in which I speak frankly about my abortion
Before I begin, I think it only fair to make it clear where I am coming from. I am a woman who became a Christian at the age of forty. But I was raised in church and believed myself to be a Christian for most of my life. I have been opposed to abortion for as long as I knew such a thing existed. In college I wrote a paper defending the pro-life position which my instructor thought so exceptionally well written that he pulled me aside to compliment me on it. Then, at the age of twenty-two, during one of the darkest periods of my life, I found myself pregnant and had an abortion anyway.
Over these last few days, remembering my abortion, trying to sort out the story and decide how to most honestly and helpfully express it has left me horribly depressed - what a mess I was in those days, and what a dreadful miasma of confusion, fears, and considerations influenced my decision. You may think it doesn't matter, that a choice is a choice, that when it came down to it I made the wrong one, simple as that. But there was nothing simple about it. It was a decision shrouded in agony. And as a choice can never be divorced from its influences and motives, I want to address them. What I don't intend to do is wash my hands of responsibility or blame others for what ultimately was my own doing. But, I want to bring some light to why all the pro-life arguments were not enough to keep me, when push came to shove, from aborting my own child all those years ago.
During my final year of high school I began attending Word of Faith and Pentecostal churches. I'd even gotten re-baptized. I met a young man from a family embedded in the world of TV evangelists. I fell in love. We spoke of marriage. I placed all my dreams in his hands. I thought I would die when, over a year later, he left me for another girl. The rejection I experienced from him and his family felt to my heart as if God Himself had turned His back on me. And I had some reasons for believing that. You see, in those days my own mother had fallen in with the Word of Faith people too. She'd been befriended by some super-spiritual folks who'd been in their faith for what seemed a long time to us. "FIVE years!" we would say with reverence when we spoke of one of her lady friends who'd converted from occultism to the Word of Faith brand of Pentecostalism. After my first date with this fellow, I had some concerns about him. He'd treated others unkindly in my presence and I wasn't sure what to make of it. I liked him, but his behavior wasn't what I considered Christian, and I wasn't sure if I should see him again. So my mom made a conference call, with two of her "spiritual" friends. They prayed, spoke in tongues, and finally spoke a prophecy over me which went along these lines: "This is God's will for you, Laurie. God is going to use you and **** to have a great ministry to the youth of America," etc, etc. And later, there were more "prophecies": "**** and Laurie are going to get married and the bridesmaids are going to wear gold llame dresses," etc.
So, the break-up seemed to me like a broken promise from God. This was aggravated by the high esteem in which I held his family due to their prominence in certain religious circles, the lies I was told before and after the event by the young man and by his family, and by the fact that the "prophecies" came true with the woman he left me for. There is much more to the story, but this will do. I was in college then but was falling apart. I'd chosen that particular school to be near him and had spent all my free time with him, making almost no friends of my own. And there I found myself abandoned. I had no one to trust, not God, not the church, and, sadly, not even my own mother (though years later I would come to learn that she felt almost as confused and victimized as I did).
Little by little I drifted into a dark world of dating, drinking, drugs, and debauchery. In those days one of my favorite bands wrote a song with a refrain which became the secret refrain of my heart during those years:
When I found out I was pregnant, the first emotion of my heart - the knee-jerk reaction of my soul - was joy. JOY! My heart lept with joy for about five minutes. Then my mind set to work and the fear set in. I did not know who the father was. I did not want to try to find out. How could I raise a child on my own, and how could I tell it I didn't know who its father was? A black cloud of dread enveloped me. I grew up thinking, for whatever reason, that what others thought of me was more important than just about anything. I could not live with the shame of what I had become, and I could not tell a soul - last of all my mother. She could not know this about me. Not only did I dread her disapproval, I feared that her friends would speak in tongues over me and talk about the devil. I also I didn't want her to know because she would tell me what to do, or worse, call a meeting of church people and try to stop me.
The shame was unbearable. I had to escape it and there was only one way I could do it. I'd made up my mind.
The doctor's office was cozy and plush. The receptionist was pleasant. The stack of forms to initial and sign was about a half inch thick - mostly waivers, as far as I could tell (I only skimmed them), stating they could not be held liable if I committed suicide, or fell into depression, or suffered other mental illness, or if I suffered a horrible complication and could never have children in the future... or if I died. I signed them all.
My husband, Paul, asked me the other day what it was like. "The people were nice when I got there," I told him. "It hurt more than you would think, but less than it could have. I saw a tube leading away from me and did not look at it again. When I was placed in the recovery cubicle - a dark little closet of a room - the niceness stopped. The pain was terrible, my heart ached, and the people no longer cared. They became impatient with me because I wasn't on my feet soon enough. I could hear them outside the door complaining about 'this one' taking too long to get out of there. They needed the room for the next one. I felt deceived yet again, and used." They were a business. I'd thought maybe they cared.
I dealt with my thoughts mainly by trying not to think them. But when I could not escape them, there were things I would tell myself to ease the guilt and pain of what I'd done. One was that since I'd had some bleeding during the few weeks of the pregnancy that there was probably something wrong and I would have lost it anyway. Another was that the baby was in heaven and was far better off than it would have been with me (something that to this day I'm still inclined to believe). Another was to vow never to let it happen again. God would understand and realize eventually how sorry I was and forgive me because He knew I'd never do it again.
And so, to put an end to my wild lifestyle, and to escape the guilt I felt every time I encountered my mother, I ran away just weeks later with a young man I'd been dating during that time. He was moving to another town and wanted me to go with him. I clung to him like a savior. We married, and three months later I found myself pregnant again. This time I could not look away. This was a child no different than the one before, but I welcomed it. I did not have to be ashamed of it, and so I welcomed it. One child got to live and the other one died and the only difference was me. What gave ME the right to make that decision? Nothing, absolutely nothing. I'd sacrificed my first child on the altar of my own pride. I had sinned against God. He is the only one with the power to give life, and the only one with the right to take it away. It was as simple as that. I was appalled; and I was terrified.
My understanding of God in those days consisted of a few different and often contradictory viewpoints existing side by side. Like cards in a deck, each showed a different picture but each was pulled from the same box. One card was called "cheap grace": really, in a pinch, I could do what I had to, even if it was a sin. I was a Christian (or so I thought, because I assented to the Apostles and Nicene Creeds) and so God was supposed to forgive me if I asked and was very, very sorry. Another card pictured God as a stern human parent who might be really angry when you did wrong, but over time would eventually calm down, and either get over it, or forget the whole thing. Another revealed God as a trickster who will let you think you've been forgiven and that He's forgotten the matter but will bring it up again, when you least expect it, and get even with you. I'd collected each of these notions about God in different times and places and stored them together, drawing from them whenever life dealt me something difficult and unexpected.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I pulled the Trickster Card and was filled with dread. If God was going to take revenge, this would be the perfect opportunity. I was convinced that He would repay me for killing the child I didn't want by killing the child I did want. I spent well over a year living under that black cloud of impending doom. That child, who I thought God would kill, was a little girl, who is now twenty-one years old. She has a brother two years younger. The Trickster Card was a lie. The devil is the trickster. God is a merciful God. I'd heard it before (that was one of the other cards in my deck), but it would be almost twenty more years before I would come to believe it with all my heart.
That's the story of my abortion. Remembering the desperation, fear, and hardness of heart which led to it colors my perspective of the abortion issue. I can understand the motivations; I can understand the limitations of argumentation when dealing with a woman in that situation. Keeping all this in mind, I hope you'll bear with me as I put forward, bluntly, the objections she will likely have to some common arguments against abortion. These are some of the means by which she will rationalize it....
When we suggest that the unborn child might grow up to be the next Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham, how do we respond when she replies, that it might also become a Hitler, a Stalin, a Pol Pot, a pedophile, a rapist, a murderer, a drug addict, an abortion provider, or a woman who herself gets an abortion?
When we propose adoption as an option, saying that the child would be wanted, loved, and well-provided for, can we really guarantee her that? What argument do we have that can trump her belief that the child would be better off either with God in heaven or just never being born, than alive in this pain-soaked planet? How do we address the truth that an aborted child, after a single brief moment of suffering, will know pain no more and indeed will likely spend eternity with God, while nearly every child who lives to see the sun will more likely than not in its lifetime experience far more pain, in a far more sentient state, than any child who is aborted, only (unless they come to faith in Christ) to die in sin and face eternal darkness? The longing for death is a desire familiar to nearly every suffering soul. Who, in the darkness of the depths of grief or sorrow hasn't wished they'd never been born? When even inspired writers of Scripture are known to exclaim that it is better to have died in the womb than to experience the anguish of living*, how are we to contend that unwanted fetuses should not be destroyed, and spared the pain of life and the risk of eternal damnation?
Beyond this, we need to be also prepared to deal honestly with those who will bring up a rather uncomfortable truth found in Scripture: that God at times, during the time of the Old Testament, actually commanded the killing of infants and pregnant women.** I've not heard this used as a justification for abortion per se. But I have heard it used to label Christians as hypocritical in their defense of the unborn, and to label our God as schizophrenic. We cannot bury our head in the sand and pretend these historical events are not recorded in our Bibles. If the God of the Bible is our God, we have to own these truths. We have to be able to accept the right of God over life and death and carefully distinguish it from our own. And this brings me back to the point - the truth that glared at me the day I learned I was pregnant the second time - that even though there are things God Himself views as more important than the protection of children in the womb, it is God alone who decides what those are, and God alone who has the right to decide who lives and who dies. Hear the words of David as he repented of adultery and the murder of an upright man:
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight."
(Ps. 51:3-4, emphasis mine)
If we are Christians, then our first priority must be the saving of souls. When a pregnant woman walks into an abortion clinic, whose soul would you say is in the greatest danger? Given the hardness of heart it takes to do such a thing and the fact that Scripture tells us that no murderer inherits the kingdom of heaven, it would seem to me that our hearts should be breaking for the woman at least as much as for the child. Speaking as one who's been there I can say, this is seldom how our anti-abortion efforts come across. Never did I have the sense that there were people out there, broken-hearted for me. Do we only care about cute little babies? What about when those cute little babies grow up into girls as messed up as I was? When I walked into that abortion clinic, unlike my baby, I was for all intents and purposes on my way to hell. I needed to be rescued. I needed a Savior. I needed to know that God is good, and kind, and merciful. I needed to know that Christ bore all my guilt and shame on the cross, and that He really did that for people as bad as me - especially for people as bad as me. I needed to know that every Christian is a sinner as wretched as myself and that every one of them is saved only because of God's mercy, not because they are in some way better than me. I needed to know all these things, I needed to learn them in the only way anyone can: through the faces, the actions, and the words of His people.
So, as someone who's been there I plead with you not to give up the fight, but to pull your eyes for a moment away from the pregnant bellies and look into the lost eyes of the women. Each one was once an unborn child herself. Each one is in more desperate need of rescue now than she was then.
*Ecc. 4:1-3;; Ecc. 6:3; Job 3:11-19Job 10:18-19; Job 14:1
**Deut. 2:33-34; 3:6; 7:1-2; Josh 5:16-21; 7:12; 8:24-26; 10:28, 36-39