Human Interest

She suppressed the truth of her abortions for years, but eventually grief overwhelmed her


In her memoir, post-abortive author Sandra L. Linley discusses her two abortions and the emotional trauma they caused her.

Linley was raised in a religious home and was taught that abortion was wrong. But as a young woman, she faced an unplanned pregnancy while living with a man she calls Raymond.

Linley didn’t want an abortion. But Raymond urged her to have one. Linley says:

I didn’t want to be pregnant, but I had no intentions of aborting my baby. When I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, he asked me to have an abortion. He told me everything was going to be alright, that this was the best thing to do and that we would have kids when the time was right…

Because I loved him so much, I didn’t argue about it; I agreed to abort our child.

She and Raymond never discussed the abortion again. The couple later married and Linley gave birth to a son, but the relationship ended in divorce.

Another unplanned pregnancy and a secret abortion

Linley later moved in with another man whom she calls Larry. Linley didn’t intend to have a long-term relationship with Larry, and he eventually moved out. Only then did she find out that she was pregnant again.

She briefly considered making an adoption plan. But she was afraid the child might come looking for her years later, and worried about problems that might cause. She says, “I was thinking of myself and didn’t want to be faced with that one day.”

Linley knew Larry would want the baby and would want to be involved in his son or daughter’s life. She says, “Larry would have never agreed to his child being adopted anyway. He didn’t have any children, but it wasn’t because he didn’t want any.”

Linley knew Larry would also never agree to an abortion. Therefore, she never told him she was pregnant. She arranged a secret abortion without his knowledge, never giving him a chance to influence the decision — and he never knew he’d lost his child.

Linley says that at the abortion facility, “I convinced myself that I really wasn’t carrying a life at eight weeks… I tried to come up with anything and everything to justify that what I was doing was the best option for me.”

A delayed emotional reaction

Linley felt relieved after the abortion and experienced no emotional trauma at first—but that would change. For over five years, she went about her life as normal. But then, the impact of the two abortions hit her. She says, “Approximately six years later, the impact of what I had done hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Linley’s experience shows that post-abortion trauma can be a delayed reaction, and negative feelings can surface later in life. Some women may not seem affected by an abortion initially, but experience intense feelings of grief, regret, loss, and guilt years later.

She later married again and had two other children, besides the son she already had. But her abortions continued to haunt her. From the outside, her life looked good — she had achieved her goals.

She says, “One might say I should be happy, everything has worked out as planned. Why should I regret the decisions I’ve made in my life? To this very day, I have had many sleepless nights, waking with the thought of what I did.”

Linley began thinking about her abortions frequently. She recalls waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a shadow on her bedroom wall, which resembled a person holding a baby. She continued seeing this shadow for months, experiencing a type of hallucination which caused her anxiety, trauma, and insomnia.

But after she stopped seeing the shadow, her emotional trauma didn’t go away.

It’s been nine years since Linley’s abortion, but her feelings of guilt and loss are still intense. She says, “Not only did I not give my child a chance at life, but I robbed my other children of their brother or sister, my parents of their grandchild, my brothers and sisters of their niece or nephew.”

Struggling with unanswered questions

She frequently wonders what her children would’ve been like:

Just thinking about the simple things I will never know has caused such inner turmoil: was it a boy or a girl? What kind of personality would he or she have had? What contributions would he or she have made to society?… [N]ow, I will never know what could have been.

Linley says she wonders if her children would have done great things if they had been born. She wonders if one of them would have found a cure for cancer or some other disease, become president, or become a missionary. Regardless of what achievements her children could have had, she would have been able to know and love them. All she’s left with now are unanswered questions.

Linley says:

Although sometimes I feel I’m not fit to live, I wear a happy face. But nobody knows what I’ve done or what I’m going through. I have been psychologically damaged by my choice and hear myself screaming on the inside.

Linley’s story is one more example of post-abortion trauma. Like many other post-abortive women, she struggles with unresolved feelings of loss, grief, and guilt.

Source: Sandra L Linley The Choices We Make (Lithonia, Georgia: Orman Press, 2004) 35-36, 30-31, 22, 31-32, 22

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