I Had an Abortion This Morning
It is January 22, the anniversary date of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.
Every year this date brings with it a mixed bag of emotions for me. I feel a need to recognize this anniversary date with appropriate soberness and introspection. And yet I feel the Lord must have wanted to lighten the burden of this day for me because he provided me with a special sign of his hope: Jan. 22 is also the birthday of my third child.
Part of my day is spent doing things like baking and decorating a birthday cake, chauffeuring the birthday boy to and from school instead of sending him off on the school bus, and going birthday gift shopping.
But part of my day is spent with abortion very much on my mind: I have pregnancy helpline duty tonight in my home, starting at 9:00 p.m., and continuing through the night until 8:30 the next morning. Typically, I don’t get many calls on my weekly late-night time slot. But mentally I must be prepared in case a call comes in.
It is 11:15 p.m. I am in bed, just starting to drift off to sleep when the phone rings next to my bed.
“Hello, may I help you,” I ask, instantly awake and alert.
“I was wondering if you could tell me how long it takes to recover after the procedure,” a soft-spoken young woman asks.
“Can you tell me what procedure you are asking about?” I question gently. I am expecting that she will tell me she means an abortion procedure, but I cannot assume that is what she means. If she is referring to an abortion procedure, it is important that she hear herself saying the words.
She answers, “An abortion.” I explain that every woman will recover at her own speed, depending on how the abortion went, and that the policy at most abortion clinics is that they ask their clients to return in two weeks for a check-up.
“What happens to the fetus?” She asks quickly, her voice soft and toneless. I explain that as the abortion is being done, the baby’s body parts, and other tissues, and liquids are collected in a jar. I can hear her beginning to cry softly, yet she doesn’t stop me.
There is more to tell. I explain that part of the tissue is sent to a pathology lab for examination. The rest of the remains are dealt with in accordance with city ordinances. I am aware that my voice betrays my respect for the dead: it is soft and tinged with sadness.
I tell her our city has an ordinance governing how fetal remains are disposed of. This is necessary, I explain, because in the past, some of the clinics were disposing of the babies’ bodies in dumpsters behind the clinics. At one site children were found playing in the alley with the dead babies’ bodies. Now, by ordinance, the babies must be delivered to a site to be incinerated.
“What’s that?” she asks.
“Burning,” I say. My answer brings more tears, but the crying is soft and controlled. She seems so concerned so much in touch with the reality of the end result of abortion. I hope to be able to spare her the pain she would certainly feel if she chose this legal option to continue a pregnancy. But I don’t know at this point whether she is pregnant.
And so I gently ask her, “Are you considering an abortion?”
“I had one this morning,” she answers. “I was wondering where my baby was.”
It is dark in the room but I close my eyes to the dull stab of pain I feel go through me grief-struck for this dead child and this already hurting mother.
She tells me her situation, her story. She speaks of the reasons she had the abortion: the absence of the baby’s father’s concern and support, fear that he would not have been a father to her child, and pressure from family members. But she offers these as explanations, not justifications.
“I feel like I took someone out of a safe, warm climate…I wouldn’t do it again if I could turn back the clock…I look at my three-year-old son and I wonder what gave me the right to take this baby’s life…How long will I feel this guilt?” she asks me.
Sadness overwhelms me. I pause to collect my thoughts for a reply. How can I tell her of the years of recovery ahead, of the pain in working through this experience, of her search for God’s forgiveness, and especially self-forgiveness?
I reply that I am not able to predict how long she will feel guilty, but that there is hope for her in dealing with this abortion because she is open to the reality of what actually happened she is not in denial.
I explain there are support groups for women who are trying to cope with the aftermath of abortion, and that women find it helpful to be able to talk to others who have had the same experience, who are trying to deal with their abortions.
“Have you ever had one?” she asks me.
“No,” I answer.
I encourage her to call back if she needs a referral to a post-abortion syndrome support group. She tells me she is feeling better. She had had a hard time falling asleep tonight, even though she drank about five cups of tea. I remind her that tea is high in caffeine. She laughs softly and says that coffee doesn’t keep her awake either. And besides, she assures me, tea comforts her. She thanks me for my time. We say good-night and hang up.
I get up to write some notes on this call. It is hard to concentrate. I feel I have just attended a private wake.
I get back into bed but am far from sleep. I mourn for this small, 12-week-old dead baby. I mourn for his mother, who told me about her seeing her baby moving about on an ultrasound screen five days before she had his life ended.
I pray she finds God’s forgiveness; that he would heal her of the memory she shared with me of feeling her baby moving inside her from one side to the other as the abortion procedure began.
My Lord, I ask, how can I be celebrating the birthday of a child one minute, and mourning the death of another child on his birthday hours later? How is it that I am grieving tonight with a mother who knows she is responsible for the death of her own child?
My tears stop for a moment as I listen to the grandfather clock striking midnight in the hallway downstairs. In a sense, it is an answer to my questions… For another year, the anniversary date of Roe v. Wade is over.
By Ellen Kuber
David’s Star Evangelical Lutheran Church, Jackson, WI
[Northwestern Lutheran, reprinted with permission]
April 15, 2018
May 3, 2018