The Mother's Day 2003 Silent No More Event: My TestimonyMY "CHOICE"
I went away on a weekend retreat recently. I came home… a different person. I finally came to terms with a fact I already knew: that God had given me TWO wonderful children, one here and one in heaven. I knew now that God had allowed BOTH of them to forgive me, their Mom.
I had my abortion on April 9, 1979, at the Summit “Women’s Center,” Bridgeport, CT, at the age of 20. I had been referred to this center by Planned Parenthood (PPA) in Bridgeport, where I had my pregnancy test and learned that I was pregnant as a junior in college. I don’t recall exactly how many weeks I was pregnant, but it was more than 8 weeks and less than 12.
At PPA, I remember getting the referral to Summit, but no other information about other alternatives. I was given literature about abortion, but don’t remember even looking at it. If I did, I have subconsciously blocked out any recall of what I saw or read. I knew nothing of the consequences of abortion, other than that “my parents will never know I was pregnant.” I didn’t know my unborn baby had fingers, toes, a strong regular heartbeat, brainwaves and could feel pain, and no one at PPA told me this information. When I signed the abortion center’s consent form, I do not think I even read the document. If I did, I don’t recall if there were any warnings of risks associated with the abortion procedure. No one said anything about abortion increasing my risk of breast cancer, or about not being able to have babies someday, or getting painful endometriosis which could require major surgery. I did not receive any referrals to any agencies that would handle adoption, such as Catholic Charities. I knew that Catholic Charities helps with babies being adopted because, when I was born, that was the agency which handled my being adopted by my parents. Even though I myself was an “illegitimate child,” I was in such shock and terror that I was actually pregnant, that I could not think of any option that would allow my parents to find out about my pregnancy. You would think that being adopted myself, I would have at least thought of that option for my baby.
But I was paralyzed with fear of my parents’ reaction. Finding out I was pregnant, abortion seemed to be my only answer. I knew it was a baby, that abortion was wrong, but all I could feel was fear that my parents would kick me out and I’d have to quit school. My boyfriend said he would “support my decision” but in the next breath, he said, “But I can get you the $500 to have the abortion.” I thought, “If I don’t, he won’t stay with me, and I’ll be homeless, no job, no education, nothing. Boyfriends never stay with the girls if they keep their babies. And he won’t marry me without a job himself.” I was convinced my life was over, and I felt that he was suggesting I have the abortion by offering me the money. I bought into the promise that abortion would solve my problem and I would go back to being exactly the same person I was before. But that did not happen. I had become a Mom, and that truth was just too painful to bear.
I numbed myself completely, refusing to think, look at or listen to even those with the scary signs in that parking lot. I withdrew into myself to pretend that this just was not happening to me. I was scared for myself only. Certainly nothing the abortion clinic people said or did, helped me see the truth of what I was doing. I was never shown an ultrasound. I was never made to listen to my baby’s heartbeat. I was never told how perfectly formed my baby was by that time, that it could even suck its thumb! No one told me ANY of that. The PPA people were giving me “credit” for being so decisive about my “reproductive rights.” They made it all too easy to deny what I was really doing.
If someone had shown me they cared about ME or offered to pray with or help ME, I wouldn't have done what I did. But no one did, then. Outside the center, there was only a man yelling condemnation and closing my spirit. I was too afraid to look at the pictures he and his group showed. Nothing the protesters said or showed me, in the final few minutes of my baby's life, stopped me. My boyfriend had driven me there and tried to protect me from the protesters, but once I was in the abortion room all by myself, I pretended it wasn’t me. I was in such fear that I went into total denial, as though it was happening to someone else.
I have blocked out every memory of the actual procedure except one. I remember the droning, loud, horrible sound of the suction machine. I do not even remember if I cried, or if I was awake, but I only remember the sound of that machine and feeling like I was in someone else’s nightmare. Afterwards, I went back to my dorm room and just curled up in a fetal position for three days, not eating or talking to anyone. The research I since have read says that this is one of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: some PTSD victims are unable to recall their trauma experience. It is called “constriction” when the person numbs emotions and avoids anything associated with the traumatic event. Even the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III-R) officially once--for several years--listed abortion as a life event which can produce PTSD.
I recall clinging to my boyfriend, believing that no one else would ever want or love me, so if I didn’t hang onto him, I would have no marriage or future children in my life. I did not think I was worthy of anyone, not even the boyfriend, and despite my own clear knowledge then that he was the wrong marriage partner for me, I continued the relationship and we married a year and a half later. This is another aspect of “constriction:” a sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect a career, marriage, children, or a long life).
In 1983, at the age of 25, four and one-half years after my abortion, I developed unexplained painful endometriosis. This disease produced an endometrioma the size of a large grapefruit, requiring major surgery and claiming one of my ovaries. I am convinced that this disease which has no cure and, more importantly, no "known" cause, was in fact caused by my abortion. Of course, there is only one pro-life OBGYN doctor in the state of Connecticut, so it is useless to ask the great majority of OGBYNs if this can be proven. It is not in their best interest to even begin to get involved with such a proof. It was a miracle that I had my son after this. By rights, I should not have been able to conceive, considering how severe the endometriosis is.
I do not have breast cancer, although I have doubled my risk of getting it by having an abortion, on top of the extra increased risk I have incurred from long-term “Pill” usage. I had been prescribed “the Pill” to attempt to “control” the endometriosis for all but 3 of the last 20 years. I took the Pill in the 5 years before becoming pregnant with my son. An analysis in 1990 of the research up to that year showed that women who used the Pill for 4 or more years before their first full-term pregnancy had a 72% increased risk of developing breast cancer.
I knew none of this when I had my abortion in 1979, and after only 6 years of legalized abortion, I daresay NO ONE knew this. And this is exactly why it should never have been made legal, and should now be made illegal, because of the massive damage to women that abortion has inflicted.
Now, twenty-four years later, I still cry. I have never cried so much in my entire life than I have over what I have done to my “first child.” I cannot compare the remorse and anguish I have had, every day of my life, to anything else I know. Twenty years of burying this utter pain has taken its toll on me. I still feel overwhelming guilt and raw grief when I allow myself to relive the event or think about the daughter I will never hold in my arms.
For two decades, I had blindly chosen to have relationships with men who took advantage of me, used me and/or abused me verbally and emotionally. That two decades began with an 11 rocky, unhappy years of marriage, after which I divorced the father of both my aborted baby and my son. It took a total of 20 years for my grief and shame to really begin to break through my denial, and another 3 years before I was able to seek healing and an outlet for my grief and pain through Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. Every day, for all of my life, I live with the sorrow of that "choice" that I can never undo.
For all that I have -- life, education, house, car, career, vacations, possessions-- I'd throw it all away if I could go back and change my “choice” then. But I can't. Had it been illegal then, I would not be living with this undying, incredible regret.
The Rachel's Vineyard retreat allowed me to grieve, to show how sorry I was. It enabled me to show how much I loved my daughter, and to name her, after not acknowledging her for twenty-four long years. I am healing, but it never stops hurting.
I risk my reputation today for two reasons: 1) so that my story will help even one woman decide she CAN keep her baby or give the child to a couple aching to adopt. Whatever is needed to avoid abortion, is available through 39 free, confidential pregnancy help groups here in Connecticut, and 3,400 in the entire U.S. All you have to do is ask.
Secondly, I speak up today publicly so that other women like me will know that the message of Operation Outcry: Silent No More is: "We all regret our abortions. AND: it is safe to do so, now."
On the March for Life in January 2003, many women and even some men, total strangers, seeing my sign, came up to me in tears to thank and hug me.
And last December, I began “compassionate counseling” and offering help to expectant Moms as they come for abortions at a clinic in Fairfield County, CT.
On my second day on the sidewalks outside that abortion clinic, as I stood at the curb for drivers stopped at the red light to read my sign, I made eye contact with a woman after she'd read it. My sign says, "24 YEARS LATER, MY 'CHOICE' HURTS ME STILL." She looked down, pointed sadly at herself, and I could *see* her say the words, "Me too." She looked about to cry. I dashed through traffic to the middle of the street, fumbling to get my gloves off in the frigid cold, to reach in my pocket to get the “Rachel’s Vineyard” Abortion Recovery Retreat leaflet before she drove away. I grabbed some other literature accidentally first, threw it down on the grass with my sign and gloves, and by now the light had turned green, but she rolled down her window, waiting, sensing something important was happening, and not one single car honked at her impatiently to go. This took a good 5-10 seconds of the light being green and her waiting. I finally found the leaflet, gave it to her and said breathlessly, "I went on this retreat! It's wonderful!" She took it, thanked me and then drove on.
THIS is why I now am speaking today. I know that God, through me, helped these women feel less alone in their struggle of post-abortive grief and guilt. I so deeply regret choosing abortion. I will never be able to escape or undo what I’ve done, for my entire life. These stories and many like them prove that the incidence of other women who feel the same way is astronomically higher than is publicized. The Allan Guttmacher Institute says that 43% of American women will have had at least one abortion by the age of 45. That’s 25 million women. Based on other current research, at least 69% of these post-abortive women, or 17.25 million, suffer many or all diagnosable symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I happen to believe in Jesus, who "spoke the truth in love." Jesus did not throw a stone at or condemn the woman caught in adultery. Even though she was guilty, all He said were two very important things: "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more." This was true forgiveness on His part and true sorrow and change of heart on her part. If all 191 Million people who claim to be Christians (a 76.5% majority of American adults) did the same, surely our voices would be taken to heart. The expectant Moms, the babies, and those who have chosen abortion, need all of our support. I KNOW.
Having experienced abortion, I can say it traumatized me psychologically and physically. I suffered from some of the symptoms of abortion-induced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (most notably, constriction or avoidance behavior) for 20 years. I suffer today from painful endometriosis and the loss of an ovary because of my abortion, and a deepest emotional loss I will never stop suffering. If you are suffering like I did, there is help.
I will be Silent No More – If you regret your abortion, as I do, there is help. Call 1-800-395-HELP or go to www.SilentNoMoreAwareness.org or talk with me after this conference. If you (or someone you know) may be suffering from a past abortion, please call. Inquiries are kept strictly confidential.
Research shows, and I believe, that many women suffer in silence out of fear or shame, like I did. We don’t want any of them to suffer like I did. And we want to help other women avoid the emotional pain and physical harm caused by abortion, any way they can. If those of us who have experienced this tragedy remain silent, then the lie and pain that abortion brings will continue to destroy the lives of millions of women and babies.
I am not alone, there is another woman whose testimony was recorded at our January Event on these very same steps. She has given me permission to use it today, without revealing her name.