abortion deserves to know that it’s absolutely possible to emerge with peace of mind and a thrilling life,” she writes. But sadly, Underwood seems to point towards a vague community experience based on her own New Age meditation and Eastern mysticism “transcendence” reminiscent of yoga chapel sessions at Duke University.

Most saddening about Underwood’s account is her understanding of God. She asserts:

Fraught as “God” may be, I use this word because people tend to have some context for it. I could have used any word—love, trust, universe, higher self, energy, him, her, they. I think it’s more like: Where is God to me? God is in and through everything—unless I’m in a bad mood.

Healing after abortion is possible, but not through Eastern mysticism rituals and secular teachings. At the 2018 March for Life I marched beside post-abortive Silent No More women holding “I Regret My Abortion” signs. As many of these post-abortive women attested at the March for Life, healing and wholeness after abortion starts with salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Women involved in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign not only speak to post-abortive grief through shared stories, but also seek to prevent other women from enduring the same trauma. Sharing your story of pain and loss after abortion takes courage. Seeking an end to abortion so other women can avoid the same pain and loss takes selflessness.

Let us pray Underwood recognizes the empty promises of “spiritual” rituals. May she come to know the peace and healing of our Savior Jesus Christ and be a witness to His wholeness and help while at Harvard Divinity School.


5 Responses to Seeking the “Spirituality of Abortion” at Harvard Divinity School

  1. Michael Murphy says:

    The comparison of abortion to the selection of dessert lost me to her logic instantly. That was easily the worst comparison I’ve ever read. How she wrote that with a straight face is beyond me.

    The reason she felt loss is because she destroyed a human soul. I’m not sure her key lime pie has one of those.

  2. Marco Bell says:

    Just as there are multitudes of variations in the human consciousness, personal experiences, life’s choices and the inevitable results of those choices, so too, are the variations of resultant outcomes to the methods of recovery from those choices. The proverbial ‘fork in the road’ conundrum.

    It would be myopic of one to think that the only path to recovering from some of Life’s choices, is religious. Certainly for many, that is the first order of remedy. But it doesn’t apply to those who aren’t Christian, and there are many more people who aren’t Christian.

    “…Healing after abortion is possible, but not through Eastern mysticism rituals and secular teachings…”
    So why is that not possible? To assume ONE religion over another to be the answer, is subjective at best, and arrogant at worst!

    “…Seeking an end to abortion so other women can avoid the same pain and loss takes selflessness…”
    That is not entirely honest, if you’re from a different “religious belief”.
    So please consider that there are many more women who don’t ascribe to the narrow way of Christianity’s edicts.
    Removing the legal option of abortion does not serve the greater good, but rather just the few who would prefer THEIR way be the ONLY way. If you don’t approve of abortion, then don’t have one performed on you! ( I know, quite the cliche’)

    Regarding the dissing of another spiritual path, only suggests that “MY God is better than YOUR God!” And we all know that’s not only untenable and unreasonable, but also Un-Christian.

    May we all be blessed by our choices.

    Namaste’
    Marcopolo

  3. MarcoPolo says:

    Just as there are multitudes of variations in the human consciousness, personal experiences, life’s choices and the inevitable results of those choices, so too, are the variations of resultant outcomes to the methods of recovery from those choices. The proverbial ‘fork in the road’ conundrum.

    It would be myopic of one to think that the only path to recovering from some of Life’s choices, is religious. Certainly for many, that is the first order of remedy. But it doesn’t apply to those who aren’t Christian, and there are many more people who aren’t Christian.

    “…Healing after abortion is possible, but not through Eastern mysticism rituals and secular teachings…”
    So why is that not possible? To assume ONE religion over another to be the answer, is subjective at best, and arrogant at worst!

    “…Seeking an end to abortion so other women can avoid the same pain and loss takes selflessness…”
    That is not entirely honest, if you’re from a different “religious belief”.
    So please consider that there are many more women who don’t ascribe to the narrow way of Christianity’s edicts.
    Removing the legal option of abortion does not serve the greater good, but rather just the few who would prefer THEIR way be the ONLY way. If you don’t approve of abortion, then don’t have one performed on you! ( I know, quite the cliche’)

    Regarding the dissing of another spiritual path, only suggests that “MY God is better than YOUR God!” And we all know that’s not only untenable and unreasonable, but also Un-Christian.

    May we all be blessed by our choices.

    Namaste’
    Marcopolo

    • Rebecca says:

      It is un-Christian to let others think there are different paths. Universalism teaches different paths. Pluralism teaches different paths. They are wrong. As Christians we point out the one way is through Jesus. You’re on a Christian website, and so you will be exposed to Christian views.

  4. Kim Ketola says:

    Chelsen, Thank you for calling out the false premise inherent in Underwood’s witness. Like her, I stumbled on a buddhist counselor who offered me the “comfort” that my child had not died that day, but simply returned to the cosmos to be born at a more opportune time. Even though I was poorly discipled, I knew that line of thinking was not only illogical but also just one more rationalization of self as god. As such it was uncomforting, and unproductive in helping me with reconciling the sin at the center of my abortion with the holiness of God. What finally led to peace was repenting defending my life at the expense of an innocent human being, my own flesh and blood. And forgiving everyone else who had a part in that. This is only possible through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Not some self-determined baby-god retiming his or her birth.

    I understand this young woman, though.

    My path to healing included many of the same ideas Underwood espouses. But nothing gave me peace short of the mercy of Jesus Christ. HE is the way, the truth, the life. And all of my damaged emotions were healed when someone dared reveal that truth to my broken heart and soul.
    I applaud you defending truth, even while people commenting here and elsewhere may not get it. And I pray her instructors and peers at HDS have the wisdom and discernment to help prevent her from leading others away from the light of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

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