In late 2011, I sat in my church for worship like I had my whole life. However, no one knew what I had done weeks prior, no one knew the pain I was covering up. I continued to go to my church, however that desire soon faded away. I was burdened with hurt, grief, and regret. I thought of myself as worthless and unworthy to ever be loved by God again because of what I had done.
According to a study done by Carenet, “4 in 10 women who had an abortion were church goers when they ended their pregnancy”. Many of these women, like me, sit in the same church and listen to sermon after sermon about shame and forgiveness, but because abortion is seldom spoken about from the pulpit, many feel silenced on their shame and regret. My church never spoke on the topic of abortion. If it was the “unspoken” sin, it must be the unforgivable sin, right?
October 5, 2011, I walked into an abortion facility and took the life of my first child. I have shared the circumstances surrounding that day many times. I walked into that facility thinking that “choice” was my only answer, but I walked out broken, hurt, and misguided. Not only did my unborn child die that day, but a part of myself died that day too.
Years of heartache went by filled with more broken relationships. A need to have alcohol in my hand, a man paying attention to me, and a busy social calendar were what controlled my life. That’s where I found my identity in the years following my abortion. My friends just thought I was doing what any mid-twenty-year-old woman would do in Dallas. However, no one around me knew the grief that I still held onto that I was trying to suppress with my nights out. The flashbacks that would still find their way into my head, the memories of that October day that would randomly resurface at any given moment. And the number of times I would fight back tears at the slightest thought of the “what-ifs.” After all, society had told me that I didn’t need to grieve my abortion. Nurses told me that it wasn’t a baby. My boyfriend convinced me that “it just wasn’t a good time right now.” So why was I hurting?
One morning, after another night out, I found myself sobbing alone in my apartment. I couldn’t live this way anymore. I couldn’t live with the pain of never feeling good enough, of feeling broken and lost. I was tired of hurting and knew that I needed to return to the one thing that I had given up on. God. I began attending a church in Dallas, TX, that advertised post-abortive recovery for women. I fought to convince myself I didn’t need it and I walked into the first session very half-heartedly.
Post-abortive recovery changed my life. It pulled me out of my darkest days. It began the process of healing a wound that that never would have healed on its own. It was the hardest 12 weeks I’ve had to endure, but I would do it all over again. That piece of me that I felt had died was restored. Recovery brought me closer to Christ than I had ever been, even in my earlier walk. And now, two years after completing recovery, I’ve been called to work in the pro-life movement. I’ve been purposed for this mission to rescue the preborn and help women from the devastation that I faced.
I would have never found this healing, this renewed joy, this renewed sense of worth, had it not been for a church that cares about broken and hurting post-abortive women.
To post-abortive women:
I get it. I know the circumstances you were facing. I understand the thoughts that may have been going through your head that day. I understand the fear of the unknown you faced as you walked through the doors that day. And I also understand your hurt, even the hurt that you don’t think you have.
I hope that I can be a beacon of hope to you. I hope that my story shows you that even though society is telling you to keep quiet and not to worry about that day, I hope I can show you that you don’t need to keep quiet. I want you to see that it is okay to grieve the child you lost and there is hope beyond that grief. I want to show you that you are worthy of healing. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of freedom from regret and those memories. There’s grace waiting for you beyond your regret. I will hold your hand as you take that first step, and there are so many other women I have met that are ready to help and love you.
I’ve met women that have suffered multiple abortions, including women that didn’t seek healing until they were in their 60’s from an abortion that happened in their teens. You are not alone in this, you have a sisterhood standing behind you and will walk with you the whole way.
Helping the post-abortive woman
The post-abortive woman needs just as much love as the woman who chose life. The post-abortive woman is fighting psychological battles that she may not know how to communicate. Just like a woman facing a crisis pregnancy needs compassion and a team to stand up for her, a post-abortive woman needs to feel love and support, not shame. Society tells post-abortive women to keep quiet, so she is forced to fight the battles alone. We are called as Christians to show love and compassion
3 points in communicating:
Avoid sharing statistics. Statistics are not going to give her the compassion she is yearning for. What she wants from you is a listening ear and possibly a shoulder to cry on. This woman is wanting you to listen to her story and meet her where she’s at mentally and emotionally without a shade of shame or judgement.
Build her trust. I’ve met women that sought abortion after some heart-breaking circumstances. I’m friends with women who have had multiple abortions and their stories are very traumatic. She doesn’t want you to act shocked by her story or surprised. She might confuse that with judgement. Communicate to her how sorry you for her loss. This will build the bridge to referring her to healing.
Finally, compassionately and delicately offer her resources for healing. Whether that is a healing program, or someone like myself that has been there and can just go have coffee with her. I have had the joy of mentoring girls through the same recovery program that I went through, and it all began over coffee (or Chinese food-I will accept either).
At the end of the day, I believe Grace wins. I believe in the power of forgiveness. I believe that we all have a story to tell and a cross to bear. I take up my cross daily with my platform in the pro-life movement. If you or someone you know would like to talk about their post-abortive regret or have questions on where to go for help, please feel free to contact me- I will sit and be an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. I’ve been there too. If my story can save one woman, one child, one life- that one woman or one child, can save others. That is my purpose.
March 2018 Event in a Box for Church Captains-
We have included several types of outreach material that you can use on your campus.
Materials for outreach:
- Host a speaker for your youth group or have a speaking event
- Ally is the National Programs Coordinator for SFLA and has spoken at many events and churches.
- Tina, Executive Vice President of Students for Life of America, has volunteered with Rachel’s Vineyard for 7 years and uses her experience there to speak on post-abortive healing.
- Use the brochures included to reach out to the organizations for speakers
- Brochures and postcards-make copies if needed
- Use these as resources to give to women.
- Leave some in your church counseling office.
- Leave some in your youth ministry office.
- Reach out to local post-abortive organizations for speakers and materials
- Watch these videos and discuss outreach opportunities:
To order your Church Captain’s Even in a Box, please email Ally Bowlin at email@example.com