It happens every January. The anniversary for Roe v. Wade approaches and my feed fills with abortion-related headlines. Given my various affiliations since Facebook’s founding, the content ranges from the vehemently pro-abortion to the vehemently pro-life. It affects me different ways each year. I often evaluate how God would have me steward my story of his grace; I wonder if he intends for me to join as a voice in the pro-life movement, to speak of the evils of abortion from experience. But each year, I haven’t engaged. I haven’t yet found my voice here.
But today, I want to speak to you, my sister in Christ who bears the invisible scars of abortion. I want to share a little more of my story, because I wonder if you feel the conflict too. And I wonder if you might be encouraged to know you’re not alone, that you’re not crazy, that there’s hope for the both of us.
It’s been 15 years since my abortion. Now I’m married to a wonderful man, we have three beautiful children, and I’ve got seven years of walking with Jesus under my belt. But, some days, I feel like I’m playing house. Some days, I’m 16 and laying in a sterile room, staring at an ultrasound screen, wishing I’d looked away, that oval forever etched into my memory. I have a life now that I never could have imagined, but some days, I’m 16 and running home while blood trickles down my legs. I’m staying home from high school hangouts pretending to be sick. I’m hiding, hoping no one will find out.
Some days, I wonder if I’m still hiding.
So when abortion takes the mainstage, I feel a little like I want to slink down in my seat. Does everyone see right through me? The scorn and judgment are palpable, even if they’re imagined.
In the past, I’ve never understood why it affects me this way. This is no longer a secret I keep. I’ve welcomed the opportunity to celebrate God’s rescuing grace, to use my example as Paul did to point to God’s abundant mercy for the chief of sinners (see 1 Tim. 1:15-17). I’ve experienced ever increasing measures of healing and freedom and yet there are days when the pain is as fresh as yesterday. It’s like an open wound, and the headlines like an unrelenting salt shaker. It’s frustrating to know what’s true, to believe that in Christ I’m forgiven, whole, and healed, and then still get caught in the haunting cycles of shame and regret.
Abortion as sin and trauma
Abortion is sin, plain and simple. It’s a grievous offense against a holy God, deserving of wrath and condemnation. Our only hope is to repent and believe the gospel. When we’ve done so, we must stand firm under the assurance of pardon: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). There is now no condemnation left for us (Romans 8:1).
We’ve believed this truth, and we must fight to continue to believe it in the face of our doubts and Satan’s accusations. This is the truth that sets us free, the only solution to our deepest problem: we can’t pay for our sin, but because of Christ, it’s been paid in full.
The thing is, though: abortion is sin, but it’s also trauma. Sin requires repentance; trauma requires healing.
Sin by definition devastates body and soul. Abortion takes a knife to our image-bearing nature as life-givers. And no one walks away from a knife fight without being at least a little mangled.
I wonder if we can be too quick to apply the truth of justification like a bandaid, hoping it will stop the bleeding. This truth is salve to our wounds, but does it reach a wound covered by layers of homemade bandages? Doesn’t it just end up infected?
I’ve been afraid to admit the shame that still so often haunts. Afraid to confess the memories. Afraid to consider the far-reaching implications of this sin from 15 years ago. Because, really, I should know better by now. I believe that Jesus has paid for my sin, that I’m his beloved daughter, that this sin doesn’t make me forever unclean. So when something triggers the pain, I’ve pressed down the doubt, sealing it with platitudes.
I’ve been limping around, covered in bandaids.
And while the bandaids were meant to assuage the pain, instead they kept it just beneath the surface, disguising the infection festering beneath. I couldn’t figure out why I always felt so angry. Why I struggled to feel nurturing towards my children. Why I flew so quickly to rage and activism in the face of perceived injustice.
Is this true for you, too? Maybe it looks differently. There are many ways unacknowledged pain bears fruit in our lives.
These issues aren’t solely the fruit of my abortion. The reality of my story and many others is that abortion is only one small piece in a large, broken puzzle. Sin’s destruction is vast and sometimes there’s no clear trail back to the source. Figuring it all out is not the point.
The point is this: we don’t have to be ashamed of our need for healing. Jesus didn’t despise those who needed healing, body and soul.
He gently asks, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6) And maybe we just have to respond, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
The process of healing
I can’t give you a formula for healing; it might look differently for you than for me. I can only invite you into the process and assure you that the God who’s given us Jesus has given us everything we need for life and godliness; he won’t abandon us now to figure out the rest on our own (see Romans 8:31-39, 2 Peter 1:3-4).
With the help of a biblical counselor, I’ve started welcoming the memories alongside the truth. I let them sit in my heart and mind, all messy and misunderstood. I ask Jesus to meet me there. I ask him to be my courage, to give me grace to face what I’ve feared, to know his presence and compassion. And here I find room to honestly grieve the effects of this sin in my life–my own sin and that done against me. I grieve the way my brokenness has crept into my marriage, my parenting, my relationships with others; the ways I’ve wounded others acting out of my own pain. I confess and repent of the sin it surfaces–not confessing the sin of the abortion over and over again hoping to pay penance, but seeing that there are more and more layers there: my misplaced hope, my arrogance, my fear of man.
And, faithful as he’s promised, God sends out his word to heal (Ps. 107:20). Scripture shines light on these places I’ve kept hidden in darkness. It convicts and assures, beckons and comforts. The truth of my justification is not a platitude but my deepest source of hope. The more God reveals my sinfulness, the more glorious the cross of Christ becomes, the more abundant his grace towards me, the more comforting the assurance of salvation. Here, I’m reminded that God is a compassionate Father (Ps. 103:13), that he is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18), that by Christ’s wounds, I am healed (Is. 53:5).
As I live nearer to my brokenness, I live more dependent on grace. I find courage to share these struggles with my husband and trusted members of my church community. Their compassion, kindness, and reminders of truth further Christ’s healing in my heart. When I hear the gospel preached and receive the Lord’s supper, I’m further assured of his forgiveness, and in this weekly means of grace he’s continually healing me.
This process hasn’t made the memories stop completely, but I’ve noticed they feel less haunting. I’ve noticed that I’m slower to condemn myself for them, and quicker to bring them to Jesus. I’ve noticed that they can be an occasion to marvel at grace, not to slink in my chair or yell at my kids.
Forgiven and healed
When Jesus forgives the sins of the sinful woman in Luke, he assures her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (7:50). This benediction is reminiscent of his encounter with blind Bartimaeus, who wanted only to see, but found the eyes of his heart opened as well: “Go your way; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52).
This parallel helps us see the connection: Jesus is the source of both forgiveness and healing.
Dear sisters, We don’t have to spend our lives as wounded women. But being healed doesn’t mean pretending the scars don’t exist. I pray we’ll have the courage to face them, to know the depths of freedom offered in the gospel. And I pray that as we do, we’ll help the church be a place where women like us can come out of hiding, that together we’d find both forgiveness and healing in Christ. We come to him needy; he gives abundantly.