CHAPTER SEVEN: TESTIMONIES
It is important to share stories of women who have had abortions with your congregation for two very special reasons. First, they help those who have not had abortions to better understand the pressures which women face and to have a more sincere compassion for those who have had abortions.
Second, they help those who have had abortions to see compassion in the eyes of all those around them and to know that they, too, would be accepted with compassion if they were ever to share their stories. This is very important. Those who fear that they would be “stoned” or shunned by their Christian community if “the truth were known” must be encouraged to hope that the opposite is true. They need to hear and see that “if the truth were known,” their community would offer them comfort, not condemnation.
Following are some very brief quotes followed by longer testimonies which you may wish to read or reprint in part or in their entirety.
Losing Respect For Oneself (Stacey, age 18)
I had always been pro-life. … I wanted to have the baby that was created out of love. I wanted to place it for adoption and give it the chance of life. However, the shame was too great. I couldn’t handle a nine-month reminder of my sins. I couldn’t tell my parents. (I’m supposed to be the good one!) I would have had to quit cheerleading, resign as class leader, lose all the respect others had for me. It was easier to lose respect for myself.(1)
The Ongoing Loss of Abortion (Kathy, age 16)
What followed [the abortion] were years of turmoil, confusion, emotional death. The boy I thought loved me couldn’t handle what had happened to me. The relationship dissolved. So did my belief in love. I felt worthless. I got an apartment as soon as I was of age. I drank too much, did drugs, and entertained any man who would look at me. I was starved for acceptance. I put myself in the most dangerous situations possible. I had a death wish.(2)
The Life-Long Secret (Mrs. Stone, age 95)
I did confess my adultery and fornication to my pastor, but I did not tell him about the abortion. I’m just so terribly upset over that sin. Can I be forgiven? I just feel I can’t go to my pastor or to anyone else. I’ve been carrying around this guilt for over 50 years. What a terrible person and sinner I am. Can God ever accept me?(3)
Trying to Find Peace (Audrey, age 72)
I was devastated after a broken engagement in early 1945. The abortion ruined my life, and made me feel completely unworthy. I’m old, tired and in pain. I have to get ready to meet my Maker in Peace!
I’ve prayed, and cried, and felt I had to atone for it all my life. I miss my daughter and need her so much. I’m completely alone. and now say I have a daughter who would be 50 years old if she had lived. I’ve named her “Angela,” my angel, and I pray to her for help.
The Grandmother’s Pain (Anonymous)
I find myself full of grief for my grandchild. I’ve shed many tears for this little one and for our daughter. Nothing will bring this baby back, and I’m afraid for our daughter when reality sets in. I am desperate in my need to give her help. I don’t want to see her suffer all her life.(4)
Words from a Father (Anonymous)
How ever can I explain it?
Tell me, where do I begin, to try and justify the cause of just another sin?
I remember the day she told me, and the fear within her eyes.
I hid my love for you behind “it’s-your-decision” lies.
How could I fight a verdict that she so quickly made?
All I could do was love her, and try to ease her pain.
I guess I always thought that atonement could be mine– if we had another child someday, we could undo this tragic crime.
I wish that I could blame her, to help relieve my guilt, but I only blame myself, and I know I always will.
I should have protected you, instead of her or me. But I loved her so much, living for her touch. …
That’s what I hope you’ll see.
Now, I see you up in heaven, your finger pointing down, upon the lap of Christ, millions of innocents, gathered ’round.
Knowing you are in heaven, offers some relief to me because our all-forgiving God has promised to set me free.
I know we’ll be joined together, as family once again when our time on earth is over and our eternity can begin.
So please forgive us both, for such a selfish task.
Just let her know you love her; it’s all I’ll ever ask.
Unable To Forgive Myself (Liane)
Following my second abortion, my relationship to the man I was living with changed dramatically. I contradicted everything he said, I resented him, my stomach ached every time he touched me. I was totally numb. I never smiled. I had no idea how to have fun.
The next ten years were difficult and painful–but I never knew why. I just knew something was wrong, and on many occasions, I felt like committing myself to a mental hospital. For years, I had strong desires to cut myself while cooking, and when I did, I passed it off as accidents. I had to fight with myself to control my car because I wanted to crash into the side of the freeway wall. I have three children I’ve been unable to bond with. I was unable to hug them or tell them I loved them. I turned away from them and showed them no feelings. I did not have the love for myself to know how to love them.
What gave me the most pain was the inability to forgive myself. I had been going to confession for twelve years, confessing the same sin of abortion, but I was unable to grasp the gift of forgiveness. The priests whom I confessed to, through no fault of their own, did not know how to handle the situation. I left the confessional feeling as empty as when I went in. Every few weeks the voices of guilt and shame screamed so loudly I had to go and confess once more.
My search for healing continued…. [I joined Open Arms, a post-abortion healing group.] It was there I began to learn that I was not crazy, that others had experienced the same feelings and behaviors as I did. Finally, I was being understood. When I finished [meeting with] the support group, I had a new outlook on life…. I began to grab at the truth that I was really a child of God. Finally, I accepted God’s forgiveness, and I forgave myself.(5)
Nowhere To Turn (Marion)
Marion was raised in a chaotic, abusive family, which resulted in her parents’ divorce when she was thirteen. After the divorce, her mother began abusing drugs and alcohol and became promiscuous with men she would pick up at bars. Because she was desperate for affection, Marion deliberately became pregnant at the age of fifteen, hoping to be able to move out and have her own family. When she went for a free pregnancy test at Planned Parenthood, however, the counselor encouraged her to abort. Marion left without saying anything, thinking “I don’t want to do this. Abortion is killing.” Though she had never been to church, Marion decided to go to a church for help, thinking that even if they yelled at her at least they would help her.
I picked out a church that was pretty; it had stone and vines and window boxes and I thought, “If God lives, he’d live here.” So I went in, sat down in the minister’s office, and blurt, blurt, blurt.
Well, he hit the roof. Got up and started like Jimmy Durante, “what’s-this-generation-coming-to” kinda thing. Then he sits down, opens the bottom drawer of his desk, and hands me $150 in greenbacks.
I’m fifteen, I don’t ask any questions. That would imply that I don’t understand and that would be not-adult. So I took the money, put it in my pocket, and he shoves me out the door. I was standing outside the church thinking, “What does he want me to do with this?” Then I realized. [Marion’s voice grows very quiet.] God wants me to have an abortion.
I was surprised that this was what God wanted. But it was what every adult I talked to told me was best. I was sad and I couldn’t go home right away. So I walked by the river and sat on the bridge. I swung my feet and talked to my baby.
…I think about that little girl sitting there and I get upset. In my high school…I was the whore, I was the girl they called when the football team wanted to have a party. Nobody told me about God; it was going to take more than $150 given to me in five minutes to solve my problem. I was going to be a problem for a long, long time. And we don’t want to deal with people like that. We care about people getting saved, but we don’t care that much. Not enough to inconvenience ourselves.
…So I sat there and swung my feet and told my baby, “I’ve wanted to have you since I was five years old. I wish I could have you–but I can’t. ‘Cause there’s crazy people at my house, and they’ll hurt you…. And I wonder if you’re a girl, or a boy, and I’m really sorry–that I have to kill you–but God wants me to.” (6)
Needless to say, after her abortion, Marion suffered from extreme guilt, low self-esteem, self-hatred, intense grief, and a downward spiral into drugs and alcohol. To make up for her abortion, she tried to become pregnant again and again. The second time she became pregnant, her mother coerced her into a second abortion. The third time, she miscarried after being beaten by her father. With her fourth pregnancy, she finally convinced the father of the child to marry her, but she was still severely emotionally scarred by her abortions. She continued to be dependent on drugs, and her ability to mother her child was severely distorted by the unresolved grief she was still carrying for the children she had lost. As an example of how the abortions affected her mothering, Marion says, “I got in the habit of just dropping the baby into the crib so he’d cry and need me.”
But eventually, Marion and her husband became Christians and found healing, forgiveness, and strength from the only source of true healing, Christ. But Marion’s path to recovery was not easy, and it was not just between her and Christ alone. God uses people to touch each other, hug each other, and cry with each other. Today Marion works in a crisis pregnancy center, helping young girls to avoid the same mistakes that she made. From her own personal experience, she knows that she must become personally involved in the lives of troubled young women, not because it is convenient but because it is necessary.
No Parents, No Husband, No Baby (Colleen)
I was 18 and dating a man my parents strongly disapproved of. So they “made a deal” with me: they would send me to college if I would break up with him. I agreed, though I never really meant to keep my end of the bargain.
I realized I was pregnant when the smells from chemistry class kept making me sick. A friend convinced me to go to her doctor in town. He diagnosed pregnancy immediately, saying, “Such a shame, another young one.” He told me not to worry, that “it” could be “taken care of.” He never once said anything about keeping the baby, but gave me a card from the local abortuary.
Although I had no strong religious convictions, the visit to the clinic for my initial “consultation” left me feeling bad. The nurse told me to come back in a week with the money to have it done.
I had heard some things about abortion, and I knew it was probably wrong. So that whole week, I talked with friends and teachers, looking for advice. One female teacher in particular advised me to have it done. She told me that she had had several abortions, that it was “nothing,” and that I didn’t need this trouble in my life right now.
No one, at any time, told me anything about adoption or keeping the child. In fact, one of my teachers was a nun–and I approached her, too, with my problem. I think now that I really wanted someone to say “No! Don’t do it!” But even the nun told me that abortion was the best route for me.
My boyfriend didn’t have the money, so my parents volunteered to pay for it. When I broke down in front of them, saying that I thought it was wrong to do this, they told me they would kick me out of the house if I didn’t have the abortion. My father said he wouldn’t have any “little brown babies in his house!” (My boyfriend was Italian/Puerto Rican.) They told me that if I had the baby, I would be completely on my own. I felt like there was absolutely no way I could escape the inevitable.
When the time came, my boyfriend and some friends from school went with me. There were no protesters, no pro-life people. In fact, during the whole time of this crisis, I never heard a word about or from the pro-life side.
I was led to a room with a whole group of girls, just like me, waiting to have their babies killed. No one talked. No one looked at anyone else. They called our names, one by one.
I was very scared, mostly of the pain they said I might feel. With the counselor, I mostly cried. But she just agreed with everyone I had talked to. Yes, this is a bad time to have a child. Yes, you’re too young. Yes, having a child costs a lot of money. Yes, it would be so hard for you to raise a child on your own. Yes, this is the best thing to do.
Waiting to have my name called, I tried to convince myself of these things. I just wanted the whole thing to be over with.
Finally they called me in and put me on a table. The dilation was extremely painful. A counselor held my hand and told me not to cry, it would be over soon.
The suction machine was very loud–a horrible noise. They had a picture on the ceiling for you to look at so you wouldn’t have to think about what was happening to you. The image of that picture is burned into my memory. They took my baby from me while I looked at people walking in the rain.
My boyfriend got drunk while I was in the clinic. He could hardly drive me home. He was late picking me up, and I stood on the corner in front of the clinic, bleeding and embarrassed until he came.
When we got back to my dorm room, I was crying. I told everyone how awful it was, and how I wished I hadn’t done it after all. My boyfriend laughed at me–laughed at me!–and said, “Well, that’s what you get for screwing around!” One of the guys from school tried to throw him out, and they got into a fight. It was a horrible scene. I’m sure he got drunk to try and deal with it; he knew, deep down, that it was wrong. He was only trying to blame me for it so the responsibility for it wouldn’t weigh on his shoulders.
In the end, the abortion did not “solve all my problems” as everyone had promised. My parents still kicked me out. I had to quit school. I married the boyfriend. It didn’t work out. He became an alcoholic and a drug addict. He beat me up and brought other women into our bed.
One night during a drunken spree, he held a knife to my chest. I told him to kill me, that I wanted to die. I had nothing. No parents, no husband, really, no baby, and no self-respect. How couldhe respect me? I had killed our child. How could I look at myself in the mirror every day? I was a murderer. I truly wanted to die. Soon after this, we were separated and divorced.
My abortion was about ten years ago. To me, it’s like a bad, bad nightmare, deep in the past, best forgotten. I still haven’t told anyone in my present life (my husband, my church friends, anyone I respect) about the abortion. I can’t. I know that they would see me differently, and I couldn’t stand that.
I’ve had one child since then, and I’m pregnant again. These children are my joy–and my forgiveness from God. My little boy is so, so precious and wonderful. If I had only known how sweet and wonderful a baby is, I never would have done it–not in two million years.
I now picket the clinics in the area, and I write letters to the paper and give money to pro-life groups. This helps a little–I feel that I need to do at least this much.
It’s obvious that the abortion wrecked my life. Emotionally, I was a different person before and after it. It left a path of destruction in my life. My family, my first marriage, my image of myself–all a total wreck. Nothing will ever be the same.
I know now the lies I was told, the truths that were withheld from me, the facts that were glossed over or left out. As a pregnant woman, I go to my doctor’s office and see pictures of babies in tummies. Month by month, I hear my baby’s heartbeat. I’m told how to do everything that’s best for my baby’s health. Why is it legal across town to NOT tell these things?
I am just glad that I’m able to tell others. I’m glad that I can be outside that clinic when no one was there for me. I may not be able to confess my abortion, but I can fight abortion!(7)
Abortion Following Rape (Nancy)
It was May 19, 1973. I was pregnant from a date rape. I had tried to hide it from my parents, but of course they found out. Then the pressure started. “How are you going to go to college with a baby?” “How are you going to support it?” “It is only a blob of blood. It’s not a baby yet.” Before I had time to think about what I wanted, the abortion was over.
The abortion itself was like a living hell. I thought my guts were being pulled out. It was degrading, and I was terrified. When it was over, something made me ask the doctor, “Was it a boy or a girl?” He answered, “I can’t tell. It’s in pieces.” The counseling consisted of throwing some birth control pills at me.
It’s so hard to put into words how the abortion affected me. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I realize that I was going through almost classic Post-Abortion Syndrome. I became a tramp and slept with anyone and everyone. I engaged in unprotected sex, and each month when I wasn’t pregnant, I would go into a deep depression. I was rebellious. I wanted my parents to see what I had become. I dropped out of college. I tried suicide, but I didn’t have the guts to slit my wrists or blow my brains out. I couldn’t get my hands on sleeping pills, so I resorted to over-the-counter sleep aids and booze.
When that failed, I then tried to make relationships work with men, any man. I was driven with a need to have a child and knew if I was married my parents couldn’t do anything about it. Then I married in 1975. While my husband and I are still together, we have had to work extra hard because I married him for all the wrong reasons.
Five months after we were married, my first child was born. I was in heaven. I doted on that baby. In three months, I was pregnant again. But this time, we lost our baby at six months. Then the depression that I had conquered came back full force. I can remember thinking, “I deserve this pain. I killed a baby and now God has taken one from me. I deserve it.” The doctor felt that I had a weak cervix, a common aftereffect of abortion, and that the weight of the baby was too much for it and she just fell out. Four months later I was pregnant again.
It is hard to explain this need to keep having babies, but I did. From 1976, with the birth of my first living child, to 1985 at the birth of my fourth and final living child, I was pregnant a total of eight times. With the birth of my last child, the doctor didn’t leave me any choice but to quit having children if I wanted to live to see the ones I had grow up.
In trying to deal with the abortion, I had to face what I had done and beg forgiveness from my God. The hardest thing of all is trying to forgive myself. It is a daily struggle to accept the forgiveness I know the Lord has given me. And I will never forget it. Only now, I don’t want to forget it, because it keeps me from getting complacent. I know if it helps others, I can talk about it. It always makes me cry, but if it saves just one mom and baby the pain, it’s worth it.
I joined our local Right to Life and crisis pregnancy center. I have also had to forgive my parents. I can still remember when I walked into my Mom’s house and threw down a picture of an aborted fetus and snarled, “See what you made me do?” She has since become pro-life herself and has told me how sorry she is. I still have to fight against my anger at my Dad, because he still won’t admit the abortion was wrong, at least for me.
Do all these things help? That’s a hard one. Sometimes it does and sometimes the depression is too strong and time has to pass. Not a day goes by that the abortion doesn’t cross my mind. It is a constant struggle trying to overcome my guilt and depression, even knowing I have been forgiven. I dread the day when I have to come face-to-face with my little child and explain to her why mamma took her life. But I also think I am a softer, more caring person than I might have been. If not for the abortion, I might have turned out “pro-choice.”(8)
Trying to Survive (Judith)
When I became pregnant for the fifth time in seven years, my doctor asked me if I really thought I should “continue the pregnancy.”
Abortion had never occurred to me until he suggested it. I’m a former foster child. Conceived illegitimately, my father was forced to marry my mother because of me. My childhood was brutal. I was abandoned by my father when I was two-and-a-half. Then, when he reappeared in my life again at the age of eight, it became worse. I survived incest, starvation, and beatings. I clung to life. But the two abortions I had nearly destroyed me.
My husband said, “It’s your decision. Do what you want,” and left for work. Naively, I began looking for women who had had abortions. I wanted to know what to expect. But I couldn’t find anyone who would admit to having had one. I asked my doctor and he said, “It only takes a few minutes and it’s over.”
Having already had four babies, I am now appalled at how ignorant I was about fetal development. My doctor said the baby, at six-and-a-half weeks, was “just a blob,” and I believed him. I had my first abortion in another state. Afterwards, before I even got home, I began to cry. It didn’t help.
I continued to cry after I got home. I cried on my knees beside my bed. When finally I stopped crying on the outside, I kept crying on the inside. I felt so dirty and alone.
Something deep inside of me froze, I think. I dreamed a lot about snow and ice, as well as about babies. I felt cheated, betrayed, and manipulated. I went to counseling and the psychologist said, “Forgive yourself,” and “Let yourself go on.” She didn’t say how.
Two years later, I was pregnant again–on purpose. But still, I wanted to die, or at least go crazy so I could escape the torment, the nightmares about babies, the self-disgust, and the degradation I felt. This time, I waited until the baby was 12 weeks along before I murdered him. My doctor tied my tubes at the same time, and he said he would never do another abortion. I made him tell me about the baby, just as I had made the man who did the first abortion. (The first one was a girl. She died January 15th. The second was a boy, March 29th. I learned to dread every January and March.)
I wasn’t told that there could be complications which wouldn’t be discovered for years. I wasn’t told that the strength of the suction machine is such that it can turn a uterus nearly completely inside out. I had to have an early hysterectomy because of it.
I wasn’t told that having an abortion would lead to unbelievable self-hatred that would consume me and lead to distrust, suspicion, and the utter inability to care about myself or others–including my four children. I wasn’t told that hearing babies cry would trigger such anger that I wouldn’t be able to be around babies at all.
I wasn’t told that it would become impossible to look at my own eyes in a mirror. Or that my confidence would be so shaken that I would become unable to make important life decisions. My self-hatred kept me from pursuing my goal of becoming a registered nurse. I didn’t think I deserved success.
I wasn’t told that I would come to hate all those who advised me to have my abortions, because they were my accomplices in the murders of my babies. I wasn’t told that having an abortion with my husband’s consent would end up causing me to hate the father of my children, or that I would be unable to sustain ANY satisfying, lasting, fulfilling relationships.
I wasn’t told that I could become suicidal in the fall of every year, when both of my babies should have been born. I wasn’t told that on the birthdays of my living children, I would remember the two for whom I would never make a birthday cake, or that on Mother’s Day I would remember the two who would never send me a card, or that every Christmas I would remember the two for whom there would be no presents.
My abortions were supposed to be a “quick-fix” for my problems, but they didn’t tell me there is no “quick-fix” for regrets.
I had gone to my pastor before both abortions. He said the babies were “just blobs” too, so when I went afterwards and asked why I felt so dirty, he said, “God forgives.” I asked God to forgive me, and my pastor said He did. But I didn’t feel forgiven. I still felt unclean and undeserving.
I went to a psychiatric hospital and they gave me shock treatments. It didn’t help.
The nightmares continued. I became a workaholic. Work didn’t help. I became a compulsive eater. Food didn’t help. I became an anorexic as a form of self-punishment. That came close to killing me; I had two strokes.
I tried alcohol. It only helped temporarily. The torment would still be there when I woke up. That effort to escape the pain only lasted two months.
A friend of mine told me she was considering an abortion. I tried to talk her out of it. But I failed.
I worked at a crisis pregnancy center for a year. But that didn’t help–three clients aborted. I started the only pro-life organization in southeast Kansas, and was president for a year, and that didn’t help.
I honestly believe that the only thing that is going to help, is to find out that someone decided against abortion because God worked in them through my story. Maybe I’m wrong, though.
One thing I have learned–God’s forgiveness doesn’t depend on whether I “feel” forgiven. And it certainly doesn’t depend on whether I deserve forgiveness. It is based on His Grace, and that awes me! Regardless of what my head says, God’s Word says in 1 John 1:9 that if I confess my sins, He will forgive me. I have, and He does not lie.(9)
The Dream (Kathy)
The abortion clinic encouraged the use of a general anesthesia, which only added a little more to the cost. Kathy agreed, happy to accept anything which would make it easier to get through the day. Like so many others, she didn’t want to have an abortion. But in her situation, it was the right thing to do–the only thing she could do. It upset her just to think about it, so she was trying not to, and she welcomed the anesthesia. It worked quickly, and she began to dream:
I dreamed that I was contentedly floating in a beautiful pool, enjoying the clear sky. It was very peaceful. But then I noticed that my legs were becoming entangled in the hose of one of those vacuums they use to clean a pool. At first I was just annoyed to have my peaceful swim disturbed. Then the pain struck. I was trapped by the suction of the hose. It began pulling me apart, piece by piece. I cried and pleaded for someone to stop it, but there was no stopping it. Piece by piece, I watched myself being pulled apart, thinking how unfair it was that I was being denied the joy I had known only a few minutes before. When it was over, I was just aware of floating through the darkness of the tube, and then there was a sharp slapping on my thigh and a rude voice shouting, “Get up.” The nurse at the abortion clinic was waking me. The dream was over, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Kathy did not need a psychiatrist or soothsayer to explain to her the significance of her dream. She simply “stuffed it in a box” marked “DO NOT OPEN,” along with all her other feelings about her abortion, and hid it away. Guilt and grief occasionally surfaced, but she generally coped well for many years. But eventually, after marriage and the birth of her second child, she increasingly felt the need to confront her hidden secret. She was drawn to greater involvement in her church and finally found forgiveness in confessing her sin to God and submitting herself to the Judgeship of Christ.
What happened to my box? The old box was now destroyed; God removed my sins from me as far as the east is from the west. But the memories remained; a mother does not easily forget her children. So I gathered its contents up and put them into a new box–one that was covered by the blood of the Lamb and stamped “FORGIVEN” on every side. I was set free from the guilt and condemnation of my sin; I knew I could now stand before God because I had received His pardon. But standing before man was another matter.
Kathy continued to hide her greatest secret. Even though she had been forgiven by God, it was so shameful a secret that she could not endure the thought of her friends or family knowing what she had done. But many years later, 19 years after her abortion, on Christmas eve of 1992, Kathy’s feelings of grief were stirring and she prayed to God:
“Why did you give me that dream? Why did you give it to me when it was too late to save my baby?” His simple and profound reply was, “I didn’t give it to you to save your baby; I gave it to you to save other babies.” It was then that I realized that through my dream, God, in His sovereign and merciful way, had allowed me to taste the reality, the torment, the pain, and the injustice of my child’s death.
I contacted the local crisis pregnancy center, thinking that this could be the arena God may use in which my dream and testimony could “save the lives of other babies.” I was interested in training as a counselor, but they were interested in my first attending their post-abortion support group. I thought, “The Lord has forgiven me; my guilt is gone.” But I had yet to learn that while it takes the blood of Jesus to deliver us from guilt, it takes the acceptance of others to deliver us from shame.
God knew that I needed this small, intimate group, made up of abortion victims like myself. I could be confident in their acceptance of me. Through this sharing with others like myself, I began my journey to be free of my shame.(10)
Copyright 1996 David C. Reardon. Excerpted with permission for from The Jericho Plan: Breaking Down the Walls Which Prevent Post-Abortion Healing, published by Acorn Books, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791-7348 for internet posting exclusively at www.afterabortion.org. All Rights Reserved.