In 1973 I was a middle-class, single, 23-year-old college student. After a “one night stand,” I learned that I was pregnant. There was no one to whom I could turn. Alone, I went to the university medical center and had a D&C abortion. Afterwards, I walked home—again, alone…
A year later, despite precautions, I was pregnant again. My boyfriend wanted nothing to do with the whole situation, so he gave me half the abortion fee. I drove myself to a clinic an hour away, had the abortion, and drove home alone. That was the end of the relationship with that man. And that was the end of my problem, I thought.
In 1976 I married and settled in another state. We joined a United Methodist church, and I became active in its UMW. At a UMW meeting in the early 1980s, during a discussion of abortion, I admitted, even bragged about, my two abortions. I did not mention any details, or that my thoughts and feelings were eating away at my insides.
Months later, I shared my experiences of abortion–and the pain, guilt, and fears they caused–with a friend. I was convinced that God hated me and would punish me with no more children. My friend listened and cared. In the midst of many tears, we prayed for God’s forgiveness. And forgiveness came. I remember that moment as if it happened yesterday.
From personal experience, I know that abortion virtually guarantees the “devastating damage” our Social Principles say we want to avoid.
If I were the only woman to experience these consequences of abortion, then my testimony could be ignored. Unfortunately, there are millions of women, like me, who have had abortions and who have suffered similar, or worse, consequences. Even Planned Parenthood’s Alan Guttmacher Institute admits that 90% of the women who have had abortions would not have done so if they had believed they had another option. All women who face unplanned pregnancies need people who will care about them and their long-term welfare. As followers of Jesus Christ, as The United Methodist Church, we can and we should love them both.
A boyfriend’s view.
It was 1983—that is all I can remember about the date. We were sitting in the waiting room of the “Women’s Clinic” in Roanoke, Virginia. I was there with my girlfriend, because it was the right thing to do. I had paid for half the abortion, because it was the right thing to do. I had been sexually active, because it felt like the right thing to do.
So why did that little voice keep saying, “This feels like the wrong thing to do”?
You would never have seen me engaged in a heated discussion of this topic in college, in seminary or in the church. No way! The few times I was backed into a corner, out came the official stand from the Social Principles, with one addition: God is able to forgive anything. I believed that applied to everyone but me.
In 2001, while I was serving a two-point charge on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, God called me to an extended fast from solid food. I asked God to reveal anything in my life that separated us. It was a life-changing experience as God showed me how I remained in bondage to guilt and shame for things in my past. I had the assurance that God had forgiven me. These were chains that I had forged and chose to wear. God delivered me from my ‘life sentence.’
My new-found freedom led me to the local Crisis Pregnancy Center and a director with a caring heart for United Methodist preachers. It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship between one of my churches and the center.
God also called me to preach a series of sermons on the topic of abortion. It was with much fear and trembling that I obeyed. The first two weeks were spent comparing the Biblical view with that of the culture. Then on week three, I would share my personal experience. That Sunday, as I walked into the pulpit, a group of about twenty teenagers from the local UM camp were sitting there. Many questions raced through my mind, but I found the Holy Spirit urging me to preach the sermon as it was written.
As those youth filed past me after the service, many would not even speak. Then I noticed two of them had stayed back until everyone else left the sanctuary. These young women told me of a friend back home who was pregnant and considering abortion. They described the agony of having no words of hope to give her—until now. They thanked me and left. As they left, I realized that God had called me to speak out, not to be liked but to bring hope to those in need.
I know the “devastating damage” of abortion, both personally and professionally. Abortion was intended to help and free women, but it has instead brought pain and misery into the lives of many people, male and female. As followers of Jesus Christ, and as The United Methodist Church, we must offer more than a quick fix: we must love them both.
—Rev. John Bright, Virginia Annual Conference
As long as I walk this earth I shall remember February 11, 1983. On that day my husband drove me through a heavy snowstorm to keep my appointment to have an abortion.
My pregnancy was almost three months along. I was twenty-three years old, college educated, married and professed to be a Christian. If there was a medical problem with my baby, it was not known to me. How was it that I came to have an abortion? Despite outside circumstances, inside I felt the same as many women have described—alone and drowning in a deep pool of fear; abortion looked like a rescue boat. To make the arrangements for the abortion I picked the name of a doctor out of the phone book, had a pregnancy test done and told him I did not want to keep the baby. There were no questions asked, no need whatsoever to explain or justify my request.
After my abortion I suffered symptoms that many women do in the same situation. I had vivid nightmares of killing someone, depression, and irrational desire for a baby. The weight was so heavy that I could not bear to say the word abortion, let alone tell someone I had had one. I remained entirely silent on the matter for more than eighteen years. My husband and I spoke of it maybe once in all that time. Only by the grace of God, I did not fall into self-destructive behaviors to alleviate the pain of the guilt and conflict that weighed on my heart and soul. It hung like a dark, nameless shadow over my home and family.
In a desperate time I prayed that God would give me a friend and He brought me a friend who had prayed that God might use her. She loved me in the reflection of the love of Jesus Christ. She loved my terrible secret out of me. She listened to me and held me and cried with me. God used her to crash through my wall of fear: fear that I would never again be loved if anyone knew the truth about me. I learned that, yes, there is forgiveness even for abortion. I learned that Jesus Christ loves even me.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV
I have since learned from talking with others that I am not alone. Many, many, many women experience what I have experienced. Through the internet I have learned that this experience is not restricted by country; there are women in other parts of the world like me. For us abortion will never be just another medical procedure or a social principle to be debated, reworded or justified. It will be the story of our lives.
As a senior in college I found myself pregnant after a fling. There was no chance of marrying the father, and abortions were not legal at the time. Besides, it was not the baby’s fault that I was pregnant. With the help of the county’s social services department, I went to a home for unwed mothers in a distant city.
When a small United Methodist Church in the same town asked the home if any of the residents would like a ride to church on Sundays, I accepted the offer, and Hazel came for me each week. Soon she asked if I would like to sing in the choir, and I joined gratefully. Through their loving acceptance of me and through the pastor’s Lenten sermons, I came to understand my sin and God’s provision for salvation through Jesus Christ. I gave myself to the Lord and trusted Him with my future and my baby’s.
During counseling sessions with a social worker, I analyzed my past, my character, and my potential. She emphasized that, in deciding whether to raise my baby or to put it up for adoption, I should consider the results of raising a child as a single woman. It was possible that in trying to be responsible, I could condemn us both to lives of poverty and unfulfilled potential. We could be isolated, as well, for unwed mothers and their children were shunned in the society at that time. For these reasons, I might also end up resenting the child. It was very important that both of us be loved. Ultimately, I realized that an adopted baby was loved twice – not only by the family that received the child, but also by the mother who gave the child to them. I opted for adoption.
In those days, there were no open adoptions that allowed the birth mother to keep track of her child. But I did have one last opportunity to hold my baby girl and say goodbye. I remember looking her over from head to toe and asking God to bless her and take care of her. Then she was gone, given to a young couple who could not conceive and who were anxious to love and guide her.
I felt empty, yet full. Gone was the baby who had been within me for nine months. Present was a new relationship with God that would sustain me into the future.
Some wonder if I ever had guilt over giving up my baby. I can truly say, “Never!” I did the best I could for my child. I gave her life, not death, and offered her to a family that welcomed and loved her.
In 1994 testimony before the federal House Ways & Means Committee, social scientist Charles Murray said, “Illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time – more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare or homelessness because it drives everything else.” Isabel V. Sawhill testified in 1999 that “the growth of single parent families can account for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970.” By taking me in, by providing me with tangible support, Christian friendship and love, Hazel and her congregation demonstrated the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ to me and my daughter.
When she was twenty-one, my daughter searched for and found me. I welcomed her, and our families were united successfully. She has blended with her three, younger half-sisters and now has nine children of her own. Her family resides in Germany, where she currently serves as the prayer partner and advisor to the president of the Hessen area military women’s Christian outreach program.
Adoption works. As followers of Jesus Christ, as The United Methodist Church, we can and we must love both mother and baby. Our Lord requires nothing less!