By Susan E. Wills
The often painful emotional aftermath of abortion—marked by intense grief, sadness, and remorse—has been treated only obliquely, if at all, in Hollywood films.

If Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” (1972) regretted anything about her abortion, it was only having to sell her fur coat to pay for it. Stacy Hamilton in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) quickly bounced back with a new and better boyfriend after only a twinge of sadness.

Penny of “Dirty Dancing” (1987) nearly died from an illegal abortion, but we learn nothing of struggles. The screenwriter/co-producer stated that she wanted to portray abortion as a non-event (except for the physical risks from the back-alley variety).

“Cider House Rules” (1999), winner of two Academy Awards, was hailed as “courageous” for portraying “a sympathetic, caring doctor” who also aborted babies. In every case, the abortion aftermath was uneventful.

Then came two mainstream films out of Hollywood, released the same day (October 7), in which the often painful aftermath of abortion figures prominently in the plot—“The Way” (Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez) and “The Ides of March” (George Clooney and Ryan Gossling).

In “The Way,” a woman on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela finds healing after years of emptiness, remorse, and emotional pain. The revelation of her heartbreaking story to fellow pilgrims is the most powerful moment in the film and stuns audiences into utter silence.

In the “Ides of March,” the intern who became pregnant from a brief affair with a married Presidential candidate did not have to be told to abort her child. The revelation would have doomed his candidacy and career. But afterward, struck by the enormity of her action and feeling abandoned, she takes her own life.

The fact that the range of emotional and psychological consequences of abortion can be treated accurately speaks volumes about how widespread and universal the experience has become. This development is also a credit to the researchers, academics, and therapists who have not been afraid to tell the truth about the negative impact of abortion. Some of these leaders gathered in late October at the Healing Vision Conference in Milwaukee—a forum for continuing education, therapeutic best practices, and networking. Many of the speakers—e.g., Drs. Vince Rue, Priscilla Coleman, Catherine Coyle, and Anne Speckhard—have been pioneers in this field, publishing scores of peer-reviewed studies describing the mental health problems that plague millions of women worldwide following abortion. For years, these experts were ridiculed by peers, and their studies were dismissed by pro-choice intelligentsia on ideological grounds—elites like those who wrote the infamous Task Force Report of the American Psychological Association claiming that adverse emotional reactions are no greater after abortion than after childbirth.

Doubters need not go to the medical literature to find the truth, although we’ve conveniently assembled citations to over seventy articles at Simply reading the stories women have posted of their experiences of pain and loss on websites like and should convince anyone that abortion victimizes women along with their children.

But the good news is that God’s merciful love is available to anyone with a repentant heart. Every day women are being healed from the pain of abortion by the grace of God and ministries like the Project Rachel Ministry of the Catholic Church. If you have had an abortion, you need not suffer any longer. Contact the Project Rachel Ministry nearest you, under “Find Help” at You’ll never regret making that call. 

wills.jpgSusan Wills is Assistant
Director for Education
& Outreach, U.S.
Conference of Catholic
Bishops’ Secretariat of
Pro-Life Activities.
For more information
on pro-life issues
including reproductive
technologies, visit