NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–I never meant to say it. I wasn’t even thinking about it. It has been more than 10 years. But for some reason, when the professor asked each of the seven women in class that night to answer, “What is it that most people don’t know about you?” my reply was, “I’ve had not one, but two abortions.” My statement hung in the air. The other students were as shocked as I that I had said it.
There is hardly a more socially unacceptable disclosure. However, in my personal files are copies of not one — but two — documents which have the title, “Consent to Abortion.” If I told you the story, most Christians would not condemn me. Preserving the mother’s life is a scenario in which most evangelicals accept that the termination of a pregnancy is allowed. Yet, the truth I live with is that there was a point in time where I agreed that life, alive and growing within me, would be terminated. When we begin to talk about people who have terminated life, that includes me.
Within the week, four of the eight people present to hear my statement had called to confess that they also had experienced an abortion. Though I was still shocked that I had made the disclosure, I was not shocked to learn their secrets.
Who were these women? They ranged in age from their mid-20s to mid-40s. Some were married and some were single. Three were believers active in local churches who had made decisions they now regret. Yet none had ever shared their reality with another person — not even their husbands or families. One told me that even during two years of intensive marital therapy she never found the courage to confess — even to her counselor.
These women mirror other women God has brought into my path. Women who share their truth only because my journey through abortion is not something I have to keep secret. Through the years I’ve talked with deacons’ wives whose husbands were unaware of their past. Women on church and denominational staffs have shared what they don’t dare reveal to others.
The reality of many women in our churches is that their abortions were in secret at crisis points in their lives. I don’t condone their actions but, having talked to many of them, it is clear to me that they, too, believed at the time that abortion was their only choice. I’ve never talked to one who doesn’t grieve her choices and long for the child she gave up.
Another common thread for these women is the belief that the reality of their life’s experience must be kept secret. Most people have someone in their church and in their work-a-day world who carry the burden of a secret abortion.
Any mother who has lost a child will tell you that few days pass without thinking of that child. Fortunately, the circumstances of my life allow me to share that pain and that regret with a husband who was just as distraught as I over the realities. When I need to grieve, when news of possible long-term health issues connected with terminated pregnancies is the headline of the day, and when well-meaning, but unknowing fellow Christians voice their disgust and disapproval over women who choose abortion — I have someone to stand with me. Yet the women who have shared with me over the years do not have that luxury.
The third Sunday in January is observed by many evangelical churches as Sanctity of Life Sunday. As your Sunday School class or your Bible study group focuses on Sanctity of Life, do talk about and share a witness of a God who is definitely, unequivocally pro-life. Articulate clearly the options available to women in crisis pregnancies. Commit to being God’s instrument of life to those around you.
But even more so, share a witness of a God who is pro-grace. Proclaim a God who extends grace to cover all our mistakes. Speak a word of understanding and forgiveness to those who have made the mistake of abortion. Share your belief and joyful anticipation of a time when all of us (“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23) — ALL of us will be able to stand before God the Father and experience the privilege of full forgiveness.
The woman who needs to hear it just may be sitting beside you.
This first-person piece is submitted anonymously in the writer’s hope that each reader will consider thoughtfully whether she may be in their church.