The Whole Story — from Pro-Choice to Pro-Life in a Heartbeat

In October of 2012, I wrote my first ever post on the issue of abortion. You can read it here, but I’ll tell you right now it’s not the whole story. When I wrote it, I thought it would be not only my first, but also my last post on the subject. But apparently God had other ideas and has led me to be more open about my whole story. This post is almost the same as that post, only updated with the information I left out three years ago.

I have long wanted to avoid the subject of abortion because no matter how I approach it, there is bound to be someone who takes offense and reads something into what I’ve written that was not what I intended. It is a subject that is typically “discussed” with sound bites, statistics, and angry one-liners, especially on social media.

In the end, I’ve decided to write about this subject in terms of my own story (finally the whole story) as well as adding a bit of a book review in the mix.

For much of my life I was strongly pro-choice. I even attended a NARAL rally with my sister in Portland, Oregon many years ago. I was (and still am) a strong proponent of a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her own body; and I used to believe that making sure a woman could have an abortion any time she chose to (regardless of her age) was the best way to protect that right.

When you’ve had an abortion, it’s kind of hard (but not impossible) to take any other position. To do so means that you must admit that the choice you made was wrong. And no one wants to be wrong or admit that what they’ve done is truly, morally wrong. When you’ve been between a rock and a hard place, young and pregnant by a rapist, with everyone telling you the best thing to do is to just “terminate the pregnancy”—They don’t say that the best thing to do is “kill your child” because that just sounds callous—it’s hard to tell someone else to choose differently.

Even after I was baptized and became a Christian, I continued to be pro-choice. I grew closer to God and He helped me overcome the depression and feelings of worthlessness I struggled with. I came to understand that He knew everything about me and loved me anyway. Life was good, and I was still pro-choice.

But something happened that changed my heart and mind on abortion. My son was five years old at the time and I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were thrilled because we had been trying to get pregnant with our second child for four years. We were so excited that we told everyone when I was only six-weeks along.

About a week later I started having some spotting so I went to see the nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office. She sent me for an ultrasound. I had never had an ultrasound before except when I was almost nine months along with my son, so I was not really prepared for what I saw. The ultrasound technician pointed out my little baby and his or her heartbeat on the monitor. The baby was very small, but the human shape and the beating heart were unmistakable.

Unfortunately, the ultrasound also revealed that my placenta was tearing away from the uterine wall. I was directed to go home and rest, and I hoped that it would heal and all would be okay. Two days later I had a miscarriage.

In my grief over the loss of this child I cried out to God, but I found comfort in the thought that someday I would meet my little baby in heaven. “You’ll be meeting both of your children in heaven,” I heard God reply.

Suddenly I realized how hypocritical and illogical it was to mourn the loss of this child only seven weeks after his or her conception while simultaneously believing that to abort my first child at the same stage of development involved only the my body. I realized that what Dr. Seuss once said through the words of Horton the Elephant was true: “A person’s a person no matter how small.

Several years later a friend loaned me a book titled Won by Love by Norma McCorvey. It is her autobiography as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade. She tells the story of how she became the poster child for the pro-choice movement, worked in an abortion clinic, and was ultimately won over by love to the realization that abortion was not a right worth fighting for. Her story is heartbreaking and compelling. In her first-hand recounting of her time working in an abortion clinic, Norma exposes the truth that abortion clinics and doctors were more concerned about their bottom lines than about the health and care of women facing crisis. Her story is worth reading.

Then when my son was in the eighth grade he took a communications class in which he was required to prepare and present a pro-life persuasive speech on the abortion issue. As he worked on his speech he shared with me the research he had found in the school’s article database. “Women who have an abortion with their first pregnancy are 30% to 40% more likely to suffer from depression, attempt to or successfully commit suicide, and to get breast cancer than women who brought their first pregnancy to term. Good thing you had me,” he said.

My heart sank. I said I agreed with him what a good thing it was, but I knew he was not my first child. I knew I had become part of the statistics in two of the three categories he listed because I had aborted my first child. But I couldn’t tell him that. (At least not then).

I don’t know if knowing the statistics my son found for his research would have changed my decision when I was seventeen. All of the facts, statistics, and rhetoric in the world will never be enough to change a person’s position on this issue. My position was changed by love—by the love I felt for my lost child and the love of God. Norma McCorvey’s position was changed by the love of the folks at Operation Rescue that moved in next door to the abortion clinic she worked at and the love of God. Ultimately it is love that will win the day in the battle for the lives of unborn children who have no voice of their own and their mothers who need healing

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I Am a Reluctant Watchman

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is offered by guest bartender Lynn. She is asking us to write about what the watchman sees. I decided to take my first line from the Isaiah verse she quoted, with a slight modification. This prompt was actually perfect for me this week as I’ve been writing more (in prose/essay form) about my personal experience with abortion. I’ve felt a little like the watchman, though a reluctant one.

I Am a Reluctant Watchman

Go set a watchman; let her announce what she’s seen
Declares the Lord our God
It’s not about me, knows the watchman, but where I’ve been

I don’t want to play watchman in our world today
I tell the Lord my God
It’s not about you, He replies, you must go this way

And so I speak the atrocities I’ve both seen and done
Trusting the Lord my God
Then I share the compassion of Jesus the Son

Murder I see and murder I’ve perpetrated
Grieving the Lord our God
For our own convenience children are daily terminated

Lies I was told and deception reigns supreme
Angering the Lord our God
I wish I could say this is only a horrible dream

But He’s set me a watchman to announce what I’ve seen
Glorifying the Lord my God
With the truth I learned when I was just seventeen

Choices made out of fear can never be undone
Whispers the Lord my God
But they can be forgiven by the grace Christ has won

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Why I Did the Unthinkable

Stories of women doing the unthinkable—killing their own children—often make headlines. See this article for a list of 20 such women. There is a collective outrage and feeling of disbelief when women kill their children and we call for the most severe punishment. Often these women have reasons, ranging from mental illness to wanting to free themselves to be available for a boyfriend or spouse to cashing in on an insurance policy.

Well, I confess that I’ve done the unthinkable, too, as have thousands of women who never make headlines. The difference is our children—living children with their own DNA and blood type—were still in our wombs at the time.

And we all had our reasons. I know I had mine. I was young. I had my whole life, my college and career plans, ahead of me. I didn’t want to be connected in any way to the father, who was an older man with a wife and kids, and a rapist to boot. I didn’t want to end up like my friend who got pregnant at 15, had the baby, got married, and now lived with an abusive husband. I didn’t want my mother to be disappointed or angry with me.

The sad thing is none of these reasons justified killing my innocent child. She didn’t do anything wrong. As much as society told me it was okay—the U.S. Supreme Court had even said eight years earlier that I had a legal right to kill my pre-born baby—the knowledge deep in my heart that it was wrong haunted me. It haunts me still. And it compels me to now write about my experience in the hopes of saving even one young woman faced with the difficult circumstance of an unwanted pregnancy to understand that there is no justification that will fully satisfy a mother’s heart.

I held a deep belief that I was worthless. I wasn’t sure where this vision of myself as worthless came from, because by outward appearances I was a successful young woman. I was a college and law school graduate—because in college and law school I could immerse myself in my studies and bury the truth deeper in my heart. I was married to a wonderful man who knew about my past and loved me nonetheless. But I was fooling myself as much as I was the rest of the world.

After law school, the attempts at fooling myself and everyone else came unraveled. I spent seven years living with debilitating depression and social anxiety. I didn’t understand why—I just thought I was broken beyond repair. And I was broken. My spirit was grieving and broken over my own sin and I was mired in a sea of unforgiveness towards myself and others who had hurt me. I knew I was guilty and nothing I did or said, no reasons I had at the time, could justify what I had done.

But thankfully, God has made a way for this woman who was guilty of killing her own child to be justified—to be declared guiltless or innocent—and that is through the grace of Christ. Through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus paid for my sin; He also paid for the sin of every other mother.

If you have had an abortion and been plagued by the regret and the guilt, take heart. God loves you still. Like the prodigal son who was welcomed back after squandering his inheritance on wild living, you will be welcomed back into relationship with God. Even as you are far off, He will run to you and celebrate your return.

You are not worthless. Your life is of great value to the King of kings and He desires to heal your wounds.

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My Thoughts on the Seasons

Over at dVerse Poets Pub Meeting the Bar, Bjorn is calling for poetry that uses modifiers—adjectives and adverbs. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook lately by people who love fall and can’t wait for it to come. Personally, I could skip fall and winter altogether. I’ve even joked before that I need to live in Australia for six months of the year, the six when it is spring and summer there, then I’d never have to see another fall or winter. So here is my well-modified poem on the subject.

My Thoughts on the Seasons

Some tout the incredible beauty of fall
Striking oranges and vibrant reds
But I don’t want to hear it at all
I’d rather it stay summer instead

I know fall is pretty when the leaves turn
And pears and apples are ripe on the tree
I know we could use rain as arid lands burn
But frigid winter follows fall, don’t you see

And I truly hate bitter winter cold
Even here in the mild Pacific Northwest
In my fight against winter I will be quite bold
Ardently proclaiming spring to be best

Why this strong hatred of winter you ask
What’s wrong with changing seasons and snow
It’s not just that in the warm sun I need bask
But dark memories the cold brings that cause woe

If I never saw fall colors again in my life
That would be simply and sweetly divine
Then I could live with peace and not strife
Living where the bright sun always shines

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It’s Not about Women’s Health

I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post for about two weeks now, but I can’t avoid it any more. If this is truly going to be another fearless year, then I have to write fearlessly, even if that means getting into a difficult discussion with someone over a blog post.

The thing that finally pushed me to write this today was this article I read on the Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM) website while I was eating my lunch. It is about the Planned Parenthood (PP) protest this past weekend in Portland, Oregon. There were 300 such peaceful protests across the nation, but this one happened to be where I live and where the headquarters of EPM is located.

I loved one of the pictures in this article because in addition to people holding a sign that says “Planned Parenthood Kills Babies” there were others holding a sign that says “Planned Parenthood Deceives Women.” As I’ve written before, although I am saddened by the culture of death and the many murdered children at the hands of PP, my heart is with the many women who have had abortions and lived to regret that decision. Many of those women, like me, were deceived by PP and are also victims.

The pro-choice voice claims that the right of a woman to have an abortion is a women’s health issue and that PP is about women’s health. These claims couldn’t be further from the truth. Pregnancy is not a disease that needs to be treated or cured. It is not healthy for a woman to have an abortion. In fact, having an abortion increases a woman’s risk of major depression and suicidal tendencies by 30% to 40%, it increased the risk of breast cancer by 30%, and it increases the risk of future miscarriage.

But it was my experience that PP didn’t disclose any of those risks. I didn’t find out about them until after I’d suffered with seven years of major clinical depression (following many years of low-grade depression), been suicidal, and had a miscarriage. So far I haven’t also gotten breast cancer, but with my family history of this disease, I certainly did not need to increase my risk.

The “health care providers” at PP were not concerned with my health; they were concerned only with getting my money. They weren’t concerned with who the father was or the fact that he had been an older man who raped a teenage girl; they didn’t even ask. They didn’t provide any pre- or post-abortion counseling, they didn’t advise me of the health risks of having an abortion, and they didn’t even schedule a follow-up visit. What doctor doesn’t schedule a follow-up visit after an invasive medical procedure?

I left the PP clinic that day, headed off to a Future Business Leaders of America camp, and bled so much that I thought I was going to die. (In fact, when I bled that much after my miscarriage years later, the emergency room rushed me back to an exam room without even checking in first—that’s how serious that kind of bleeding can be.) But PP didn’t warn me about this possibility or tell me what to do if it did happen. I was a scared 17-year-old with no one looking out for my health—PP certainly wasn’t.

Tell me you think a woman has a right to choose to kill her own baby—if you think that’s a defensible position—but don’t tell me that right is a women’s health issue. It quite simply is not.

If you want to champion women’s health, then help women find the spiritual and emotional health to deal honestly with a pregnancy they don’t want. Help them understand that whatever the circumstances that led to their pregnancy, God loves them and their child. There are options, including adoption, which are far healthier for them—and definitely healthier for their baby. What finally got me healthy after the trauma of being raped and having an abortion was the love of Jesus. I only wish someone had helped me find that love before it was too late for my child.

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Bette, My Sweet Pea

Today is National Dog Day and so I decided to write a poem about a dog I once had. I could have written a poem about my current dog, but I’ve already written several about him, such has this one and this one. But I don’t think I’ve ever written about Bette, the cocker spaniel I had for 18 years.

Bette, My Sweet Pea

Bette was the cutest little sweet pea
a friendly and curious puppy
but life started out a little rough for her
when she lost an eye due to curiosity

Being a one-eye dog didn’t slow her down
though it did cause her to run into the bottom step
if she was running at a good clip
to get into the house ahead of Bogart

She wasn’t much for fetch, would never bring the ball back
but she did love a good game of tug-o-war
and hiding the tennis ball from Bo
and swimming in the lake or wading in a stream

She lived eighteen long years
that were far too short as far as I’m concerned
and I miss her reddish blond mug and floppy ears,
I miss her cute wagging stub of a tail each and every day

I remember the day I knew without a doubt
she couldn’t go one more step, one more day
She’d been missing Bo for quite some time
and that stupid new kitten Tom made her life a struggle

The pain in her face, in her whine
was more than I could take that day
so I did what had to be done
impossible though it was to imagine life without her

The vet was so understanding and gentle
and the change in her countenance from agony
to complete peace and rest
made the impossible almost tolerable

Afterwards I asked God why
Why didn’t He just take her in her sleep
so I wouldn’t have to make the decision to let her go
“Because then she would have been alone,” He said to my aching heart

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Don’t Fret

One day I had a little fret
A worry wanna-be
Its goal in life to become fear
And to discourage me

Until I took it to my God
And laid it at His feet
In my prayer I asked for peace
Release from fret’s deceit

I thanked God for His answer then
Knowing He is faithful
I saw fret flee away from me
And my day was peaceful

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Camping

Listen closely and you will hear
Conversations about anything
Family and friends who are dear
In the circle of chairs camping

Never a dearth of food to eat
“We brought skillet; what did you bring?”
Chips and hot dogs, salad and sweets
To the circle of chairs camping

Smoke is wafting, upwind I sit
Blazing hot in the fire ring
Crackling logs perfectly split
In the circle of chairs camping

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It Was Never the Same

At dVerse Poets Pub today Gabriella is asking for poems about the first day of school. I was going to write about one of my son’s first days of school, though we are now really out of the “first day of school” mode as he’d attending art school year around. But since I’m feeling a little melancholy today with some challenging posts to write swirling in my head, I decided to write about a pivotal first day of school for me. I tried to write in the Trimeric form that I learned about at Mary’s blog.

It Was Never the Same

New state, new town, new school, in the 8th grade
I’d been perfectly contented in the old school
Welcomed by the girls in the back of the room
Life was never the same after that first day

I’d been perfectly contented in the old school
It’s where my best friends, my church friends went
And we had our whole wonderful, joyful lives ahead of us

Welcomed by the girls in the back of the room
They became best friends, but not church friends
More like party friends, what-trouble-can-we-find friends

Life was never the same after that first day
It might have looked like a wonderful life on the outside
But it was a long time before I found wonder and joy again

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Stop Throwing Stones

If you spend any time on social media and have conservative Christian friends or follow conservative Christian feeds, then no doubt you have seen numerous posts lately decrying the murder of innocent babies. Especially with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the release of undercover videos of meetings with Planned Parenthood officials, it’s impossible to avoid these posts. I will admit that I’ve shared or liked a few myself, though I am always careful that the right message is coming across in the post when I do.

I see a huge problem with the way the pro-life position is presented in social media. If not done carefully and gracefully, it amounts to throwing stones at hundreds of thousands of women who have had abortions and lived to regret that choice. We know what we did was wrong and have lived with the shame of our choice—some of us for decades. We can’t undo what we did and your insensitive posting of “Abortion is murder” messages only causes us more shame and guilt, delaying the healing for many. Even those of us who know God has forgiven and redeemed us can be hurt by these posts.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a conservative Christian myself, in the sense that I believe the Bible to be the Word of God and that it contains the whole truth about God and how His people should live. I am also pro-life, though I was not always. But on the abortion issue my heart is more concerned with the women who were lied to or were in a situation where having an abortion seemed like the only possible choice, and are now suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies, or PTSD, or who are just living a life of fear that someone might learn their secret.

One social media post I saw recently that illustrates the type of insensitivity I’m talking about is this cartoon:

birthday

Frankly, I don’t believe this is the scene in Heaven. Why would a baby in Heaven wish to be on earth? Why would a baby in Heaven “wish” anything? Wishing is for those without faith. People who know God pray, not wish. And these babies know God—they rest in His tender care.

I believe all of the babies who died as the result of an abortion are instead kneeling before the throne of Christ interceding for their mothers. I believe they are asking God to have mercy and praying that the Church would show them grace. I believe they are asking God to remind the Church of His words: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). I believe our children want those of us who killed them—either because we didn’t know what we were doing or because we were between a rock and a hard place and couldn’t see any other option—to hear Jesus say: “Then neither do I condemn you. . . Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11).

The Church—meaning the people of God and each individual one of us—has to stop throwing stones at women who have had an abortion. We have to choose instead to show them grace and mercy, to help them heal in Christ. I say this as one who needs that grace and mercy every single day just to survive.

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