Finding a voice in the present for what happened in the past.
by Julie A. Christenson
The menacing topic came up in college. I arrived late to class and spotted the bright red letters penned on the dry erase board: ABORTION. Great, just great, I thought, taking my seat.
As the discussion unfolded, I took in the various points of view. A young, twenty-ish woman, Kay (not her real name), bemoaned the failings of adoption. It seems Kay’s close friend had been encouraged to give up her baby for adoption, instead of having an abortion. “Now all she does is cry for her baby,” Kay explained. “She cries all the time. She would have been way better off getting the abortion. At least then, her suffering would have been over. Now it will never end!”
My pulse quickened and a hot angry flush spread across my face. How many times would I have to hear this mistaken conviction? Didn’t she know women suffer either way? I had known that for nearly 18 years now — since my two abortions.
A million thoughts flew through my mind, each touching down for a moment and then yielding to the next updraft of repressed fury. Why don’t people know abortion destroys the mother with the child? Can’t they see the child becomes a shadow, a faceless whisper in a long, dark night? The greatest sadness I’ve had to carry through life is that I destroyed someone special and did nothing to protect my defenseless child from the bullies of our culture. Those bullies told me that my child was worthless and then finished her off without even calling to notify my parents.
History of hurt
Before I turned 13, things had been pretty stable in my home. Mom had always spent time listening to my fears, and Dad even showed up to rescue me when a bully and an angry crowd threatened me. By the time I was nearly 14, however, all that had changed. My dad, a respected leader in the church, quit attending the weekly services to focus more on his business. Soon after, he left us.
I was furious at him for leaving and at my mother for not standing up to him. Though they reconciled a few months later, I started a campaign in self-destruction: smoking pot and drinking in school. Over the next two years I jumped in and out of foster homes. Before long, I became pregnant.
After my abortion, guilt almost destroyed me. I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone, so I began to drive myself to have another baby to soothe my conscience. Within a year after quitting school to join the Navy, I became pregnant and married at 18. I thought this would make things okay in my life, but both of us were so young and immature that it only made things worse. Five years and two children after the marriage started, I divorced.
Immediately after my divorce, I became involved with another man I was stationed with in the Navy. Once again, I thought he would change the destructive course of my life. But within two months, I became pregnant and had another abortion. This time I was so deeply wounded from my choice, that no one could be around me.
It was then that my life took a horrifying tail spin. I developed ulcers, sank into depression (crying all the time), and lost over 27 pounds in two weeks. I became severely ill and had to be hospitalized.
Within a few months, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Just surviving through life was almost impossible, so I began weekly counseling to help me deal with some of my life issues.
It was not until I met my current husband that things began to change for the better. He was the first person who allowed me to feel my guilt and then pointed me to Jesus to forgive it. Things have not been easy, but God has been faithful to me since the day I committed my life to Him.
In fact, in all the years I could not forgive myself for my abortions, God was working out a plan to show me that He had forgiven me long ago. My last child Katie was born on the sixteenth anniversary of my first abortion.
For years I kept silent about my abortion. When the subject came up, my shame prevented me from telling the truth about my anguish.
But as I listened to Kay explain that her friend’s anguish could have been forgotten if she had chosen abortion, something welled up inside me. With my hands trembling and voice shaking, I turned to face my peers. Would anyone see the pain in my eyes or hear the truth that could no longer be silenced by the tight knot in my throat?
Gulping, I walked out on the edge of that fear. “It is not easy to talk about this,” I blurted before I could change my mind.
Everyone’s eyes turned from Kay toward me, seeming to stare right through me. “I had an abortion when I was almost 16,” I began. “Everyone said I would forget about it, but they were wrong. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret it and wonder how things might have been. I wish to God someone would have told me about adoption or maybe about somewhere I could get help. The only thing anyone told me was that abortion was my only choice.”
I steeled myself for the angry barbs and the disgusting looks of contempt, but instead I saw compassionate nods from my classmates. Many of the silent ones (some who had been nodding with Kay) suddenly backed me up. Everyone looked at me sympathetically; one woman dabbed tears from her eyes. A man disclosed a difficult experience with abortion, while the woman next to me cupped a hand to her mouth. “Me too — I’ve had an abortion,” she whispered. “That’s something you don’t forget.”
Looking around the room, I felt like the prophet Elisha’s servant. When he and Elisha faced a vicious attack from their enemies, all the servant could focus on was the size of the army. But the prophet encouraged his servant, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see. Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17).
It was as if God opened my eyes and I saw an army of people standing with me rather than coming against me.
When I stepped out in faith that night, God taught me that it’s not shameful to speak up about the truth of abortion. I had gotten lost in a silent storm, refusing to admit how much a woman suffers when she has killed an unborn child. My silence was far more dangerous than shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. I was leading others to believe that to abort is good, that it spares the child awful circumstances and avoids destroying your life. In truth, there is no fire like the fire in a soul of one who has bridged her conscience.
I’ve also learned that navigating through the pain with God’s help develops strength of character. “Out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t soothe the conscience; only confessing wrong and seeking God’s forgiveness does this. I don’t think so much of my shame anymore, but of the unborn children who need a voice — mine.
That night in class I took a big risk, but I believe God was there waiting for someone to take a stand. In the end, Kay and all the others were thankful for my testimony. I can almost hear God crying out across our land to His children, “Who knows abortion destroys two people? Can I get a witness?”