17 years ago I took the morning after pill. Today I went to confession.

Morning-after pill

I’m not sure why I have never taken this to confession. I think I actually have been subconsciously blocking it out of my mind all this time. Perhaps because I didn’t want to admit to myself the horror of the fact that I may well have killed one of my babies, or perhaps I was simply just too ashamed.

3 days ago Pope Francis announced to the world that all Catholic priests will be able to forgive the sin of abortion during the year of Mercy that begins this December. In some parts of the world, abortion can only be confessed to a Bishop because it is such a serious sin. In fact it is so serious that if you have been part of an abortion in any way, be it the mother or father who decided to get the abortion, parents or friends who help the woman to get the abortion, the doctor, nurse or even the receptionist working at the clinic – ANYONE involved in any way with ending the life of that child is automatically excommunicated from the Catholic church. (Excommunicated means thrown out, so you are no longer part of the church and you can no longer receive communion.) It is THAT serious. That was news to me.

Some people don’t consider the morning after pill to be an abortion. But it is. Life begins at the moment of conception, and the morning after pill works by stopping that fertilised embryo from implanting into the womb of the mother. The same can be said for other forms of contraception like the IUD coil or the Mirena coil. They do not stop fertilisation from occurring, but instead stop the fertilised embryo from implanting into the womb.

IUD

When I took the morning after pill my intention was to stop any pregnancy from occurring. I had no knowledge of my cycle in those days, but I knew there was a possibility that I could have conceived the night before. So I went to the clinic, got the pill, took it home, got a big glass of water, put the pill on my tongue, told the virgin Mary “I’m so, so sorry for doing this, but I can’t cope with a baby right now”, took a big glug of water and swallowed the pill.

I knew exactly what I was doing, but I was a scared teenager with a new boyfriend who was not strong enough to say no. And after all – wasn’t I doing the “responsible” thing? The year previous I had sat in class in my all girls Catholic high school and been told that “If the condom splits then you can always get the morning after pill.” Perhaps this is why in the same year I also helped a 14 year old friend get the morning after pill. I helped her to end her possible pregnancy. Even if she was not pregnant the intent was there.

I think that feeling of shame is actually a useful feeling. After all, if we felt no shame whatsoever then it would suggest that taking the life of another human being was perfectly acceptable. But of course it’s not – is it. But shame can be a difficult thing because it can quite often push us into denial. I think I must have been denying to myself that it ever happened. Or that I probably wasn’t pregnant anyway so it wasn’t a sin. But whether I was or I wasn’t – the intent was there to end any possible pregnancy, and on that basis I did definitely need to take it to confession.

Lucky for me, the priests in England and Wales have already been given the authority by their Bishops to absolve the sin of abortion – so there was no need to wait until December. So this morning I went to confession. The priest was kind and friendly and didn’t judge me in the slightest – quite the opposite actually. He was glad that I had had the courage to come to confession and unburden myself of these things that has been in the back of my mind for 17 years. I’m sure i’m not the first person he has had come to confession with this sin and I’m sure i’m not going to be the last.

After he absolved me he said the words: “Go in peace, the Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from your sin.” 🙂

If you have had an abortion, taken the morning after pill or used the IUD type of contraception then I hope my story will give you the confidence to go and see you local priest and ask him for confession. Don’t spend any more time carrying the guilt or shame. Let Jesus take away your sins and free you to come back to into His loving arms.