One Woman's Story Of Abortion
All names have been changed in this article to preserve privacy.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in her lifetime.Women aged 20-24 account for the highest abortion rates in the United States. Many, if notmost, women who undergo abortion are my age. Faced with these numbers alone, my heart isheavy for the countless young women who have had an abortion or are facing this decisiontoday.As Mattie Brinkerhoff once said, “When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely concludethat there is something wrong in society. So when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child,it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.” It is ofthe utmost importance to remain informed about abortion policy that determines the fate of theunborn. But if the fate of the unborn lies ultimately in the hands of the mother, it is of equalimportance to hear her story that led to the unalterable choice of abortion. Thankfully, I had theprivilege of meeting one resilient woman who is sharing her story to shed light on the realities ofabortion. Allie Fern is a mother of five, foster mom, and counselor. She sat down with me to talkabout her 2001 abortion. I hope it impacts you like it has impacted me.
Can you start by telling me your story?
So this was back in 2001. I was dating a guy named Patrick and I got pregnant probably three orfour months into us dating. When I found out, I was excited but also nervous. At the time, I kindof held the belief that in life, everybody got one “get out of jail free” card, but I still wasn’t eventhinking about abortion. I wanted to actually place the child up for adoption because my bestfriend had just done that a year and a half earlier. So my boyfriend Patrick and I went to anadoption agency and a lady there explained the adoption process to us. When it was done, Patrickstood up and said “I refuse to sign any of these papers. You can either have an abortion or keepthe baby, but I’m not signing papers.” He got up and walked out of the room. The adoptionagency lady looked at me and said “If he’s not going to sign the papers, there’s really nothing wecan do to help you.” Things are different now because adoption agencies can actually take thebirth father to court and prove that he’s not a fit father… [with Patrick], he had a two and a halfyear old son he wasn’t paying child support for, he wasn’t helping with the pregnancy, and hehad a criminal record.
If it had happened today, you wouldn’t have needed his signature for the adoption papers?
Right. They terminate his parental rights and I would have been able to place the child up foradoption.So then I was experiencing a lot of pressure to have the abortion. I was like, okay, I’ll do this. Ihad taken a friend, Susie, to get an abortion probably two or three years earlier. I’ve known Susiesince sixth grade and we’re still friends to this day. She said that when she went back there, thedoctor told her “well, assume the position that got you here in the first place.” It was extremelydirty and just scary, so I knew I didn’t want to go there. Another friend - the one who had placedher son up for adoption earlier - had gotten pregnant again, and she thought to herself “I cannotplace another child up for adoption. I’m just going to have an abortion because I think this willbe easier.” She had an abortion at an actual OB-GYN private clinic. So I decided to go there,especially because at the private clinic, whoever you brought could go back with you while theyput you to sleep. I was ashamed, so I didn’t tell anyone I was having an abortion. I was going totell everyone that I had a miscarriage. We went to the abortion clinic and Patrick took me.
So your boyfriend was the only one who knew?
Besides family, because they were not supportive of me keeping the baby. I had a relative wholived in a different state and I wanted to go live with that relative so Patrick wouldn’t know I wasgiving the baby up for adoption, but my family wasn’t supportive of that either. I was also astripper, so that was part of the reason I knew I couldn’t raise a baby. I couldn’t have a baby andwork because my job required me not to look pregnant.So we went to this private OB-GYN office. When we got there, there were only two other girlsthere - as opposed to taking my friend Susie, where there were probably twenty-five girls in thewaiting room. I was sitting there crying; the other two girls weren’t. I was thinking “oh my gosh,how are they not upset about this?” They took me back and Patrick was with me. They did anultrasound. Knowing what I know now, they paused the ultrasound. So I didn’t see the babymoving. I didn’t see the heartbeat. I know this now because I’ve had five kids… as a punishmenttowards myself, I’ve always gone in to have an ultrasound done at 8 weeks and 5 days, becausethat’s how far along I was when I had the abortion. I always see a baby moving and a heartbeat. Iwas told babies didn’t have heartbeats until later.I was crying; Patrick was crying. But it didn’t look like a baby on the screen. I don’t know ifyou’ve ever seen a sonogram done, but they can zoom in so that you can see more. This was kindof zoomed out, so it just looked like a little dot. The nurse printed out the picture, and I said “canI have that picture?” She said “well, it will have to be after the procedure is done.” I said “That’sfine; I still want that picture though.” Because it was the only thing that I had of what I wasgoing through. We didn’t have Google, so I didn’t know the development of a baby or anythinglike that. I made Patrick promise he would get the picture before we left. Then they took us backinto a room. You can do the procedure awake or asleep, so I chose to do it asleep.They gave me ketamine, which puts you in a twilight sleep. I started freaking out… I was crying,hysterical. The nurse asked me “are you sure of your decision?” and I said “no.” She just lookedat me and kind of huffed and said “I’ll give you a few minutes to get yourself together.” Myboyfriend and I are both crying… you know, if you think about any other medical procedure thatyou are going through, that is not how a nurse would respond. A nurse would sit there and say“well, what are you nervous about? Do you have questions? If you’re not sure about this, youcan come back in a couple of days. Or here are some places that can help you…”I’m still crying and I just thought: put your big girl panties on. Let’s get this over with and neverput yourself in this situation again. The nurse came back in and put me to sleep.I wasn’t a Christian or anything like that. I was a stripper, using alcohol and drugs. But when Iwas put to sleep, in my dream there were large white columns and a little boy standing there.And I was like “oh my gosh, you’re a child!” These very large angels came down and picked thischild up and started to fly up with him towards heaven. I started screaming “wait, I didn’t knowit was a child! Bring my baby back!” The white columns started crashing down all around me.The procedure only takes a couple minutes. I remember laying there and I could hear Patrick andthe nurse talking, but I couldn’t move. I was still under the ketamine.
How long after the procedure did it take for the ketamine to wear off?
I don’t know how long… I just know that I still couldn’t move. I remember drooling out the sideof my mouth because I was trying to let them know that I could hear them. Then the nurse said“well, you have to take her out of here because it’s time for you to go.” Patrick literally had topick me up and carry me down the elevator, out of the lobby, into the parking lot. I wasn’twheeled out in a wheelchair or anything like that. He laid me down in the back of the car. It wasa 45 minute drive from the office to my mom’s house, where he took me. He laid me on the sofaand I was still asleep. When I finally woke up, I could move but I was still kind of out of it.The next day, I went to the grocery store. When I passed the baby aisle, I just broke down intears. I remember running into my neighbor and just felt so much guilt, like they knew what Idid. Shortly after, I tried to break up with Patrick. I thought if we can’t have a baby together, wedon’t need to be together. But we kept coming back together. He dealt with his pain of theabortion by physically abusing me. About six months after the abortion, he had beaten me sobadly and just left. When the police got there, because there was no one to arrest, they took me tothe courthouse. I had to stand before a judge and get a restraining order against him, but it’s thisstrange thing when you’ve been through something so traumatic with somebody… I still wantedto be with him. They arrested Patrick and I bailed him out. I tried to get the judge to lift therestraining order and explained to him that we lost a child together.I had taken a few college classes, but I was 21 years old and still a freshman. I decided to goback to college and get my degree because I never wanted to be in that situation again.
How did you experience God’s forgiveness within your personal relationship with Christ?
There were people trying to get me to go to church again and again. There was a girl at schoolwho invited me… even my OB-GYN! (He was not the one who performed my abortion.) At anannual checkup, I was crying to this OB-GYN and begged him to prescribe me anxietymedication because I couldn’t live with the pain. I even tried to check myself into Ridgeview[Mental Health Hospital] because I couldn’t sleep at night. The guilt was so awful. He gave mehis personal number and invited me to church with him and his wife. I thought it was very sweetthat he did that, but I still didn’t go to church because I just didn’t think I could.I guess it was about a year later, I heard girls talking at school about church. So I looked over tothem and I was like “can I go to church with you?” They were like “Uh… yeah! Sure!” I mean,they weren’t even talking to me - I just overheard them talking about it. So I went to church thatSunday and I just started bawling. I was like “I can’t be here.” So I left. Two days later, Patrickcame over and we got into a huge, huge fight. He had hurt me pretty badly. I remember justcrying out to God. I was like “God, if you are really there, you have got to give me a sign orsomething because I cannot live my life like this.” I just wanted to die. Then there was a knockon my door and I thought it was Patrick. But I opened the door and it was three girls from thatchurch I visited on Sunday. So I was like “whoa, okay, well that’s God answering.”One girl named Kristen was the wife of the college pastor. She kind of took me under her wingand did a Bible study with me. I did well for like a year and a half. I was living by myself at thatpoint and I fell back into dancing, just kind of getting into trouble, but still graduating. I finallygraduated from college and my now-husband and I got pregnant with our oldest son. Then whenI got pregnant with twins, it gave me a lot of anxiety. I thought God would take one of thosebabies. “Why would you give me two when I killed one of yours?” But after I had the twins, Iwas in a Bible study. After about six months, I shared my story with some of the girls. One oftheir moms ran a pregnancy center that did a post-abortion healing class, so I went. I began toreally understand who God is and what Jesus did for me. When he died on the cross, he coveredall sins - even the murder of your own baby! - when you repent and turn to him.
And Jesus is not a God who would inflict punishment on your other children.
Right! I remember one of the ladies who was in the class with me had a son with autism. She feltlike it was punishment for her abortion. By the end of class, she said “I realize this is notpunishment for what I did.” So… yes, I had to really understand who God was. I realized whatJesus did on the cross isn’t about anything I can do. I can’t earn forgiveness. I have to believeJesus is my savior, who forgives me freely.
What are you doing today?
After I took that class, I felt the freedom and forgiveness and thought everybody needs to knowabout this! Statistics say 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the time they are 45. Iwanted to share this good news of Jesus. The lady that taught me was moving, so I startedteaching that class in 2010. I’ve been teaching the post-abortion class to women ever since then.I’ve volunteered with a pregnancy center for the last year and a half. I’ve also stood in front ofclinics, too.
What was that experience like? Did you approach women going into the clinic?
My best friend at the time, her mother started our local pregnancy center, so we would all gotogether. The clinic was in a building. We couldn’t go in the parking lot, so we stood on the mainroad. I held a sign that said “I regret my abortion. Come talk to me.” We also ended up talking tosome of the nurses who worked in that clinic and they left working there. (We got themconnected with And Then There Were None, run by Abby Johnson, to help abortion workersfind new jobs.) They told us stories of how that doctor would give them what he called “VIPchecks” for getting the girls to not leave the abortion clinic if they started crying or had secondthoughts. We were really there to try and talk to these girls and their partners, or whoever wasbringing them. I made business cards for the women even after they had an abortion to say “I’vebeen through this, I get it. There’s healing.”
What kind of resources does your pregnancy center provide for postnatal care?
One big thing we do is a program called “Earn While You Learn” for pregnant moms andmothers of young children to take classes where she learns things like car seat safety, nutrition,sleep safety, etc. Then she earns points for the classes she takes and gets to “shop” in our babyboutique. We have everything: clothes, diapers, wipes, formula, strollers, cribs. Especially nowworking at the pregnancy center, I see more than ever what these women need is education onwhat abortion is.
[Readers: At the pregnancy center Allie works with, as well as many other similar centers, allservices are offered for free. Services include obstetrician appointments, pregnancy tests,ultrasounds, information and assistance throughout the adoption process, prenatal and parentingclasses, counseling, and, as Allie mentioned, baby resources.]
One of the things you said we need to do is spread awareness of what abortion really is sowomen understand the reality of it. Images of aborted fetuses, that are often graphic andhorrifying, are circulated because pro-lifers want to make abortion unthinkable as much aswe want to make it illegal. How would you respond to those on the pro-choice side who saythis messaging is just used to guilt and manipulate women?
If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. Knowing thetruth -- if you feel guilty about the truth, then you know it’s wrong. I would say in the last fifteenyears, the reasoning behind abortion and the tactics [of the pro-choice movement] have changed.Before, it was a clump of cells. Now, pro-choice people are realizing it is a baby, but it’s not ahuman being yet. It doesn’t have a conscience; it’s not really alive. The terminology is constantlychanging, whereas science is showing more and more proof that it is a child. It is alive. It isgrowing. Dead things don’t grow. So showing pictures of what an aborted fetus is… that’sreality. We also have to think about women who have had miscarriages. There are women whohave had miscarriages who are also sharing pictures of their miscarried baby at eight weeks. Yougo on babycenter.com and it shows you the development of your baby.Like I said, working at the pregnancy center, I see how much we need education about it. Wehad a girl come in the other day and we asked “when do you think conception happens?” and shesaid “what’s conception?” She was eighteen years old. A nurse who came through my[post-abortion counseling] class did an at-home abortion at 8 or 9 weeks along. When she passedthe baby, she was horrified. When she saw what it was, she realized “oh my goodness. That’s ababy.” She was a nurse, and she had no idea. I had another client who had an abortion at 17weeks. She said she would never do that again, because in a second trimester abortion, it’s atwo-day procedure. The first day, they kill your baby. The next day, you go back for them toremove the baby. But she went into labor before her second day and had to deliver her deadbaby.
When I was doing some research - just Googling “questions about abortion” - I found awebsite for an abortion clinic that said post-abortion stress syndrome (PASS) isn’t real.(Readers: this is the Illinois clinic I am referring to.) Yet the world acknowledges the painof a miscarriage. Michelle Obama shares her story about miscarriage in her book, and howpainful that was. How can the depression and pain of an abortion not be the same?
I look at it this way: thirty or forty years ago, they did not believe that postpartum depressionwas a thing. They also did not believe that post-traumatic stress disorder was a real thing. But now they do. They acknowledge it. I think it’s just a matter of time before people are goingto say yes, post-abortion syndrome is a real thing. I know that many mothers feel reliefafterwards. Yes, because you’re not having to deal with the immediate stress of the baby or“what am I going to do?” etc., etc. Fine. That part’s gone. But there’s a whole other side to it.You have to see these are women that are really hurting after abortion. I don’t care what themedia tells you. I have women in their seventies come through my class. They are still hurtingfrom their choice of abortion. I know that they like to say it’s the pro-life crowd that’s makingthese mothers feel guilty. No. I felt guilty. There was nobody standing outside holding signs oranything like that when I had my abortion. I wasn’t going to church. I was living my own life; Iwas doing my own thing. I felt guilty from my own conscience.I also see a lot of shifting. A lot of women may have not realized what abortion was back then,but they do now. They are very blatant and open about the fact that it’s killing a baby, becausewe have been so conditioned as a society that our lives matter more.
Is there anything the pro-life community can do to extend compassion to mothers who havehad abortions?
A lot of pro-life people will say ‘I’ll adopt the baby, I’ll adopt the baby.’ While that’s a niceresponse to give, I don’t think it’s the best response because that’s already an option for her. Myresponse is: consider her first. For those people who say that they’ll adopt a baby and raise ababy for eighteen years, consider adopting this mom. Let her live with you for two or three yearsso she can finish college, so she can get her feet on the ground. Or just babysit for her. We’ve gotto come alongside these moms. Another thing people need is when they get a poor prenataldiagnosis, a lot of doctors suggest abortion but don’t really give moms the support groups thatare out there for women who choose not to have an abortion when they get a diagnosis ofsomething wrong. There are things out there, but it’s just a matter of finding them.
We talked about experiencing forgiveness within your relationship with Christ. How haveyou experienced acceptance and forgiveness within the Church?
I can only speak from my experience, but I will say I have never once felt condemnation fromanybody that is a Christian who I’ve told my story to. Like I said, after six months of doing aBible study with some girls and having my twins, I finally shared my story. All of those womencame around me, hugged me, were crying with me -- it was like this beautiful sisterhood thing,you know? My baby would have been born on January 17. After I went through mypost-abortion class, my Pastor actually came to me in December and said “I want you to stand infront of the church and give your testimony on January 17.” I agreed to do that, but I was supernervous. [The church] was very large. But afterwards, I had so many people coming up to me,hugging me, sharing their stories… I didn’t have anything negative. Also, really interestinglyenough, I had men - men came up to me - and shared their stories about abortion.
That’s incredible. You hear a lot of men say they feel like they can’t have an opinion onabortion because they can’t carry a child, but there’s trauma for the fathers as well.
That’s just crazy to me. You can always have an opinion about everything. Especially if it’smurder. It is murder. Abortion doesn’t need to be regulated. We don’t need “pro-life laws.” Weneed it to be illegal. Pro-life laws don’t do anything but just give us more excuses. SaveOne.orgis a resource for post-abortion counseling. There are online counselors and there’s also a men’sstudy available. SurrenderingTheSecret.com is another one. These are men and women who havegone through abortion. There’s a reason why these ministries exist: because people are hurting.They’re not going to exist and do well if nobody needs them.There are many Christians - men and women - sitting in the pulpits who have been affected byabortion. When my church would announce the upcoming classes, one woman who came intomy class said it was awful because every time they announced the post-abortion class, she wouldfreeze. She thought people were looking at her because they knew she had an abortion. Satanlikes to do that. He likes to trick you into thinking people are not going to forgive you, people arenot going to understand, they’re going to judge you… but it’s not that. Once she found thatforgiveness -- you know everyone has done things they’re not proud of.
What would you say to a woman reading this that is considering an abortion right now?
Go to a pregnancy center. Planned Parenthood will not offer prenatal care. Next, you need toreally educate yourself on what an abortion is. There are great YouTube videos available. Dr.Levatino is an OB-GYN who performed over 1200 abortions, who has testified before Congressabout it. He produces non-graphic videos - they’re cartoons, but it’s graphic enough - of whatabortion is. He’s holding up the tools they use, etc., etc. Read online. There’s a message board(not even a prolife board) called PASS. If you go on there and just read the stories of thesegirls… or there’s an organization called Silent No More Awareness. It is women in the thousandsgetting together, saying we’re not going to be silent anymore: abortion hurts women.Finally, I would say remember that what your situation is today is not what your situation isgoing to be in a year or two years or three years. My friend Susie still to this day calls me aboutonce a year, crying about the abortion. My friend who had given her son up for adoption and hadthe abortion a year and a half later… she’s 45 now. We’re still friends. She will be the first to tellyou she was wrong: that abortion is way harder than placing a child up for adoption. Because atleast with her child that she placed up for adoption, she sees him. She sees that he is still alive.He has a child of his own now. Whereas this child that she had the abortion with, you don’t getto see them. You don’t know what their face looks like. Did they like baseball or did they likefootball? It’s not a get-out-of-jail free card. It’s putting yourself in a different kind of prison. Itreally is.
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Emily Cope is from Atlanta, Georgia and is currently a student at Clemson University. She will graduate with a B.A. in Communication and is participating in the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism's Lyceum Scholars Program. Emily has a penchant for politics and a love for Christ. She is passionate about defending the principles that ground American freedom to understand how they should impact policy today.