Author and speaker Kristan Gray wrote about the trauma she experienced after having an abortion as a teenager. Although she’s experienced healing, she still says, “It’s been over thirty years since I had the abortion and eleven thousand days that I have lived with regret over my decision.”
Pressure and Fear of Church Members Finding Out
Gray was 16 when she became pregnant and had the abortion on her 17th birthday. She and her boyfriend, Brock, both came from Christian families who were heavily involved in the church, and Gray was very religious. Brock’s parents, particularly his mother, were church leaders.
When Brock found out that Gray was pregnant, he immediately began pressuring her to abort the baby. He said her pregnancy would make them and their families outcasts in the church and would shame his parents. Gray recalls:
I argued with him that it was a baby and how could we kill the very life we had created? He debated back with “scientific” and “medical” phrases that swapped the label of “baby” to “fetus.” He went on to reason that it was OK to abort “it,” because “it” was just a “mass.”…
I understood that a baby was not a cancer to be cut out, but he was telling me that at six weeks “old,” the “fetus” was a “mass.”
According to Gray, Brock “pressured me until I gave in.” She says:
I believed that all my family members would have been so disappointed in me for getting pregnant before I was married, and I just couldn’t bring myself to tell them… How could I shame my boyfriend’s family? How could I shame my own family?
According to a survey of post-abortive women sponsored by CareNet, 43% were attending a church at least monthly at the time of their (or one of their) abortions.
A Traumatic, Secret Abortion
Gray and Brock kept the pregnancy a secret from everyone. Brock picked Gray up at school first thing in the morning and took her to the abortion facility.
Gray recalls that the abortion workers acted “like I was at their window to order an assembly line burger….” She describes herself as being like “a sheep being prepared for slaughter.”
During her abortion, Gray saw her aborted baby.
She doesn’t go into detail about how this happened or describe exactly what she saw, but she says it was something that “no one should ever, in any way, see. Not even doctors or nurses themselves should see what was in that room.”
She calls her abortion experience “the worst horror I’d ever experienced in my life.”
As Brock drove her home, Gray put her hand on the door handle and thought about jumping from the car. She wanted to die. She says, “[W]hat a temptation it was! If only I could just be gone in the blink of an eye and wake up in heaven with the baby I’d left in pieces back at the clinic.”
A Mother Finds Out Too Late
In the following days, Gray continued to struggle with suicidal feelings. Gray’s mother could tell something was wrong. She confronted Gray and asked her what it was that was bothering her so much. When Gray told her mother about the abortion, it devastated her. Gray says:
Her face opened wide with shock, and she hurled herself back hard onto my bed, flailing her arms and feet around, pounding my bed with her fists, and screaming, “NO! NO! NO! NO!”
She wailed a dreadfully awful cry that I had so longed to let loose from my own heart. It sounded pathetic and deep like it came from the inside of her very bones…
I know now that her cries were out of sheer agony. My mother hurt for me, and the outrageous and emotional news absolutely overtook her – spirit, soul, and body.
Brock’s parents learned about the abortion as well after his mother discovered a receipt from the abortion facility while doing laundry. The very people Gray had most wanted to keep her pregnancy a secret from now knew about her abortion.
Further Trauma and No Help from Adults
Brock went off to college, and they broke up. Shortly after, Gray became a victim of date rape.
Struggling to cope with both the rape and abortion, Gray continued to struggle with suicidal feelings. She says she made “a few private attempts” to kill herself.
The rape was extremely traumatic, but it was the abortion that Gray thought she needed help coping with. She made an appointment to talk to the school counselor. When they met, she told him about the abortion and asked for his help.
She’d hoped the counselor would help her. Instead, she recounts, he just told her she would be fine. He didn’t offer to meet with her again or provide any referral to mental health care.
Gray says, “That was the whole extent of the ‘counseling session’ that I had initiated and so eagerly waited for in hopes of coming away with relief. It would have been more effective if I had taken an Alka-Seltzer.”
Gray turned to alcohol to cope and developed an eating disorder. She says, “Just when I felt like I was forgetting about what had happened, I’d notice another baby in a store or on television or someone would talk about something that would trigger the memory of what had happened.”
Taking Steps Toward Healing
Gray attended a religious college, and through her faith, prayer, and studying the Bible, she began to heal. As she worked through her past, she said that forgiving her rapist was easier than forgiving herself for the abortion. She says, “Choosing to forgive myself was a difficult and weighty task…”
She now says:
There is little social support for women who find abortion a stressful experience. There is no validation for her grief and anger. From pro-choice groups, she may be told, “It’s your body, and it was your decision. It was just a piece of tissue, and there is no reason to feel bad.”