Angelina Steenstra: A witness to healing and liberation National Coordinator of “Silent no More” Canada

Monday, 24 June 2013
  • Print
  • Email

Deeply conflicted, I underwent a surgical abortion at the age of 15 to erase a date rape. I was promised that the abortion would be a simple, safe procedure that would return my life to the way it was before the date rape. Life never returned to the way it was.

angelina steenstraDuring the abortion, I felt the intense physical pain of Sarah Elizabeth being scraped from the wall of my womb and I saw the bottle next to my foot fill up with my baby's remains. I felt the horror of "What have I done?" I was filled with helplessness, shock and instant regret before it was even over. Instantly I knew deep inside what I had done was wrong. I had been an accomplice to killing another human person. The realization was so devastating – I wanted to die. I remember thinking, "I hate you. You will never be able to fix this!" I could never go back to the person I used to be.

After the abortion, I had an all-pervading sense of guilt and shame. I lived in a prison of self-rejection, self-hatred and condemnation. I turned to compulsive smoking, drinking, use of street drugs and promiscuity to numb the pain. I suffered from depression, anxiety and loss of interest in my studies. My life spun out of control and I became suicidal. My life was marked by illnesses, which eventually led to a physical and mental breakdown. I fell away from friends and family. I changed my name, my job, address, friends and behaviour, all in an effort to start over.

Living in Fear

Happily I married Walter, but soon after I began experiencing abortion connectors. Pregnancy, babies and doctors all made me afraid. I could not let myself think about having a baby, about being a mother; I became a workaholic. I was in a Catch 22 – I wanted to want to have children, but I was so afraid. For years I could not conceive a child. Was God punishing me? My mental anguish was acute.

Seven years after we were married, I experienced an ectopic pregnancy, and through emergency surgery I lost our only child, Joseph Michael. I later learned that the ectopic pregnancy was the result of scar tissue from pelvic inflammatory disease contracted when I was 18. As I grieved his loss, my mind and heart kept begging me to go back to the abortion, and to acknowledge the truth that abortion took the life of my first child. When I found the courage to take that step, I entered the grieving process. Joseph Michael's short life and death began my journey of healing.

Touched by Divine Mercy

Soon after, I encountered the message of Divine Mercy. This message gave me the courage to face the truth honestly, to work through the shame and guilt and to keep gathering up my story. One of the truths I needed to face was how Sarah Elizabeth died. So I did some research, and I obtained an image of an aborted baby. It was looking upon this image that connected me back to the day of the abortion, to the memory, to the guilt, and to the shame that I had suppressed. While it was one of the most painful actions of my life, it was one of the most liberating. Some years earlier, I had seen a similar image, and that encounter actually led me into the prolife movement. Even though I had not yet processed my own grief, the image of the aborted baby moved me to action on behalf of the unborn, and ultimately into my own healing.

Eventually I would be led to cofound Second Chance Post Abortion Healing. As I journeyed with other women, my formation continued and my own healing deepened. I began to see the big picture. I saw how my own choices and the choices of others had led me away from God's plan. I saw the connection between the contraceptive mentality and abortion. I saw that there were people I needed to forgive for teaching me wrongly in thought, word and deed. I was called to face the truth that I had lost another child through the use of the pill or the IUD, both of which are abortifacient. His name is Daniel Joseph. I faced the fact that I am the mother of three children.

Forgiven by My Children

Each child died in a different way – Sarah Elizabeth through surgical abortion, Daniel Joseph through the use of the pill or the IUD, and Joseph Michael through an ectopic pregnancy. Whole genealogies were wiped out by choices I made that contravened the Lord's love and direction. I think of the scripture passage Deuteronomy 30, "I put before you life and death, blessings and curse. Choose life that you and your descendants may live." I realize I did not make those choices in a vacuum. As I forgave others, I also learned to forgive myself and to appropriate the mercy of God into my heart and soul. I learned to pray and to look for the good in all things – Romans 8:28, "All things work unto good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." I came to realize that my children's deaths were not in vain, and that their lives and their stories can be fruitful on earth. I came to realize that my descendants are with God. Not only has God forgiven me, but my children have forgiven me. In fact, their stories are bringing forth new life, and by the grace of God, Walter and I participate in their spiritual fruitfulness. By their short lives and deaths, we've been transformed, and the past is being used for good.

Extraordinary Theology of the Body

We are called to build a new civilization of truth and love. The Lord wants to gather up our stories, transform us and use us to help build this new civilization. As this vision was established in my heart, I was led into the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Through the testimony of post-abortive women and men, we raise awareness about the physical, spiritual, emotional, relational consequences of abortion. We let people know that aftercare programs are available to those that are hurting after abortion, and we provide a platform for those who are ready to share their testimony.

Through the teachings of the Church, I experienced a new springtime. I have come to know true freedom through God's mercy and forgiveness. I happily ascribe to all the teachings of Holy Mother Church. Every pain that I've had to endure to come to this place of peace has been worth it. I firmly believe that the new foundation for the civilization of truth and love has been given to us by the writings of Pope John Paul II. His Theology of the Body gives us a right-ordered vision of human sexuality. My interior order has been restored, and I've come to see the true beauty of God's plan.

Silent No More Awareness Campaign