My Post-Abortion Journey

pregnancy tests

A terminated pregnancy at 17 haunted this writer for decades until she found forgiveness and freedom in God.

Fifty years ago, I believed a lie that transformed my world in ways I never thought imaginable. After a decade of disruption, as the ’70s rolled in, I donned the bell bottoms and big flower print dresses and proudly waved the flag for the women’s rights movement. I loved every bit of the movement, and though I was too young to vote, I was on board with everything they espoused.

I grew up in a large Italian Catholic family in Cincinnati. Everyone in my family was loving and caring, and we had a lot of fun. I was a very strong-willed child, primed to take on the world and get things done as I entered high school. I had just turned 17 when I entered my senior year.

High school was a blast! I met a boy, and we “fell in love.” We engaged in a relationship—knowing it was wrong but believing the fact that we cared about each other made it OK. But something was wrong. I knew it, but I wasn’t sure what. I made a doctor’s appointment, believing there was no way I could be pregnant. It was 1972. The fight over Roe v. Wade was in the headlines almost daily, and I wanted nothing to do with any of it.

“You’re about eight weeks pregnant,” the doctor announced. The moment I heard those words, I began wavering. My world started spinning out of control, and confusion set in.

A friend had suggested I go to Planned Parenthood because they’d be able to help me. I can still see that dingy little office in my mind. I was a 17-year-old kid when I walked into that clinic, had the exam, and they confirmed I was pregnant.

“We want to help you,” they said. “You need to understand you don’t have a choice. You won’t graduate from high school. You won’t be able to get an excellent job. Your family will be upset. You don’t have any choice.”

Those words echo in my mind to this day. Planned Parenthood helped me set up the procedure at their clinic in Manhattan. Abortion was not legal in Ohio then. I set the plan in motion, determined to take care of this issue.

Troubled and Alone

My boyfriend and I went to downtown Cincinnati to get a ticket for a flight to New York City. I told only a few friends because I needed their help with planning. I bought a ticket to New York City, set up the appointment for the procedure, and then started planning everything with my friends. I stayed overnight at a friend’s house, got up early the following day, and my boyfriend took me to the airport. I told my mom and dad I would be out shopping all day. I gave lists to my friends who went shopping for me. Talk about strategizing to connive my way through an ordeal—at 17!

I stepped on that flight to New York City all by myself and never looked back. I landed at LaGuardia Airport, took a cab to Planned Parenthood, and had the abortion. Though I remember every detail, even the people I met on the flight, I completely blocked my swirling thoughts and emotions out of my mind.

Once I received counseling from Planned Parenthood and a month’s supply of birth control pills, I was on my way to being free. I jumped in a cab, headed back to LaGuardia, caught a flight home, and met my boyfriend, who had all the packages from my friends who had been shopping for me. I came home that night with the packages in my arms, and my mom and dad never suspected a thing.

The next day, a Monday, I woke up, put on my uniform, and went right back to school. I never thought twice about it. I buried that incident so deeply I never wanted to talk about it or think about it—and I didn’t.

The truth was, I was in trouble—17, pregnant, still in high school. My parents would have been horrified and disappointed. The only way for me to process this was to shut down. But I went further. I chose to believe the lies. I chose to believe my family would disown me. I believed I had taken care of the issue. No big deal.

Onward I went, pushing down any regret or guilt. I went through life with an “I am woman, hear me roar” attitude, and no one was going to tell me what to do, especially not politicians in Washington. It is my body and my soul. That is, until 1978.

Guilt Resurfaces

I was married and worked as a nuclear medicine tech in a hospital. We had just bought an ultrasound machine and decided to test the equipment since I was 10 weeks pregnant. The technology was somewhat new back then, and doing ultrasounds on pregnant women was not as prevalent as today.

I was excited to see what this little fetus looked like. And right before my eyes, I saw an intact, fully formed baby. I could see every part of her: her head, her spine, her little behind (stuck up in the air), her arms and legs. My heart leapt for joy, but then, in an instant, I remembered that what I thought was just a blob of tissue when I was pregnant in 1972 was a baby. I was crushed. I buried the simple procedure I had had six years earlier even deeper. I told no one. I never shared this experience with my mom and dad, and I was so racked with guilt and shame—but you would never know that had you met me. You would have considered me a very competent woman.

But I continued to push down the guilt and shame. I told myself I didn’t need to feel guilty about anything. I ended up getting divorced in 1980. I had a successful career and was one of the few women in that career. My father passed away in 1986, and I never told him about the abortion. I continued down the path of doing what I needed to do to take care of myself and, as a single mom, my child.

In 1990, everything changed. I fell in love with a man. He was understanding, loving, and totally understood the burden of guilt that I carried. He helped me move from that shame to being the precious daughter of God that I am. I’d known of God intellectually for years, but I did not know him personally. My world completely changed once I did. I started to understand with my heart who Jesus is and why he came to this earth and died for my sins.

Those were not rote words to me any longer. They gripped my soul. Yet, I continued to believe the lie from within: “You are not worthy. Even Jesus will not love you because of what you did.”

Time Passes

I believed the lie. I believed I could never be forgiven. But I took my faith seriously and started growing as a Christian. I went to church and was involved in small groups. So many Sundays, I would be in church crying because I believed I would never be forgiven. Oh yes, God could forgive me for all the other things I’ve done, and there have been plenty, but this? It weighed so heavily on my heart.

When my daughter was 16, I told her I had an abortion. I felt that she should know as she matured and started dating. I was also sharing with various women’s groups, and I thought it was important for her to hear my story from me. My mom and I had gotten close after my dad passed away. She came to a point where she wanted to know God personally. She and I started doing Bible studies together.

For a moment—and it was just a moment—I thought I should tell my mom about the abortion. Yet, I couldn’t even imagine going through with it. I ignored the pang in my heart again, burying everything, which is what guilt and shame will do. And when my mom passed away in 1996, I felt horrible. I thought the one thing I should have done was ask my mom for forgiveness. But I had to let it go—it would never be.

Mother and Child

One day in 1997, as my daughter was getting ready for college, she and I were sitting at the kitchen table. I took a few moments to share with her about life and things she should know. As I sat across from her, as clearly as I could see my daughter, I had a vision of my mother.

I am not one for visions, and I can hardly ever remember my dreams, but this was as real as anything I’ve ever known. She was breathtakingly beautiful. My mom had been sick before she passed away. But in the vision, she was radiant. Her hair was white and combed back off her face. She was stunning.

My daughter was sitting right there across from me, asking me what was happening. I didn’t have the words to say. I looked at my mom, and she was looking straight at me. Then she looked down and, in her arms, she was cradling a baby. Her expression radiated love. Then she looked straight into my eyes again, and though she didn’t say a word, it was as though I heard her say, “Look who I have.”

That was all I ever needed to hear from my mom. I knew what she was saying to me. It was so clear. And in seconds, the vision was gone. Yet, I knew what it meant. The minute my mom left her earthly body, she was greeted in heaven by her first grandchild.

Oh, the peace that flooded my soul as I wrote this story 25 years after that vision! It’s as though God pulled back the curtain of heaven and said, “Danise, what is it going to take for you to know you are loved and forgiven?” Indescribable peace—not because of anything I’ve done, but because of the gift of forgiveness I received from God.

From that point on, God tenderized my heart, knocking down the fortress I’d built around my emotions. I opened my heart to the journey God still has me on today. Though I am in my late 60s, I am excited to know more about what God has for me in my life and to know what I can do to help others understand how loving and forgiving God is.

God’s Grace

Everything I do now is geared toward helping people understand that we don’t need to walk in guilt and shame over what we’ve done. Our world says it’s no big deal to have an abortion, but it is. It affects us in ways only our hearts understand. But God loves and forgives us.

Now my whole purpose in life is to help people understand God’s love. To help children understand that love is being kind, patient, and hopeful. When we know how much God loves us, we can love others, despite the fact we may disagree or even get angry with them. God loves us and has forgiven us.

Because of my journey and where I am now, if I can help one child know and understand the power of God’s love, they will not find themselves in such a predicament of making tough decisions. Perhaps my story will help other women not feel the need to walk in guilt and shame. And, most importantly, we know that nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God.

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