When she was 17, Cathy Harris had an abortion.
After her abortion, Harris says she felt “immediate regret, immediate just grief that fell upon me.”
“I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, where to put it,” she recalls. “A lot of people, friends of mine had continued to tell me that’s not a baby, just get over it, move on and I couldn’t.”
It took a long time to heal from her abortion, but eventually Harris began sharing her story, and became a leader in the pro-life movement. She shared her story by writing the book “Created to Live: Becoming the Answer for an Abortion-Free Community.”
Harris joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and what the decision means for the pro-life movement.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. This is a moment that the pro-life movement has been waiting for for about 50 years. Here with us to talk about this historic time in history is pro-life advocate Cathy Harris, who is also the author of “Created to Live: Becoming the Answer for an Abortion-Free Community.” Cathy, thanks so much for joining us.
Cathy Harris: Of course.
Allen: So what was your first thought, first reaction when you learned that yes, the Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe v. Wade?
Harris: Oh my goodness. It’s such an overwhelming feeling. So many of us have prayed and waited for this day and it’s hard to hold back tears when you’ve waited for something for so long. It’s exciting. It’s a big day.
Allen: It is a big day. It’s a huge day. You have been involved in the pro-life movement for so long. Of course, you’ve written a book, “Created to Live,” sharing a lot of your own story, your own passion for the pro-life cause. So I want to take a few minutes and just ask you to share a little bit of your personal story and how even as a young person you were exposed to abortion.
Harris: Sure. Yeah. So I am almost 40 now and had an abortion when I was 17. So I’ve experienced the fear that many young women have experienced and maybe even experiencing today and I get it. Of not really knowing where to go when you find out that you’re pregnant, especially as a young teenager, as I was. Just not knowing where to get answers, how to get help.
So for me, like a lot of women do, I turn[ed] to a Planned Parenthood that was down the street from my high school and really it was the only place I felt comfortable going in the moment, but realized very quickly that it was a bad decision. I made a decision out of fear because of a lack of support.
As I’ve been a part of the pro-life movement, as I’ve processed my own decision—and obviously am pro-life now—I have realized that really what I needed in that moment was support.
I needed someone to come alongside me and say it was OK to make a life decision in fear. [It] was wrong and it impacted my life dramatically in many different ways for years and years. It’s a decision I can never take back.
So really it’s what prompted me to join in the fight and join in the pro-life movement to be able to help women and bring light to the support that women really need. Not just kind of choosing the cop-out road of sending them to an abortion clinic. It wasn’t the answer for me and I don’t believe that it’s the answer for other women as well.
Allen: Do you remember what those thoughts were that were running through your mind at the age of 17 when you walked out of that Planned Parenthood after having had an abortion?
Harris: Yeah, I remember it like yesterday. I mean, it was immediate regret, immediate just grief that fell upon me. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, where to put it.
A lot of people, friends of mine, had continued to tell me that’s not a baby, just get over it, move on and I couldn’t. Just that day for so many years was just a day of darkness when I looked back on it.
I remember them telling me it was all going to be over. It was all going to be better and I remember walking out of that abortion clinic realizing that that was a lie.
It wasn’t over, it wasn’t better and now I was without a baby.
So it was worse than what I was told it would be when I walked in the door. So yeah, that feeling sticks with you, for sure.
Allen: So then how did you ultimately decide, OK, wait a second. I’m going to take some of that hurt and that pain from having had an abortion and get involved in the pro-life movement?
Harris: Sure. It took me a few years and finally, when I realized that it’s OK, it’s OK for me to move on. I need help. I need to be able to talk about this.
For two or three years, I didn’t talk about it at all. I didn’t share with other people what I had been through, the thoughts that were in my mind— honestly, because I felt like they were illegitimate. I didn’t feel like anybody was going to agree. Why are you grieving over a person who wasn’t a person, so to speak? As many people thought …
It took me a few years and I decided to just start volunteering in a pregnancy center. I just sat in rooms and listened to women, to young girls that were in the same boat as me.
I felt like I can’t get my baby back, but I can share with other women that are in my same boat of the grief that I felt at that point. So that’s really how I stepped into the pro-life movement, just sitting in a counseling room talking to a woman, holding her hand and sharing my story.
Allen: What would you want to say to women right now who have had abortions and might be feeling a lot of different emotions as they’ve just learned that Roe v. Wade has been overturned and maybe just feeling a lot of confusing feelings? What would be your message to them?
Harris: Yeah, absolutely. I think it is an emotional day for those women, especially women who haven’t found healing and really that would be my encouragement to them. That if this day is hard, if you’re finding yourself in a place of confusion of not knowing, do I rejoice? Do I cry? How do I feel about this?
I would encourage them to talk to someone about it. Talk to a pastor, go to a pregnancy center. There are counselors all across the country that are expecting and waiting to have these conversations. Even if you’re not looking to have an abortion and your abortion was years ago, they’re happy to help.
I think anytime that we find ourselves in a moment like today, it brings up feelings and emotions maybe we didn’t even know we’re there. So again, I would encourage them to just talk to someone that they trust.
Allen: Yeah. Well now we know that at this point in history, what the Supreme Court has said is that the Constitution does not provide a right to abortion. So now what happens is that abortion returns really to the people to decide in states, to state lawmakers to make those decisions and there’s a vast difference across our country in states that have put very, very pro-life laws in place and states that are still saying that they will allow abortion up until the time a baby is born.
So Cathy, how do we actually, as someone who has been so involved in the pro-life movement, who’s written a book about being pro-life, how do we actually go about creating a culture of life in our country?
Harris: Yeah. I mean, I think we can make that into a complicated answer, but really in my opinion, it’s pretty simple: just coming alongside people who need help. I mean, the reality of today, as exciting as it is, there are a lot of women who are going to need help and it’s our job to come alongside them and provide that help.
If you aren’t in a place where you can help physically or you don’t know a single mom or someone, then give. Give to those who are helping. Give to pregnancy centers, give to ministries that are helping, adoption agencies. These are real practical needs and we need to give to those and we need to offer our time. It’s one thing to pray and to be excited about a decision, it’s another thing to step up to the plate. I think that’s what today is about.
Allen: Yeah. What was most helpful for you in your own journey when people did come alongside of you? What did that look like and what was helpful?
Harris: Yeah. When I started volunteering in a pregnancy center, it was pretty clear from the very beginning from other more seasoned counselors that perhaps I was the one that needed the counseling.
So I had a lot of women who came alongside me and just let me talk. I think sometimes we don’t come alongside someone because we don’t know what to do or we don’t know what to say. I think for me it was, I just needed to be heard. I needed someone to just listen to the feelings that I had bottled up inside of me that I was scared to share with someone.
Again, because I felt like they weren’t legitimate. So just talking to someone, listening to someone, opening your ears, not necessarily feel like you have to provide an answer all the time, but just listen, be a listening ear.
Allen: Oh, I love that. I think that’s so practical. It’s not complicated. It’s like just get a cup of coffee and sit and listen. I love that.
So in this majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, he writes that like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.
So when we think about moving forward into this new era in American history in a post Roe world, Cathy, how do you think that history is going to remember Roe v. Wade and talk about this legislation? When we get another 50 years down the road, what do you think as a country we’re going to say about the past 50 years of allowing abortion on demand?
Harris: Yeah. Wow. Thinking about that is overwhelming to me because we’ve prayed, I’ve prayed for years that abortion would be in the ash heap of history. That we would look back 50 years from now and say, wow, how could we have done that? The 62 plus million babies who we’ve lost, generations that we’ve lost, it’s egregious.
My prayer is that 50 years from now that our eyes will be open to that and we can say, wow. Similar to the way that we look back into Dred Scott day, slavery days in our history, we look back with amazement and just wondering how did we get here? I pray that we can look back in the same way.
Allen: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Cathy Harris is the author of “Created to Live: Becoming the Answer for an Abortion Free Community” and you can find the book on Amazon. Cathy, thank you so much for being willing to join us today to share your personal story really on this historic moment in American history.
Harris: Of course. Thank you.
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