It was a abortion she never planned, didn’t want, and still regrets. Only now as she is beginning to heal, does Ashley* see the redemptive value of her story for others.
Ashley was a senior in high school when she got pregnant at Easter time: “While everyone was celebrating the resurrected life of Jesus that year, I should have been celebrating the new life that was developing within me,” Ashley says, but that wasn’t what happened at all.
Instead, Ashley found herself with a one-way ticket to an abortion facility, courtesy of her parents. She grew up in a mid-sized farming community in Iowa where she says, “my parents have some status in our community which probably played a part in the decision that was to be made by them.” Not even the baby’s father had a say because he never got to know Ashley was pregnant.
An abortion was the last option for Ashley, though. She explains:
I had already decided to have the baby and give it up for adoption. I knew that at the age of 18, I couldn’t provide a child with a happy, comfortable life that they deserved. I am adopted, and I believed it be an honor to give the gift of life to a deserving couple like my birth mom had given to my parents.
Ironically, her parents didn’t see it that way. She adds:
Once my mom and dad found out I was pregnant, that was no longer an option for me. They took me to the doctor to confirm that I was pregnant. At that time I heard the baby’s heartbeat. After that appointment, my mom quickly made an appointment with a clinic quite a distance away for me to have an abortion.
Hindsight is 20/20, people say, and Ashley says now, “I should have said no. I should have fought harder to save my baby’s life. I should have done my own thing. These thoughts still enter my mind to this day.”
But at age 18, she was a scared teenager. Her parents had told her that all the money they had saved for her college education would be taken from her if she didn’t have the abortion. Scared, trapped, and unsure of herself, a week later, Ashley and her parents took a three-and-a-half hour drive to an abortion facility in another region. Once there, she became a character in a surreal film. Ashley explains:
Once again, I heard the baby’s heartbeat. You can’t tell me I was just removing a blob of tissue. Blobs of tissue don’t have heartbeats. I was given a sedative and then laid down on a table. Above the table, there was a picture of a beach. The sedative didn’t help much and being distracted by the beach scene didn’t help much either as the machine slowly made my insides feel like they were coming undone. The sound of that machine was horrible, the suction of a vacuum.
After her baby had been sucked out of her, Ashley was placed in a room with other women: “Some were crying, some had a blank look in their eyes; I was just numb.” And that’s how she lived until she headed off to college a couple months later. She says, “I went off to college and immediately tried to escape what I had done in a lifestyle of drinking and drugs. I had murdered one of God’s children.”
It was the beginning of a self-destructive lifestyle that would continue until just recently. Ashley says, “This pattern of drinking and drug use has continued until recently, as I am just learning how to come to terms with what I did.” She also questioned the value of her own life because of her experience taking her child’s life. She adds, “I also struggled for several years with suicidal thoughts and actions. I had taken a life and believed mine was no longer worth living.”
Her turnaround came gradually, but Ashley says that God placed people along the way, leading her in steps:
All along, God had placed people in my path that gently spoke life into all areas of my existence — the drinking, drugs, suicidal thoughts, etc. Finally, God just broke through and let me realize that I had to come to Him and learn who I am in Him, or I would constantly be sucked back into what I thought the world could offer to solve my problems, which is absolutely nothing. I have a lot to learn and a lot of healing that needs to happen in all areas of life, but I am finally on the right track for that to happen.
Part of getting on the right track was finding a counselor. Ashley says, “I am now working with an excellent Biblically-based counselor who is teaching me about God’s grace and forgiveness. I still struggle with forgiving my parents. I hope one day I will.”
Even while she heals, other things remain as echoes in her heart: “I have issues with the sound of a vacuum cleaner to this day, which makes it very difficult to keep a clean floor.” She will never forget the sound, though it was 22 years ago: “I was 12 weeks along when I did what I did, but I believe my baby was a boy, and my son would have been 22 this year. I struggle pretty hard on the anniversary day of the abortion every year, although each year, the pain is getting less. I also struggle on what would have been his due date. I know he rests with Jesus in heaven, and I will see him one day.”
While it’s been a hard road to get to her place of healing today, Ashley has hope for those who are in similar situations. She says clearly:
I had to come to understand that what I did did not define who I was. I thought it did for a long time. But what it comes down to and what always will be, no matter what I have done: I am a daughter of God, and that is my identity. That is who I am choosing to learn how to walk as, not the labels that have been placed on me by past behaviors.
Ashley is yet another story of the love and redemption women can find post-abortion; she is also a face of what happens as the result of what so many tout as the right to choose — a mark of ‘freedom.’ Like many other post-abortive women, Ashley knows that abortion doesn’t make women free. But she is thankful to God for his forgiveness and for her freedom, which is coming more each day.
*Ashley is a pseudonym to protect the privacy of the woman who shared her story with the author.