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I Knew in my Heart this was Wrong...

My abortion experience was the result of coercion, physical and mental, on the part of my first husband. It was also the result of lack of education on the birthing and abortion processes. I had been victimized by men as a kindergardener on the way to school. A man exposed himself to me in a park at age 10. 1 was attacked after a night class in college. And finally, I was the victim of an attempted rape at age 22. My husband used my fear of men as a tool to control me. I had not received any sex education at home or in school. I was the oldest of six children. I was timid and shy.

My husband was my first boyfriend whom I met at age 18 in college. At age 25 or 26 I became pregnant. I was overjoyed at the hope of having my own baby. My husband had sexually abused me for years. He went into a rage when he heard of the pregnancy. He threatened to leave me and said I had ruined his life. Our marriage appeared perfect from the outside. We were college graduates, had excellent jobs, took vacations out of the country, had a big home, wore fine clothes, etc. I told no one about my husband's abuse. When he told me to get an abortion, I told no one about his pressure. I sought no counsel. I had no knowledge what an abortion was. I did know I was afraid.

Within one year after the first pregnancy I became pregnant again while on a different kind of birth control. The intimidation from my husband was more mental this second time. I drugged myself heavily to get through my second abortion. I do not recall the second experience because of the drugs (or maybe I'm repressing the circumstances). I do recall that I received no information from the abortion clinic as to what was going to happen, this, after all, was my second visit.

My marriage eventually ended in divorce. I told no one about the abortions until after my divorce, 10 years later.

I remember how "professional" the abortion clinic office looked. The wallpaper had a serene forest scene. The atmosphere was carefully designed to calm the patients. I stared at the wallpaper to forget where I was. There were chairs in a row and girls sat alone. My husband was with me and I wondered how the others could go through this with no one to support them. When a girl's name was called she would walk through an archway to rooms beyond. The waiting room was so quiet and filled with fear.

I began wearing maternity clothes right away when my pregnancy was confirmed. I proudly told all my work associates, checked into insurance benefits and told my friends and family. Secretly and subconsciously I was trying to persuade my husband, through my joy, to forget his demands. Sitting there in the abortion clinic, my efforts having failed, I felt totally defeated, as though I was being led away to my own execution. When my name was called, I did not feel able to stand and walk through the archway. When I did it, it felt like very slow motion.

A very friendly and smiling assistant took me to an office and completed a questionnaire. She requested my signature, showed me a model of the female reproductive system and explained how conception occurred. I was told some tissue would be removed by the doctor and that the procedure would take ten minutes. I knew in my heart that this was wrong, but at this moment I felt the clinic had total authority over me.

I was draped and prepared by the friendly assistant. The doctor said nothing to me. The procedure caused severe cramps and I felt as though my body was being internally torn. The friendly assistant kept rubbing my stomach and shoulder. I asked to see my baby. I had heard the water suction machine stop. I expected to see a small 3"0" mass of tissue on a little tray. Three times the doctor and assistant said I didn't need to see, but I insisted. I could feel their eyes burning on my face as they held up a large canister jar filled to the top with shredded parts and fluid. I froze and became limp and lifeless. I kept thinking, "What did they do to me?" I laid on a cot in a small room and could hear girls leaving the clinic through the back door. I had absolutely no feeling and the tears flowed out of the corners of my eyes like a river. Where was the friendly assistant? Where was my husband? What had happened to me? What was that which I had seen? Why was the canister filled to the top?


I told everyone who knew about my pregnancy that I had a miscarriage. . I could not bear the physical loss of part of me. I bought a gold necklace with a small dove. I told myself this would be a symbol of my baby, always with me. Within 90 days of the abortion my younger sister lost her 15 month old son to an accidental drug overdose. When the small white casket was closed, I saw the real physical death of my unborn child. I felt I was really losing my mind. My doctor prescribed tranquilizers during, and for a period of time after, the funeral.

After the abortion I developed what has been called the "Shirley Temple Syndrome". I had my hair cut like Farah Fawcett. I took all the pants and jeans from my closet and replaced them with the most feminine clothes I could find. I surrounded myself with bows and face that guaranteed that my image would be "sweet and innocent." I was trying to prevent anyone from hurting me. I became obsessed with any physical flaws on my body and spent hours pampering myself for the sake of my "image".

I was working in a male dominated profession in a women's liberation era. My "sweet" look, which was created to protect me, failed. I looked provocative to the men I feared and found myself locked in clients conference rooms, solicited for affairs, etc. This contributed to a deepened sense of intimidation by men. At the time I did not understand why any of this was happening to me.

My "sweet" looks put me in a position of being non intimidating to men. Professionally I was often involved in critical negotiations with men. I would allow them to brag about their options and lay all their cards on the table. I would then proceed to 'blow them out of the water" with intelligence, assertiveness and a well prepared opposing opinion (based on the insight they had generously given me). I had a tremendous sense of control (and relief) in those situations. I became a workaholic. I worked late at night and every Saturday and Sunday. I received much praise and reward and quickly moved up in my profession. I strengthened myself with the fact that my success in the man's world was due to my intelligence and dedication. Although my feelings for my husband had been reduced to numbness, I convinced myself that I had a perfect marriage and actually lived in a fantasy world. I had all the material goods and pleasures around me to reinforce that opinion.

I began going to doctors for gastrointestinal problems. Every time the doctors asked if there was stress in my marriage, I would indicate how perfect my marriage was and what a good friend my husband was.

My marriage began to crumble as my husband spent more and more time away from home and I became lonely and isolated. I began to hang onto conversations with men who were family oriented and talked about their children. I would fantasize that it was my children we were taking about, not theirs. I began to be attracted to clothing in the children's department and I read psychology books to help me adjust to never having children of my own.

My husband and I went to marriage counseling for six months. I began to open up to the fact that the abortions were affecting both my marriage and my life. It has been three years since the divorce and I am still involved with professional psychological
counseling. Depression and anger still haunt me (over being coerced into the abortions). I continue to have difficulty in situations where I feel men are in control over me, either mentally or physically.


I am now fortunate at age 39 to be the mother of two beautiful little girls, ages 1 and 2. I treasure them both. I now have a very loving and supportive husband who has helped me through my post- abortion healing process. My new husband has had to deal on his own with my prior abortions. I am no longer living in a fantasy world. I often ask myself why I couldn't have been stronger.

I have a stepdaughter who is 11 1/2 years old (the same age one of my children would have been). She is so sweet as she goes through all those things that sixth grade girls must go through. When she curls up on my bed at night to tell me about all her new adventures, it makes me realize all the love I missed giving and receiving. I also have a stepson who is 14 1/2 years old. Two children to replace the two I lost, plus two precious children of my own.

The realization of what happened to me during the abortion operation came while I was pregnant with my first daughter in my new marriage. My husband was so excited that he would be in the delivery room at the birth. He bought baby books on the birthing process. One of them was the Nielson book with those beautiful fetus photographs (like those that Right-to-Life uses in its brochures). I began to learn all about the development of babies and saw the pictures of living babies in the mother's womb. I kept saying to myself "No, no, this cannot be". I read an article in a women's magazine of a woman's experience with abortion. Suddenly, the whirling suction machine, the glass canister jar of shredded parts, the photos of the Nielson babies all came together. I laid my face down on the pages of the magazine and cried all afternoon. These were my children, they were not just
"the product of conception", they were my children.


The abortions immediately ended the temporary stress in my first marriage (caused by the pregnancies). But they contributed to the end of the marriage and caused severe psychological harm to me. I know I am still periodically denying the significance of my abortions. For 10 years I refused to discuss them or let anyone know of the terrible experience. I effectively suppressed the memories. It was not until I faced the reality of the physical side of abortion and removed myself from the intimidation of the marriage that I was free to begin dealing with the pain of post-abortion trauma. I realize that I can never go back and remake my decisions or redo my participation in the abortions. I must go on with my life. I went through terrible pain and anxiety as I remarried and went through two beautiful full-term pregnancies. Today I cry not tears of self pity, but tears of healing. I accept the fact that I am the mother of four children: two born and two unborn. I am now able to discuss and deal with my abortion experience, but the memory will never go away. The destructive force of the experience is finally loosening its grip. I have become a new Christian as a result of the post-abortion trauma. I have released my pain, my guilt and obtained forgiveness through Christ. I have found peace because I know I will be in heaven someday and I will see my babies. Time and death are the only barriers to an eternal reunion. God has taught me the value of life and that He is my friend and is always available.


I believe God has prepared me in a unique way to reach out and witness to others on the abortion issue. The terrible experiences that have occurred in my life have prepared me to offer the understanding that is only possible from "having been there". The healing process has taken years, but I am ready today to take an active role in helping others to find themselves through where I was many years ago.

Priests for Life
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