Before I converted to evangelical Christianity, I was pro-choice. After I converted, I decided abortion was flat-out wrong. At both points my decision was based mostly on what was acceptable to my peer group at the time, rather than an internal conviction. So, in my early to mid-20s, when I had heard heart-rending stories from both sides of the issue, I started to question the rigidness of my opinion. I started listening instead of speaking.
Most recently, I met a Christian woman who helped me see that the issue goes way beyond pro-life versus pro-choice. The tip of the iceberg was when she asked a question I’d never considered: Why aren’t people taking their picket signs to the houses of fathers who abandoned pregnant women?
That small comment drove me to interview her on the issue. She had an abortion when she was 17, so she’s given it a lot of thought.
I was particularly struck when she said, “None of these people who said, ‘Abortion’s wrong,’ are (there) when a woman’s walking into the clinic … They’re not saying, ‘I’ll walk alongside you, I’ll buy the diapers, I’ll give you a place to live.’ Had somebody said that to me, what choice would I have made? Hell yes I’d be choosing life.”
It was through talking to her that I’ve come to realize how narrow-minded I’ve been. The pro-life/pro-choice debate is a huge controversy around a single moment, a single choice between getting a procedure or not, but the events before and after that moment have been severely neglected by Christians, myself included.
If you are willing, let her open your eyes too. I included a shortened version of our interview below, mildly edited for clarity and with a false initial so she remains anonymous.
K: What led up to your experience of having an abortion? What was the context it happened in?
A: Right, being 17 and not having a great relationship with my parents. I didn’t feel safe or like there was anywhere to go. And, I had a boyfriend who was dead set on college. So I was definitely alone in it all, and he was like, “You need to take care of it.”
Everything in my heart said, “I’m going to be a mom,” which was my whole entire life as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a mom. That’s all I wanted to be. So when I found out I was pregnant it was a very joyful moment, but it was just a moment, because I had no support system. Zero.
So I had my boyfriend, who said, “I want to stay with you, and I even see getting married, but I don’t want this baby. We can have babies later.” I’d already had a baby with this guy and gave it up for adoption, which was the worst, deepest wound to let go of that. So now I’m pregnant again, I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want to have to deal with this loss of, there’s a baby out there that I’m the mother to that I don’t get to know anything about. It was a closed adoption.
K: And did you have anybody with you when you got the abortion?
A: Absolutely nobody. I went alone. There was one stop that I made prior to going and making the decision that I do have to do this. It wasn’t like a Planned Parenthood thing, but that type of a facility, and the only advice they gave me was, “Keep your baby.” I said, “I’ve already done that route.” I had kept the baby. I gave it up for adoption because that was what they wanted me to do, and it wasn’t an option for me anymore because I didn’t want that heartache, so I didn’t get any answers there either.
And that was a real hit to my soul because I had reached out for help. I asked my mom, I asked my boyfriend, I asked my girlfriends, and nobody’s giving me any direction, except for, “Don’t look at me for help.” That was basically it. So even though I did, I felt like I didn’t have a choice but to end the pregnancy, because I didn’t see myself as an 18-year-old mother with no support of any kind. Where would I be? I mean I owned my car, I suppose I could have lived in my car, but I had nowhere.
K: So even though nobody was with you, did anybody know you were going to get an abortion?
A: My boyfriend. And I literally told my mom that I was pregnant and she didn’t respond to it in any way, because of how everything went down with the adoption. We had this family dinner and I said to mom as we were setting the table, “I had the abortion today.” And she just said, “You had an abortion?” And I said, “Yeah, today I had an abortion.” And she said, “We’re going to need milk and butter, if you want to get that next.” This is the biggest event of my life and I’m having a family dinner with my siblings, my mother and father, and I can’t speak about it. And my boyfriend didn’t want to talk about it, so I was definitely alone in it, completely alone.
And the physician who did the procedure said to me after my abortion, “You know, you’re a really good-looking woman, and your tummy is going to go back to normal. It’ll be like this never even happened. You know, I don’t think you’re going to lose your figure.” Which is a total mind-mess. I’m not concerned about what my body looks like at all. I just remember that so vividly, thinking, “How dare you speak to me in such a way?” Like he was sexualizing me, is what it felt like. During this procedure!
K: Did you think about this a lot after it happened, or did you shut it down?
A: Consumed with guilt. Even though I didn’t know the Lord or anything about right and wrong, forgiveness, non-forgiveness. Consumed. Consumed with guilt.
Also, with the adoption, consumed with, how could I do that to my own, my baby? And I was alone in that too. He came early, and so it was an emergency and I was sent to Seattle, University of Washington, and I was there for three weeks with a newborn, born prematurely, 2 lb. 2 oz., and nobody. Literally nobody. Not my boyfriend, not my parents. I was dying, I had toxemia … they revived me twice, and the baby three times.
K: Some people respond, “Just have the baby and give it up for adoption.” But it’s not that simple.
A: It isn’t that simple. And in my experience, what happened with my child – he was adopted by a pedophile. And he was abused from the time he was 2 years old until he was 13 when he started fighting his dad off. So they went and adopted a daughter. Then he watched his sister and mother repeatedly be raped, and he could only watch, because he couldn’t stand up to the monster. That’s the child I chose to give life to and place in the hands of somebody who would care for them like I couldn’t, and so, that’s how that story ended. And of course I didn’t know that until he was 35, this is just two years ago. I’ve recently learned his story because he came to meet me. And when he met me, he didn’t like what he saw. And he was so angry about his life, and that I coulda-shoulda kept him. He can’t have a relationship with me. So that’s what adoption is, you know? For me. For my experience.
So when it came to now, another pregnancy, an unwanted pregnancy, that was not even an option. And I don’t even know the end result of the adoption yet. I just am dealing with the guilt and the strong desire to be a mother and not having that as an option in my life because I wasn’t set up at 17 and 18 to be a parent.
K: You want it to be somebody’s choice, and you know what it’s like where you feel like you don’t have a choice. Say more about how you got there.
A: I think that when you are in a position where you don’t have a choice – and I feel very strongly now as a lover of the Lord, and I love Jesus Christ, and He is my savior, and He does sit on the throne in my heart – I still strongly believe that women get to decide what happens with their bodies in an unwanted pregnancy, because I believe God is pro-life but he’s also pro-choice. He gives us choice. And he’s also provided us with a way out, with forgiveness.
And if God knows my true heart and my true intent and all the reasons why I had to make that incredibly difficult (crying), impossible choice, and he’s forgiven me for it, and I know that – I know he’ll do it for anybody. He would do that for anybody if he’d do it for me.
I wish I would have had a better support system, or that I was 10 years later or 20 years later in the game. I see 17-year-olds with babies all the time, and they’re nailing it. I walk alongside them. I’ve been in the position to minister to somebody who was on their way to an abortion, and I said, “Can I talk to you about that?” And she kept that baby, and she comes back to me to this day and is like, “If you hadn’t spoke so clearly about your hurt and pain and sorrow and suffering, I would probably be living your story right now. But I have a beautiful daughter at home, and she’s 6 now, and I can’t imagine my life without her.” So that brings my story redemption.
K: There seem to be two sides politically to this issue. There’s one person saying, “It’s fine, do whatever you want,” and there’s another person saying, “It’s wrong and it’s murder so don’t do it,” and I think that’s oversimplifying it.
A: Because where are they? Once a week I take a phone call from a young man who’s in prison, and I go and visit him once a month, my husband and I, and we’re sold out to this kid, because he was in our lives as a young child. Where are all those people? Nobody else is there for him right now (crying). None of these people who said, “Abortion’s wrong,” are at that prison, saying, we’re going to do everything we can to make your life good. They’re not saying it when a woman’s walking into the clinic, either. They’re not saying, “I’ll walk alongside you, I’ll buy the diapers, I’ll give you a place to live.” Had somebody said that to me, what choice would I have made? Hell yes I’d be choosing life.
K: And even I would say, and you can tell me if you agree, somebody saying, “It’s fine, do whatever you want” – I don’t think they’re providing support either.
A: No. Absolutely not. So I’ve done the exact opposite. I’m the person who says, you get to make that choice, what can I do to support whatever your choice is? Because I’ll be there. And I have been. In more than one young woman’s life. And I’ve supported an abortion and I’ve supported an adoption and I’ve supported keeping your baby. And I’m still walking with all those women. They’re in my life. And they will be in my heart forever because of this connection that we have. The people like me need to be out there offering that. Now, I gave that person a place to stay until she could make the decision, and then beyond that I said, “No matter what your decision, you can stay with us, we’ll figure it out, I’ll work with you until you get housing, whatever.” So that’s the kind of help that I think those women in that position need, especially young girls.
K: If an evangelical were sitting here talking to you about this, and for a long time they’ve thought abortion is wrong and it’s that simple, but now they’re questioning that and feel uncomfortable with what their side is doing, what would you say to them to help them in that kind of uncomfortable place?
A: I would say if you’re in that situation where you’re in somebody’s life who’s saying, “I’m confused about this issue now,” I would say to you, “Well, then do something. Do something – and I’m not talking about picket outside – no, do something. Go to the prison system and find out, where are these children who were born into chaos and destruction and damaged from the get-go, because they were given life, they are now a burden on us – what are you going to do with that person? Why aren’t you going after that person?” That’s what I would say. You can make a difference there. What we should be doing is caring for one another. That is very simple.
Or, if you’re sitting in front of somebody who’s trying to make that decision, sell out to them, and tell them, “I don’t care what you decide, I love you and I’ll be beside you until the end of time, and help you with whatever decision you make, even if it’s that I need to get you the right counseling because you chose to end this life.
Once I feel myself slipping into regret, I know I’ve got to do something about it to come back out of it, and that means stepping into the trenches. And getting in there, getting my hands dirty, and saying, “I’m with you, you’re stuck with me, I’m walking all the way through this with you.” I really believe that’s the only thing we can do with abortion, is to either be on the other end of it, when these children didn’t make it and they end up in our prison system, or be at the beginning of it and support that woman no matter what her choice is.
But sell out. You better sell out, because otherwise you’re just making Jesus look bad. You know what I mean? It’s not like, “Oh, I’ll go once a year.” No, no, no. You have to make a difference.
K.S. Elizabeth lives in Spokane. She grew up knowing nothing about Christianity, but then experienced a sensational conversion to evangelicalism in her youth. Now, she still considers herself a Christian but doesn’t feel comfortable with many evangelical practices.