In her 2021 memoir, Robin S. Hengel wrote about suffering post-abortion trauma for 17 years before she found healing.
Religious Judgement and Unplanned Pregnancy
Growing up, Hengel was very religious and says, “The church was quite literally my second home.” Her family was the first to arrive at church and the last to leave. But when her parents divorced, Christian friends ostracized her mother. She says, “I felt the sting of rejection firsthand from those ‘church people’ I had known as family all my life.”
She became pregnant during her junior year at Liberty University, finding out after she and her boyfriend had broken up. She went to her pastor for help. Instead of being supportive, she says he shamed her and said marrying her ex-boyfriend was her only option.
Hengel’s mother suggested abortion, but Hengel refused. However, she received nothing but judgment from fellow Christians. She dropped out of college to marry, and says, “My friends, some family, college, singing, my love of music, as well as my functional Christian status were all out of my life at one time.”
Hengel’s husband cheated on her before the baby was born. She struggled to make the marriage work, despite his multiple affairs and “abusive actions.” Eventually, he left her for another woman, and she had to raise two young sons alone.
Even though the divorce wasn’t her fault, Christians she knew judged and condemned her for her failed marriage. Ostracized even more than before, she left the church.
Pregnant with No Support
When she dated again and became pregnant, Hengel says, “I had nowhere to turn. I just did not want to hear all the hurtful comments from people… I could not go to church and tell anyone for fear of judgment… I was alone in this.”
She was extremely sick and missed so much work that she was afraid of being fired. The baby’s father offered little support, and she couldn’t imagine raising three children on her own, possibly with no job.
Reluctantly, she decided on an abortion.
Abortion workers told her she was pregnant with twins. She told the baby’s father, recounting:
His immediate reaction was to look down as he followed that up with the words I dreaded, “Well, whatever you want to do, I will try to be there. It is up to you.” He nervously paced, trying not to make eye contact…
I desperately needed him to say: Let’s get out of here. I’ve got you. We’ll make this work. I would have walked out and never looked back, but those words never came.
She says, “There was no mistaking his true feelings, but he would not take the responsibility of saying, ‘Have the abortion.’”
Hengel notes she was shown “little, if any, compassion” at the abortion facility. As she lay on the table, the abortionist told her she would feel a little tug, and then the abortion would be over.
Instead, she says, the abortion was “the worse [sic] pain I have ever felt. I can barely even describe it… It was not just a little tug… It felt as though my heart was being torn apart inside me.”
She recalls the way the other women looked after their abortions, saying, “[N]ot one of them had a look or even a glimmer of relief on her face; some sat with heads hung low, some wiping tears, while others looked almost zombie-like.”
Workers at the facility ushered her and the other women out the back door. Hengel believes this was so the women waiting “would not see the looks of anguish, numbness, and tear-filled eyes of those leaving the clinic after their procedure.”
The Painful Emotional Aftermath
Terrified others would find out about her abortion, Hengel isolated herself from everyone. She says, “I would never let anyone into my world for fear that they would see into my dark soul.”
Later, she had a second abortion. She says all her actions were aimed at punishing herself.
Hengel then dated an abusive man. Even though he beat and threatened her, she stayed with him, putting her sons at risk. She says, “Unfortunately, they became casualties of the war within me and often dealt with the fallout of my self-destructive ways. At times, I even felt they were better off without me in their lives. That is how strong the consequences of abortion will push you.”
She left and returned to this man several times, but finally left for good.
Finding Healing and Support
Hengel went back to Liberty University. She renewed her Christian faith, got married, and attended a post-abortion Bible study, where she found healing.
When she told her husband about her abortions, he surprised her by revealing he, too, was suffering from a past abortion. She says, “We held each other and wept.”
Her husband had a son named Isaac from a previous marriage with whom Hengel had never bonded. Hengel realized Isaac was the same age as her aborted babies would’ve been. She says, “I believe that subconsciously Isaac reminded me of what I was missing and those children who never got a chance to be what God had created them to be.”
She was able to work through these feelings, and she and Isaac are now close. She says, “Although at times I look at him and think of the children that might have been, I see the awesome blessing that God gave me in Isaac.”
Working in the Pro-Life Movement
Hengel volunteered at a pregnancy resource center, encouraging women to choose life, and led a post-abortion support group. She also shared her testimony and did sidewalk counseling at abortion facilities. She’s been mocked by pro-abortion escorts and heckled at the March for Life. But she continues to reach out and help other women.
As an experiment, Hengel went to several abortion facilities, told them she was suffering emotionally after her abortion, and asked for help. None of them had any resources to offer. At the Planned Parenthood where she had one of her abortions, she says one worker even became hostile.