I always thought there were two groups of people: Those who are morally opposed to abortion and those who think it’s OK. But I belong to a third group: People who do not think it is OK but have done it.
In middle school, I did a persuasive essay on why abortion should be illegal. I was passionate about it. In college, I watched my roommate come home from the clinic with her boyfriend and thought, “That’ll never be me.” But in my twenties, I found myself in the lobby of Planned Parenthood not able to look anyone in the eye. It was horrible. I was terrified and ashamed.
I had unhealthy views on sex and drinking. I made a bunch of mistakes and called it fun. I thought being sexy gave me power (courtesy of TV shows and women’s magazines).
But too much sexy power and you’re a whore. Some people called me a whore. I had no idea but I was looking for validation. I wanted to be wanted. Each sexual encounter left me more vulnerable. I was in a horrible cycle of trying to prove to myself that I was worthy of anyone’s affection.
One night, I met a guy. I thought he was The One. A few months later, he disappeared and I was confused and hurt. A year later, I ran into him at a bar. I tried to win him back that night. I can barely remember it, but I convinced him to come home with me. In the middle of the night, he disappeared again.
A few weeks later, I saw some bird poop on the sidewalk and it made me gag. About an hour later, I threw up in a bathroom stall at work. It hit me like a truck–I had morning sickness. I tried to remember when my last period was and knew it had been at least a few weeks. I had gotten lazy and inconsistent with taking my daily pill. I thought taking it 80% of the time would be good enough. OK, I never actually decided that–it’s like when you’re on diet and you allow yourself to cheat one time, then you cheat a little more, then its three months later and you’ve forgotten that you’re supposed to be on a diet.
I bought a pregnancy test. Thankfully, there were two in the box because I was shaking so bad, I messed the first one up. I waited two days to take the second one. It was 2am and I was drunk. It showed positive within seconds. I called the guy and left a voicemail. The next morning, he finally returned a call from me.
That evening he came over to talk. His first question was, “Are you sure it’s mine?” It was a valid question, but it hurt. He said, “If you keep it, I will never come to see it. You will never see me again. I know I will have to pay child support, but I will not be a part of your life or it’s life.” Up until that moment, I thought we would co-parent. I didn’t think we’d get married or even have a romantic relationship. But I did assume he’d be at the hospital during birth and would take the kid every other weekend. I expressed these hopes with him and he said, “Do you really think you can take care of a kid?”
He followed that with, “If you end this, I’ll pay for it. I’ll stay here with you tonight. We’ll get drunk and forget about it. I’ll go with you to get it done.” I started crying.
I was hurt by him. Moreso, I was ashamed. How could I tell my family that I had gotten pregnant and they would never meet the father? How could I tell my co-workers and my male, very Catholic bosses that I was going to be a single mom? All of the rejection I was trying to bury was about to be on display to the public. Everyone was going to know that I was a slut and that no one wanted me.
Everything I had ever heard and ever thought about single women who have babies was negative—whispers of “how could she let this happen?” and “Does she know who the dad is?” When a married couple announces a pregnancy they say, “We’re having a baby.” In contrast, single women “get pregnant.” The phrase itself only refers to the irresponsible act that got you there. There is no celebration of new life or cute YouTube videos of ecstatic grandparents finding out. There are only questions, whispers, and head shaking. I knew it because I had heard it and I had thought it too.
I cannot justify my decision but I did have reasons. To avoid the shame and humiliation, I agreed to have an abortion. I thought for sure I would go to hell for it. But if the religious people were right, I was going to hell anyway for all of the things that had gotten me to this point. I took what short term comfort the guy was willing to offer me and made the appointment.
I remember everything about that day: the date, what I wore, and how I felt. There was one protester out front. He handed us a flyer with pictures of bloody fetuses on it. I remember what the room looked like and the equipment and how I felt when I saw it.
The next day, I called in sick to work and sat in my dark apartment crying and vomiting. I desperately wanted to call someone but knew I couldn’t. This was going to be a secret. I was never going to tell anyone.
The next three months were a blur. I was so ashamed that I could barely function. I drank almost every night to try to blackout and forget about who I had become. Sometimes, I would get drunk and cry in public. I realized I couldn’t go on like this.
I believed I was a horrible person and I didn’t like it. I thought if I went to church, maybe I could be happy again. Even if I was never good enough to get into heaven, maybe I could salvage something out of this life. Maybe I could find some charity work to do so that I could push back the memories of how awful I am.
I hadn’t been inside a church since I was in the 7th grade. I had only gone to mass (or sermon or whatever they called it) when staying with friends on Saturday nights.
I picked a church at random and went to my first service. They told the story of the Prodigal Son. How a son took half of his family’s money and blew it on partying. When he hit rock bottom, he went home to beg for food and a job as a servant. Instead, the father ran to him, hugged him and threw a party. He was so happy that his lost son had come back—he didn’t even ask where he had been.
Towards the end of the service, a woman performed a skit where she was in front of God and surrounded by TV screens. Each one showed a sin from her life. She accused God of keeping track of all her mistakes. She couldn’t deny them. She finally said, “let’s watch the one where I had an abortion—I knew you wouldn’t let me forget that.” When she put the tape in, the screen was just snow. All of the screens turned to snow. God had erased all of the tapes. She was forgiven for everything—even the abortion. The pastor came back out and made an announcement about a support group for women who had an abortion. Everyone sang Amazing Grace.
I could not believe it. I had heard about sin my whole life but I had never heard about God’s grace. Could I actually be forgiven for this horrible thing I’d done? For all of it? Could God still love me? As soon as the questions entered my mind, I knew the answer was yes. I could feel God’s love wash over me in an instant and I sobbed. I tried to make sure no one could hear me crying but I was overwhelmed with relief.
Since that moment, I have never wondered if God has forgiven me. I know that He has.
He forgave the woman at the well, and Paul, and David. The Bible is full of stories of God forgiving broken people and loving them.
Once I found out how much God loves me, I began to believe I was worth more than what I could do in the bedroom. I accepted my identity as a unique and wonderfully made daughter of the King. Even though I wasn’t in a relationship, I finally felt like I was good enough to be loved.
In our country, 1 in 4 women has had an abortion. I know some of them are sitting in our churches convinced that they are unforgivable. Some feel like they will be struck by lightning if they even come close to a church. But Jesus paid for all of our mistakes. God waits for us with open arms to come home to him. Nothing makes Him happier than when his lost daughter asks if she can still be His daughter. The answer is Yes, always Yes.
What if the Prodigal Son was met by his judgmental older brother first? Would he still have made it back into the family or would he have been turned away?
My abortion has been a secret for the last 15 years. Even though I believe God has forgiven me, I’m afraid there are people who will judge me. How will my brothers and sisters in the church react when they find out? I’m afraid they’ll try to remind me of how horrible abortion is—like I could forget. I’m afraid they’ll tell me I don’t belong with them—that I’m not good enough to be in the family. But being scared of what people think of me is what got me in this mess in the first place. I cannot let fear keep me from spreading the Gospel to women who need to know it applies to them too.
I found myself on a path that led from one bad thing to the next, and I saw no escape. Once someone starts the slide into sin, is there any point where she feels safe to begin the journey home? No matter what has happened in your past or how far from God you have felt, you are never too far gone. On the other side of all of it, I want to do everything in my power to ensure that every woman believes Jesus when he says it’s safe, and healing is possible.
What strikes you most about Heather’s story? Why?
Read the full story of the Prodigal Son. Who do you relate to the most—the older brother or the younger brother? Why?
Even if you’ve never tried talking to God before, take a minute and ask what he might want to say to you. Write down whatever you hear. No questioning, second-guessing, or editing. See what comes to mind.
If you are wrestling with an abortion you’ve had (or thinking about having one), there are safe places to talk. Call, text, email, or chat our Community Care team at the info below.
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