An older gentleman with a white beard and plaid button down shirt was standing at the entrance as I pulled into the parking lot that crisp January morning. He was yelling and waving pamphlets at me telling me to stop. As a young girl, I went with my Grandparents and held signs in protest while they screamed and pleaded with those walking inside to change their mind. I sat in my car imagining the horror on the faces of my family if they were to find out that I was sitting in the parking lot of an abortion clinic.
I trembled as I removed my jeans and panties and covered myself with a paper cloth. The ultrasound began and there it was on the screen – a tiny peanut, only recognizable to me as a baby since I had seen life in my womb before. I kept thinking of my two miracle children that came from this same place inside of my body; I had struggled to get pregnant when I wanted to years earlier. And now, my womb was miraculously carrying life once again. “This shows that you are about 5 weeks along. Would you like me to give you the options for termination?”
The child I was carrying was the result of a hidden affair. I was not only reeling from the pregnancy but the manner in which the affair abruptly ended and how to repair the betrayal my husband was experiencing. What if when this child went looking for their biological father? He was quick to suggest the abortion. I’m on so many medications, what if this baby is born sick or deformed?
When I arrived the next day, new protesters tried to block the entrance. I easily read anger and disgust on their faces. Being on the receiving end of pro-life protesters shameful. They knew nothing of my story, my body, or my personal torment. In that moment I wondered what Jesus might have to say to me. I was desperately searching for Him. Could He be in an abortion clinic? Would He speak words of kindness? Immediately, it was easy to envision Him standing right outside, holding the door for every woman who walked in, with tears in His eyes He embraced them and said, “I love you so much, and I am so sad you are here.”
After two hours of waiting, I was called back with seven other women. I was clearly the oldest woman present and that reality made me want to disappear. I was mortified to discover we were going to be doing this as a group. I longed for a space where I could be alone in a room to have some kind of quiet moment before I swallowed the pill that would end this pregnancy. I wanted to tell my baby I was sorry that I wasn’t as brave or good as I had thought. It was a moment I will never forget; sitting in this grey waiting room, walls cold with watercolor trees painted in lavender and periwinkle with seven other women. Before I put the pill on my tongue, I silently prayed, “God, have mercy on me. Please forgive me.” And then all seven of us swallowed a pill and killed our babies together.
It was the most tragic and awful moment of my entire life.
I took the second set of pills the following afternoon and started cramping. Walking down the hall to the bathroom I felt a heavy rush of blood. Sobbing and wailing I saw the flood of crimson come from my body.
As I sat on my toilet, I heard the familiar hissing voice – How embarrassing to be in this situation at your age. What kind of mother are you? You are a woman with too much desire, you always knew that sex would get you into trouble and here you are!
Between the tormenting voices in my head and the blood pouring from me, I could barely stand to be in my own body. I felt nothing and everything all at once.
I grew up in the church, raised to be adamantly pro-life and believing that abortion should be against the law. The idea that any woman who has an abortion or is pro-choice could never truly belong to Jesus was ingrained into my being like a tattoo on my DNA. “I would never have an abortion” were words I said over and again through the years.
Now that it was me it didn’t seem as black and white. David writes in Psalm 139 about the sacred place where God knits us together, where He sees and knows us before we are born. Our womb is where our sexuality, our soul, and story all come together. As women, we experience life and death inside of us month after month, year after year. That sacredness, the living and the dying our bodies go through for a long majority of our lives, can only be truly understood by the woman. For me, the idea that men or governing authorities should make the choice for me felt preposterous.
My abortion has wrecked my faith and belief system in a way nothing else has. But God knew me before I was born, and He also knew that I would be taking this journey with Him. Empathy, kindness, curiosity and understanding from people have been the arms of Jesus reminding me that I still belong to Him.
This Red Tent woman has requested to remain anonymous. We applaud her courage to risk sharing this part of her story with our community, it is our privilege to honor and protect her identity.