The following testimony was presented at the Presbyterians Pro-Life dinner Saturday evening, June 19, for commissioners and visitors to the Assembly.
It was 24 years this past July that I first discovered that I was pregnant. I was single, out of college and living on my own in the big city, contemplating whether I should go ahead and enter the law school where I'd already been accepted, or pursue an MBA. By the summer of 1975 I was involved in a long-term relationship with a man whom I had expected to marry. In early July I began to fear the worst. It took all my courage to go back to the Planned Parenthood clinic where I had gotten my contraceptives to get a pregnancy test.
The next morning when I was told over the phone that the test was positive I immediately began to feel trapped and panicky on the inside. I was definitely moving into a crisis mode. The Planned Parenthood worker quickly let me know that I could schedule an abortion the next day as the doctor still had openings, and went on to inform me that the cost of $200 would need to be paid upon arrival.
I remember saying to her, "I don't know what to do, I just don't know." She assured me that I could talk to the counselor the next day when I arrived. So I made the appointment and hung up the phone feeling shell-shocked. Over the next 24 hours, I felt torn inside. I quickly realized that my relationship itself was in jeopardy if I did not get an abortion. I wondered how I might make it financially, supporting a baby and myself. I was so wrapped up in myself and what a baby would do to me, that I barely allowed myself to think about the baby.
I needed just to make a decision and do something--anything--to get out of the horrible mess I was in. I felt more powerless and trapped with each passing hour. I tried praying but I felt too far from God. I called up my grandmother who lived in the city and asked if I could stay with her that night. On one level, I desperately wanted someone--anyone--to rescue me from what I felt was my only solution. On another level, I was racing just to do it, just get it over with, forget all about it and never let it happen again.
I never did say a word about my pregnancy to my grandmother that night, and by the time I left her home the next morning I felt numb. But I vividly recall driving down the city streets on the way to the clinic, and looking up at a big blue billboard with huge white letters splashed across it that said, "Birthright." I remember saying out loud, "Maybe I should go over there instead." But my boyfriend assured me that would be the worst thing I could do.
My counselor collected all my data, took my money, asked a few questions and then assured me that given my circumstances--being unmarried, on my own, working and only six to seven weeks pregnant--abortion was a good choice for me. My entire counseling session lasted less than five minutes. Then I was in a room with a doctor I'd never met before, who knew nothing about me, and who said nothing to me.
Within an hour I was on my way home. It had been a little over 24 hours between the time I found out I was pregnant and the time I had the abortion. On the ride home I felt a huge surge of relief that no one would find out that I had ever been pregnant, and I could just get on with my life.
I had left the clinic with instructions to rest, but bled heavily and experienced very painful cramping. Seven days later I was in the hospital for outpatient surgery due to complications. I finally recovered and resolved that I would forget that I had ever been pregnant. And I did just that for the next six years.
Life goes on
The relationship I was in eroded and a year-and-a-half later, it was completely over. I never did go to law school or enter an MBA program. I took a new job, carried on with my friend-ships and family, and eventually married my husband. He was like a breath of fresh air in my life--a man Id known since grade school. But in many respects, I operated on a sort of "auto-pilot." I no longer made any conscious connection between my abortion and the gnawing, unfocused, free-floating guilt that was just beneath the surface.
Six years later, I was pregnant with our oldest son, and eagerly anticipating becoming a mother. Yet I also found myself thinking increasingly about the child I had aborted so many years earlier. It was becoming harder to maintain my previous level of denial, as I was literally surrounded by baby paraphernalia, books and pamphlets documenting all stages of fetal development.
As I approached my delivery date, I experienced complications and there was serious medical concern for our baby's wellbeing. For the first time in all those years, feelings of fear, guilt, desperation and remorse flooded over me. I cried out to God and prayed that He would not let our baby be harmed because of what I had done.
Gratefully, our son was born soon after and in perfect health. But the feelings that had surfaced in those last weeks of my pregnancy could not just be shoved down anymore. I was conscious of them and realized, as David wrote, "my sin is ever before me" (Psalm 51:3). For the next year-and-a-half, I hungered on an emotional and spiritual level for God and for his forgiveness.
In the summer of 1982, shortly after the birth of my daughter, I heard for the first time how Jesus Christ desired to have a personal relationship with me. I began to understand that God himself had already atoned for my sins, that he had already paid the price himself, that he had loved me and had pursued me through all those years. I came to understand that he had been there all along and that I had left, but he had not.
I began to understand and experience the amazing grace and lavish mercy of God. I also experienced peace for the first time in years. I allowed God's truth to penetrate into my innermost being: the truth about what I had done in aborting my first child, and the truth about what God had done for me in making me his child.
Today I work as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. As a result of God's redemptive work in my own life, I have had the privilege of sitting with women not only in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, but also as they have struggled in the aftermath of abortion. The truth is that the emotional and spiritual scars of abortion run deep, yet God's love is deeper still.
Those who have openly walked through the pain of abortion and have openly confronted the anger, guilt, denial and grief over their lost children, have discovered the overwhelming presence of God in their lives, the God who loves them, who has forgiven them and who gives them hope.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we may comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Paul's encouragement reminds us of our opportunity to be the Body of Christ as we allow women a place to mourn, to heal and finally be reconciled with their God, themselves and their children.