This week’s post is written by Sarah St. Onge, one of the many women who have received an abortion and regretted it. I asked her if she would be willing to share a portion of her story because I think it is a good example of what motivates so many women to stand against abortion. It also shows that there are women on the pro-life side of the debate that know what it is like to be facing difficult decisions. Perhaps, knowing that there is compassion and understanding waiting for them on the pro-life side, more women will be encouraged to choose life.
On an unremarkable (or psychologically buried) spring day in 1994 I ended my second pregnancy at about 16 weeks GA. Unlike many post-abortive women I can’t tell you what day or exactly how far along I was.
I was a 19 year old single mom, a high school drop-out trying to extricate myself from an abusive relationship— one I had previously escaped from but fell back into during a time period of intense loss.
The final straw was when my partner shoved me out of the car and attempted to run me over. I thought I was going to die that night, and this man would be raising my son to be just like him.
Shortly after my final exit, I found myself pregnant and alone, the mother of a toddler.
In addition to being a pregnant teen mom and high school drop-out, I was also a former teenaged runaway, long-term, childhood sexual abuse survivor, and the product of a one-night stand whose mom continued to make poor choices long after the encounter which created me, most of them involving inappropriate men. Suffice to say life had not been kind to me by the point I found myself pregnant for the second time.
Despite my status as an already mom, I chose abortion for my unborn child. The decision was immensely difficult, but only due to my own misgivings. No one around me believed I should bring another child into a situation where the chances of remaining impoverished were so heightened, and would potentially be worse precisely because of this child’s life. No one believed I could make my life better with two children.
Everyone told me I was doing the right thing.
Making the best choice for myself and my son.
In addition to the friends who believed abortion was my best option- I also talked myself into believing adoption was out of the question, as it would not be fair to ask my family to witness the miracle of their niece/nephew/grandchild/sibling growing within the confines of my womb only to end the pregnancy with no baby. It was also highly unlikely the baby’s father would allow me to place his child for adoption anyways. The truth is that I knew if I delivered my baby, I wouldn’t have been able to let him/her go. I couldn’t afford a second child, however much I would have wanted to keep him/her.
Because of the abuse I was suffering, I was also concerned continuing my pregnancy would have ultimately been life threatening, by prolonging and intensifying my dependence on a man who was uninterested in seeing me as more than a punching bag and had already committed serious acts of violence on me.
I made my appointment half disbelieving I was going to be “that kind of girl”. While my family was only nominally religious, I was not. I loved church, and until just before my reunion with my abusive partner, I’d been attending regularly. My reunion with my partner fell on the heels of a perceived slight (more here), and I was so desperately hurting from what I felt was a rejection from the church that I’d severed any relationship I had with anyone who would have tried to talk me out of this decision.
When the time came for my abortion, the process was lengthily, and for the sake of brevity I won’t go into detail regarding most of the interactions I had with medical staff at the abortion clinic. I’ve made a few public statements clarifying that in the end, much of my choice was taken away from me. While I wasn’t held down, or denied the ability to make a call for help, at every turn I was lied to and manipulated.
I was told I was not allowed to view my baby in the ultrasound suite.
I was told there was no reversal once the process had begun (I had a two-day termination, because I was in the second trimester.)
In the procedure room, I expressed reservations to the nurse about following through with everything. I told her I’d changed my mind, and that I’d decided not to have the abortion, unaware I was already being anesthetized, so my protestations lacked enough force to cause a pause in the proceedings.
I fell asleep pregnant, and awoke empty.
I never even saw the doctor.
In the aftermath my grief became unbearable.
After sharing with a family member that I had aborted a baby, I was told my own mother had attempted to abort me, but been prohibited from doing so by my grandmother.
For a long time the abortion and the reality I’d taken someone’s life when mine had been spared created such a maelstrom of regret within me I couldn’t care for my child properly.
Unlike many young women, I never used drugs or alcohol, and promiscuity was never an issue with my history of child sexual abuse, but my confidence was shattered. I began doubting every single decision I made. I felt I was an unfit mother, and I began leaving my son for long periods of time with family members while I wandered through a spiritual malaise which left me even more broken than when I had started. I entertained thoughts of enlisting, even though the military had never been something I wanted to do.
I contemplated suicide.
Anything to get away from the life I had chosen for myself.
But you can’t run away from an abortion, once you’ve had one.
You can’t run away from who you become after such a terrible act, when every morning you look at yourself in the mirror and have to acknowledge you took your child’s life.
Over the course of years, just like all women who’ve chosen to abort a child, I’ve also had to come to terms with missed birthdays — all of the milestones my second child should have met: first lost tooth, mastering algebra, dating, marriage- maybe grandchildren by now— I’ve had to live my life devoid of the child whose life I chose to end, as well as dealing with those who believe my grief after 24 years is misplaced. Having an abortion was one of the most traumatic experiences I have ever gone through, but my trauma was nowhere near the cruelty I subjected an innocent child to.
There are no comforting thoughts of my child being in a better place when I’ve got to acknowledge I was the person who sent him/her there.
As parents we sometimes make choices about our children’s lives which seem acceptable in a moment, but which ultimately end up being the most terrible of options. I thought I was making a choice in my already-born child’s best interests, but the reality is I killed his sibling and because of it I was a less-effective mother to him. Over the years I’ve wondered what it would have been like for him to grow with a carbon copy- maybe a younger brother to play with. I love my son so much, and now that I’ve had subsequent children I understand that my ability to parent him would have only grown stronger if I’d chosen life for his sibling. Instead I robbed him of the most important friend he would have ever had. My abortion didn’t just leave me with a void and my baby dead, but left my son’s life deficient of that intimacy only siblings can have. I did not have more children until much later in life, at a point where the age gap allowed for a less intimate sibling interaction.
I made a choice to limit my family via the cruelest means possible, not giving my baby the life s/he deserved and causing him/her immense suffering. I sacrificed him/her on the altar of disempowerment. In the name of “Choice”, but I was ultimately left choice-less.
I will always regret the lost years.
My grief will last for the rest of my life.
There is no “end” to the sorrow.
I could now continue on to share about the redemptive power of the resurrection, of the reality of baptismal regeneration, but if you read this blog, you know of these things. Instead I’d like to complete this post by reminding you that you have the power to save not only the children threatened by abortion, but the women who would be their mothers.
We need you.
We need you to show up at baby showers as often as you show up outside of clinics. We need you to invest as much time in volunteering at a PRC as you do watching TV during football season.
We need you to hire us (and our significant others) for jobs and invite us over for dinner.
The best ProLife action you can take is loving us like we’re your neighbor.
Because we are your neighbors. One of the 650,000 abortions which occurred last year involved someone you know, who was too ashamed and too afraid to tell you they made a mistake and were pregnant. Someone who’s being told that abortion is the best option by everyone around them: their peers, society, and maybe even clergy.
We need you before we make these terrible choices, and we need you afterwords to remind us that Jesus covers all sin, and forgiveness is an option for everyone. My retelling here may seem dispassionate but the reality is that I keep my emotions under wrap- if I don’t, the despair would overwhelm me. The only thing allowing me to walk around is the sure knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection and my forgiveness. Without Him, I would be lost.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with you. Please prayerfully consider becoming involved in changing lives, not only via ProLife ministries, but also by reaching out to those around you. Don’t underestimate the power of one person standing up for life.
If you would like to read more from Sarah St. Onge, you can find articles written by her on thefederalist.com. She also has her own website, shebringsjoy.com, where she writes about abortion and dealing with lethal prenatal diagnosis.