|Image by Katie Tegtmeyer|
Their stories are raw, expressing every emotion from regret to relief. Sometimes the voice is impersonal, as if the woman is trying to remove herself from her own memory. Some of the stories are graphic, discussing the reasoning, procedure, and reactions in detail. All of them share the same pain and underlying plea for acceptance.
I'm certain that this piece is sparking many reactions and conversations, but I want to focus on one small detail: the women's reactions to the pro-lifers they saw or spoke to outside of the facility or in their communities. As pro-lifers, our goal is to protect the lives of unborn children, yes, but we must never forget the mother in the process. These women are vulnerable, frightened, and seeking help. Their babies will die gruesome, painful deaths, but these mothers will live the rest of their lives with the memories of their abortions.
While most of the women don't mention encounters with other people, the little said is striking. I have taken excerpts from some of their stories so you may read for yourself (all emphasis is mine):
Although I always thought it was a woman’s right to choose, I honestly thought if I got pregnant I’d find a way to make it work. All that changed. My boyfriend terrorized me.... When I went to the clinic, there were protesters with awful, very graphic signs. I felt their judgment....With the slew of shitty things that have happened to me, I wonder, am I paying the price for what I did? I believe in a God who wouldn’t punish that way. But when you don’t want the gift you’re given, will the universe offer up that gift again? -Lauren, 34, Colorado
Outside, nuns prayed; protesters threw themselves on their knees with holy water. “Wonderful” is a weird word to use, but inside the clinic was wonderful. There was a sensation of finally being able to breathe.... My husband’s family stopped talking to us. It taught us who our friends are. There’s an intersection of stigma—mental illness and abortion. -Rachel, 30, West Virginia
My in-laws have been helping us out financially, so we have no choice but to involve them in our decisions. They gave us $500 cash to bring to the clinic. I felt very forced. I felt like I was required to have an abortion to provide for my current family. Money help is a manipulation. I’m crazy in love with my daughters—imagine if I did that to them? It’s almost too much to open the door of guilt and shame because it’ll all overcome me. In the waiting room, there was a dead silence that’s hard to describe. Everyone was holding in her emotions to a heartbreaking degree. Truly pro-life people should go light on the judgment, because shame motivates abortions. -Heather, 32, Tennessee
Afterwards, I felt this mix of regret, relief, gratitude, and I had a new sense of control and determination about my future, like, I’m going to do this and this and this. I tracked the whole pregnancy online, living in fantasies about how big my belly would be. The only people who would listen to me say I had any emotions were people who wanted me to fall down on my knees and ask for forgiveness. I saw a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, but she gave me an icky feeling. There’s no room to talk about being unsure. -Mayah, 23, Oregon.
The picketers met us at the car with disgusting pictures. I was quite emotional, but I was so scared that if I showed any emotions, they wouldn’t let me do it. I told them I already had a baby. The doctor acted like it was assembly-line work. I told Steve I miscarried. We dated another year. The secret was devastating. -Red, 30, Pennsylvania
These women are from different backgrounds, places, and situations. Every one of them had a deeply personal reason for seeking out an abortion, and each felt, to some extent, pressured into making her choice. They never say abortion was the easy answer, and few of them go so far as to say that it was the right answer, either. All of them express a certain amount of sadness and regret, even if they don't acknowledge it directly.
Pro-lifers need to ponder these stories carefully. No matter how well meaning our actions are, sometimes they do more harm than good. When a mother chooses to have an abortion, she already feels trapped. Post-abortive women need healing and help, and our response needs to be one of love and understanding, not condemnation. There's a difference between accepting the action of abortion and accepting someone who has had one.
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If you or someone you know has had an abortion and is need of healing, please do not be afraid to seek it out! There are many organizations that offer free, confidential counseling and materials to post-abortive mothers. Most pregnancy resource centers offer these services, as do the organizations listed below:
Abortion Changes You
Abortion Recovery International
Silent No More Awareness
Surrendering the Secret
Sisters of Life
Erin Karlovich graduated from Hillsdale College with a B.A. in English in 2012. She currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she works as the assistant director for North Carolina Right to Life, an affiliate of National Right to Life. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and starting crochet projects. All opinions expressed are her own.