Misti was raised a devout Christian. The daughter of a pastor and the granddaughter of missionaries, she grew up going to church. “In high school, I was really involved in church,” she said. “Right from there, I went to bible college in Canada for two years.” But after returning home from bible college, she realized that things weren’t the same.
“I started feeling like a visitor in my own church,” Misti explained. She was working at Disneyland, and it felt to her that the attitude was, if she wasn’t as involved now as she was in high school, then her former friends wouldn’t be close to her. So she stopped going, and for her, that was a major turning point.
She started spending time with her non-Christian friends. “I did what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was in my twenties, going out to clubs, I was doing my own thing. Church wasn’t even on my radar.” It was then that she met a guy who would become her boyfriend. At first, their relationship was good. His mother died when he was a child, and during their relationship, his father passed away as well. And straining the relationship more, his family blamed her because he was with her when his father died.
He stood up for her though, against the family members who spoke against her. But Misti still tried to do what she could to help his family, because they were struggling with money after the loss of both parents. “I think with that, the closeness that was created in his dad’s death, is what led me to losing my virginity to him,” she explained. “But not only did I lose my virginity to him, I also got pregnant. We were pretty sure that the day I lost my virginity is also the day I got pregnant — and we used protection.”
Misti was understandably stressed and upset, and was taking multiple pregnancy tests, which kept showing her the one thing that she didn’t want to see. Finally, she told her boyfriend that she thought she was pregnant, and instead of being supportive, he got upset.
Misti didn’t have any medical insurance at the time, and a friend told her she should go to Planned Parenthood, that they could help. “I asked him to go with me, and it was like a fight to get him to go,” she recalled. “He was like, I shouldn’t have to do this, this is your thing. But I made him go with me, because if this was a child, it was part of him, too. The whole time I had to wait for results in that lobby, he was awful to me, saying that he didn’t want to have anything to do with this.”
The results came back positive, and Misti lost it. Her boyfriend, who claimed to be a Christian, had nothing but unkind things to say. Things went from bad to worse. His family slammed her as a whore. He told her that if she had the baby, there wouldn’t be a father. He had family living overseas who had offered for him and his siblings to live with them, threatened to leave the country if she didn’t have an abortion, and that she would never be able to find him. She couldn’t go to her parents, either. “My dad had basically told me that if any of us kids ever got pregnant, he would disown us,” she said. “But he was also against abortion. I didn’t know what to do. I felt so alone.”
So she went back to Planned Parenthood, where they told her that they could help get her on Medicaid and get the abortion covered. They never mentioned other options. “Next thing I know, I’m filling out paperwork, making an appointment to have an abortion. I felt horrible, but it was just like, this is what I have to do, and I don’t have any other option. They planned everything.”
When she went for the appointment, her boyfriend knew, and didn’t offer any help. A friend took her in instead. They didn’t give her any other options. “They didn’t give me resources for adoption or to help keep the baby,” Misti explained. “It was pretty much like, it’ll be ok, and kept reassuring me that I was making the right decision.” They did an ultrasound, but when she asked to see the baby, they refused.
But when Misti was left alone in the room, she looked anyway. “I didn’t say anything about seeing the ultrasound,” she said. “I was so in at that point. There was not enough time to digest anything.” They whisked her into another room, where the abortion was performed. And it started setting in, what had happened.
There was a line-up of chairs in recovery, and you were just laying there on the chairs next to the other women who had abortions. She said, “I just cried. I sat there in a chair, and I cried, and no one seemed to give a crap. They told me that when I was ready, I could go out the back door.”
After she left, she called the father, but he told her that he was busy and didn’t want to be bothered with it. Misti realized that he didn’t care, and while she knew she hadn’t made the right decision, she still tried to convince herself that she did.
After that, things spiraled down further. “I had a total breakdown,” she said. “I went on medical leave from my job. I was at home on depression medication. The only way I got out of that was telling myself that I had to choose to be happy. I made this mistake, and now I have to live with it.” Misti thought for years, that things going wrong in her life was God punishing her for having the abortion.
Eventually, she decided to start trying to go back to church. After hearing about a particular church, she decided to try it when a girl she met offered to meet her out front, and they helped her get plugged into the church. After attending for a little while, during a service they offered a program called ‘Beauty for Ashes’. “I couldn’t believe in church that I was seeing this thing for those who have suffered, who have gone through abortion and suffered loss,” she said. “At that moment, I knew that I was meant to do this, that I needed to sign up for this. I had been broken for so long, and I never talked about it. If I ever did, I would always be bawling my eyes out.” So she went to the study, and that changed everything for her. “I received so much healing and forgiveness from that study – it was where I learned that I was not the only one.”
For years, it was hard for Misti to even drive by Planned Parenthood. She finally was able to face that fear, when they went to go serve by praying and making themselves available to anyone who was going in. The sidewalk ministry was not about picketing. They are just there for women, to let them know that they have options and resources, and that there are people that will care for them. Anything that they need or want to know, they will get it for them. “I think back to that day, and there was no one outside Planned Parenthood,” she said. “I didn’t know of any resources. Had those people been outside Planned Parenthood that day, I would have had a completely different life. I would have a child with me today. I would have had people to help me.”
Now, Misti wants to use her experience to help others. “I want them to know that there is hope,” she explained. “People look at us like, oh, they’re not doing anything. But it would have made a difference for me, I’m sure of it.” For Misti, having someone there to pray for her, to offer her other options and resources, would have let her know that she wasn’t by herself through this trial.
The picketing, though, she does not think helps. “You’re already upset, and something like that is just more upsetting, and it makes you want to turn away,” she said. “You just start trying to avoid it because you’re in denial. The most helpful thing is having people there who will help you, help you through options, help you find resources, having someone there with an outstretched hand who will help.” People may drive by a women’s help center a million times and never stop – but if they’re standing in front of Planned Parenthood, willing to help women who think they don’t have anyone and that there’s no help for them, it could make a difference. And Planned Parenthood certainly won’t be there to help women.
“I went through a major depression, and I was a mess afterwards, but did they help me?” Misti asked. “No, they were like here, we cleaned you out, be on your way.” There was no follow-up care, nothing to help afterwards. “They say they offer all these services, but they don’t,” she said. “If they’re going to offer abortions, they should also have to deal with the after-effects.” They were willing to help her kill her baby, but after that, she had to fend for herself.
Misti wants women to know that there are other options now. “Go to a women’s resource center that can really show you your options,” she urged. “When you feel like you have nobody else, there are these people who probably have already been through the same thing, but also have resources. Anything you need, they’re going to have it, and if they don’t, they’ll find you a center that does. I’m really grateful that there are more of these out there now.”