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Her abortion trauma yields help for others

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–Millions of men, women and children have been caught “in the rapids of sin and death,” Pat Layton said of the years since the Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Layton struggled in those rapids for years.

“I became a single mom at 18 and my parents rescued me, taking care of my young son while I went back to college to get my degree. When I discovered I was pregnant again, I was very ashamed to tell my parents.” Although she had been a proponent of a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, Layton said her experience at an abortion clinic left her feeling “shame, guilt, fear and the lack of power.”

“The windows were covered with bars…. It was dark and dreary. Even though I didn’t have Jesus in my life, I knew I was standing in the pit of hell with all of these women sitting there crying and alone.”

Layton exited the clinic to seek “a nicer abortion” from the obstetrician-gynecologist who had delivered her son. “I thought, ‘It will just take a minute. I’ll go in in the morning and be out that afternoon.'”

Her doctor did not ask why she was seeking an abortion nor did he tell her how far along she was in the pregnancy.

“I was willing to pay the extra bucks to be put to sleep. I didn’t want to experience the ugly clinic, but go on with my life.” After dropping her son off at daycare, she headed to one of Tampa, Fla.’s nicest women’s hospitals, planning to return for her son that afternoon.

“The next thing I remember was waking up with a tube stuck down my throat from a respirator and my parents standing at the foot of my bed. My secret wasn’t a secret anymore.” She checked out of the hospital to recover at her apartment, while her parents took care of her son.

However, an allergic reaction to anesthesia sent her back to the hospital when she began running a high fever. There she learned that parts of the fetus had been left in her womb and the doctor would need to perform the abortion again.

“What parts? A head, a heart, arms or legs? For the first time when he said those words I realized it was the parts of a child — a living human being that I had fought for the right to destroy.”

After undergoing an abortion a second time, Layton spent the next seven years with no idea of who she was. “I was lost to my feelings, any self-esteem I might possibly have had, and lost any values.” Like so many women surveyed regarding their abortion experiences, she was experiencing a traumatic disorder described as post-abortion syndrome.

Three years with a secular counselor only emptied her pockets of the dollars she had to spare. When she married and had another son, her life continued falling apart, so she tried a neighborhood church where her boys could attend Sunday School.

Layton heard the Gospel clearly presented during a ladies’ retreat “because someone reached out to a woman in the rapids who was drowning.”

“I asked the Lord into my dirty, messed up life as a 30-year-old and was filled with peace and a passionate love for God and his Word.”

Through the slow process of healing, Layton began to see God use her to rescue others, launching a crisis pregnancy center in Tampa. She also married and now has three children.

Layton later wrote a Bible study titled “Surrendering the Secret: Healing the Heartbreak of Abortion” with no intention of it being published.

“It was written for me and the people around me in my city to tell them God wants to heal you.” Last year, the eight-week study was published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Many women hide the secret of abortion deep in their hearts and suffer severe consequences, Layton said. They carry a great burden of shame and failure, afraid to reveal their hidden pain, thus enduring the long-lasting effects in isolation. Surrendering the Secret is written to help women release their burden and find freedom, hope and joy through “redemptive community.”

“Abortion has stolen three generations in 35 years,” Layton said at last fall’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “The enemy’s greatest victory in the slaughter by abortion is an unhealed, uninformed church.” Instead of depending on the law, the Supreme Court or the president to solve the problem alone, the body of Christ must lead in declaring the truth about abortion, Layton said.

In working with local churches, Layton said she finds one of two situations — “a church that slams the issue of abortion in the pulpit as broken women go slithering under their pews, not daring to tell anyone their secret” or a church so filled with mercy that they don’t want to approach the issue.

“Women’s ministry leaders either run from me in the hallway or meet me in the bathroom because this issue is not being discussed in the church,” she lamented.

“We need soul care for the suffering and spiritual healing from the sin,” Layton said. “Our challenge is to boldly break the silence and promote forgiveness.”
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN. More information about “Surrendering the Secret: Healing the Heartbreak of Abortion” by Pat Layton can be found at www.surrenderingthesecret.com.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter