What They Don't Tell You About Abortion
It’s the hot-button topic at the moment. In light of the recent passage of the law in New Jersey that allows late-term abortions when the fetus is unviable or when the lie of the female is at risk. And other states are looking into allowing abortions as late as 40 weeks with no prerequisites. In the time after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, the status of the right to choose is thought to soon be eroded or eliminated altogether.
Journalist Cindi Leive recently published an op-ed piece in the New York Times called Let’s Talk About My Abortion (and Yours). She notes that in the 70’s and 80’s women talked about abortions. Celebrities and prominent women discussed their choice in the public eye. But now, in light of the upheaval among politicians and religion alike, no one talks about it.
I get it. Its personal. It’s perhaps, other than the birth of a child, the most personal topic about a women’s body that she can choose to hold close. And let’s face it, opponents of abortion can vehement and even violent in the expression of their objections. They throw Biblical verses around and cast shame, doubt and fear into people. Their disdain for the act of abortion pierces deep and is cast upon the women who choose to have one. But, how many of those casting the first stone have walked in the shoes of a women who has had an abortion?
Perhaps if we stopped throwing around words, emotions, photographic insults and shame we would better understand what abortion is and more, what that right means. The truth is, women you know have had abortions and choose not to speak about them. Their reasons? They range from fear of judgement to shame and embarrassment. This is the story of one women who confided in me and asked me to share her story.
She is married, well-educated, has children, attends church regularly, volunteers in her community and had an abortion at 17. Here is her story.
I was in my first sexual relationship when I was 14. And by sexual, I do not mean intercourse. I mean all the other stuff, the foreplay if you will. I mean everyone I knew was doing it. It was 14. It was being felt up in the back of a movie theater, touching and groping under blankets watching a movie. It was going far, but not too far. I remember not even knowing what the phrase “going down” on someone meant, but it was thrown around my school like a cheer on Friday night.
I was inexperienced to say the least and certainly not ready to handle the emotional roller coaster that comes with being intimate to any extent with someone, but again that was 14.
I continued these kinds of relationships into high school, never really having a true boyfriend until I was 16. He was the one. Tall. Handsome. Smart. Godly. Everything a mother would want for her 16-year old daughter. I was good friends with his sister and pretty much lived at their house. And then it happened. We went beyond the foreplay and that was it. I called my best friend somewhat excited, but somewhere in the back of my mind I was ashamed.
We continued to have sex during our relationship. In his bed at his home. His mom worked late hours as a nurse and well, she just didn’t think anything of it since his sister was always there. We broke up. To say I was devastated would be a gross understatement. I was crushed. And then my period didn’t come. I just kept hoping up hope it would appear each day. Finally, a friend of mine and I drove out to the other side of town and bought a pregnancy test. It was positive. There I was 17, cheerleader, AP student, student council officer—pregnant.
As luck would have it, our trip to the other side of town proved no so inconspicuous and someone saw us and told my mom. I remember her coming into my room and asking me about it. The shame of a thousand boulders pushed down on me. I was scared, angry, hurt, and afraid.
To this day I cannot recall exactly how the decision came to be that I would get an abortion. I remember sitting down with the ex-boyfriend’s family and discussing it. I remember being told that if I was going to keep it I would be moved out of state to live with relatives. That is a lot to put on a 17-year old. You know one who had everything going for her and the thought of moving to some rural town up north was the equivalent of social suicide.
Abortion seemed like the pragmatic, practical choice. No one would ever know, my reputation would stay intact and I would go on with life as normal. I would not be the pregnant cheerleader who had a baby before her senior year of high school.
We booked the procedure at a women’s clinic not far away and opted for full sedation. My mother and ex-boyfriend went with me. He paid for it. I was put into a room and given an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and heart the heartbeat. I was forced to answer a million questions and asked a million times if this was what I wanted to do. All the while I was screaming in my head, no this isn’t what I want to do, I want to go back to before. I want just fix it all.
When it was all over and I came out of the medication, my mother drove me home and I went to my room to rest. I wanted so much for the ex to just be there with me. To hold me and tell me it was going to be ok, but he went home. We weren’t together anymore. I bled. I bled a lot. I had to wear one of those huge ultra-absorbent pads and I just felt—empty.
I returned to school the next day. Back to cheerleading practice, my job and all the other things I did. But I never truly returned the same.
I spent the next 18 years of my life in pain. And not a physical pain, but emotional pain. Sex no longer had any meaning to me. I used it to fill the emptiness that lurked inside me. It was a tool—a powerful one that I controlled. I could give it and withhold it on a whim. I lost all self-worth and respect.
Sure, I graduated from high school as #11 in my class of over 1,000, got an almost full-ride to a good college where I graduated cum laude. I went onto grad school where I also graduated with honors and excelled. But I never truly healed. Every time I would let another boy or man enter my body I felt a little piece of me die. I just wanted to be made whole and be loved.
When I struggled to get pregnant, I felt like it was punishment by God. I felt like he left me the minute I aborted. He just left me standing there in the middle of a desolate wilderness with no direction back. Lost. Afraid. Alone. I had no one to talk to. I had no one to confide in and to understand how I was feeling inside. I was ashamed every time I went to the OBGYN and had to put down 1 pregnancy 0 children and they asked if it was a miscarriage and I had to say no. It was another reminder of how I had failed.
See, what no one tells you about abortion is that it will stay with you forever. You may forget the actual procedure and how you felt physically afterward, but you will never forget the emotional scar it leaves. It will haunt you and find you at every turn. You will count the birthdays that were never celebrated (19 this summer), wonder what your life would have been life and long for the hole inside you to be filled.
We have to stop allowing women to feel ashamed about their choice. Yes, it’s their choice. They are the only ones who have to live with it and answer for it. But the verbal assault on abortion and the women who make that choice has got to stop. I am not saying that you can’t have an opinion or a conviction or a belief one way or another, just remember there is a woman, a mother, a sister, a child, out there that needs to hear that she is still loved.
Please, share this story. Share this post. No matter your thoughts on this issue, this is the story that needs to be told. Perhaps it will help another woman feel she has other options and for others maybe it will heal the wounds to know she is still a child of God and is forgiven.