By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
Mary Ann Niles’ road to abortion recovery has taken more than three decades, but she believes that what’s she’s learned and what she is trying to give back will help others who are on the same journey.
She grew up in San Antonio in a devout Catholic family with parents who were educators. The family would pray together and attend Mass regularly. She attended Catholic grade school and in her sophomore year at a private Catholic high school, she found herself pregnant, scared and looking for a way to tell her parents. She said she was intending on telling her parents and keeping the baby, but an older student gave her an alternative: abortion.
The year was 1973, the same year that abortion was affirmed legal by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It was time of the sexual revolution, women’s rights, astrology, the Age of Aquarius,” Niles said. “It was a confusing time. It was having more, getting more and pleasing oneself.”
She went outside of San Antonio to have an abortion. She returned to the same Catholic school later, graduated and eventually headed north, eventually enrolling at Texas Woman’s University.
At age 22, in 1979, she found herself in an unplanned pregnancy. She traveled to Dallas on a Saturday morning, to the North Park Abortion Center.. “I believed it was a circumstance, an inconvenience, that God surely would understand my situation, rationalizing that it was not a human life, but a circumstance.”
She was relieved, but as time passed, her life seemed to unravel. She never finished college. She had two children, but endured two failed marriages. Things seemed out of control. She went to confession, continued going to church and got remarried, but the loss of the children haunted her.
“I was like a spiritual zombie,” she said, relaying her experience similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Then, in 2008, a fellow parishioner at her church, along with her husband encouraged her to attend an abortion recovery program called “Rachel’s Vineyard,” sponsored by the Catholic Pro-Life Committee. There she found others like her who had been looking for ways to move forward.
“I felt peace immediately,” she said.
She later told her adult children and began volunteering with the CPLC, telling her story at parishes across the dioceses and to high school students at the organization’s annual summer Pro-Life Boot Camps on the University of Dallas campus. She also was a speaker at a pro-life event commemorating the closing of the North Park abortion center.
She believes stopping abortion begins at an early age with pro-life education and many prayers. And she believes that women who have suffered an abortion and are on their way to healing need to be reassured by the church and others that they will not be harshly and publicly judged.
“Women who have had an abortion desire and crave a different ending to their story and their life,” said Niles, who works in community relations for a mental health clinic. “They do not want to be defined by that choice.”
For more information on Rachel’s Vineyard and other programs from the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, please call 972-267-LIFE (5433) or visit prolifedallas.org.