I used to have a standard line that I would ask people if I thought I recognized them, “Do I look familiar to you?”. I asked that question once a week, at least. It’s been four years since I have asked that question to anyone.
Four years ago, there was a woman in a store I recognized. I could tell that she recognized me as well, because every time we would pass each other she would give me a little smile.
Finally, I just asked, “Do I look familiar to you?”
She started laughing and said that I did look familiar, but she could not figure out where she had seen me before. As soon as she started talking, it hit me. She sat across from me at my desk at Planned Parenthood. I convinced her to get an abortion. I remembered her story vividly. She was crying. I was reassuring her by saying things like, “Just because a decision makes us cry, doesn’t mean it’s not the right decision.”
I remember that I was trying to get her out of my office. We had been talking for at least 45 minutes and that was way over my 15 minute maximum for “counseling.” I knew I must have a stack of charts waiting in my box outside. Finally, I pulled out the last card to hurry this thing along. I told her, “If you don’t have the abortion today, you won’t be able to come back to us for at least a week and it will be more expensive. You don’t want that, do you?”
Reluctantly, she said that she was ready to go back for the abortion. Good. My job was done. Every line was signed and every box was checked.
I was now, once again, staring this young woman in the face. I had left Planned Parenthood. I was pro-life. I was sorry for what I had done to her, but what do I say now? I panicked and said, “Well, who knows? Maybe I will see you around again.” Then, I rushed off, feeling ashamed.
I really hoped that would never happen again. However, it did. It happened several times. Each time, I would look into the woman’s eyes and walk the other way. How could I face these women? My sins were staring back at me when I looked at them. I didn’t want to see it. It was too real.
As time progressed, these encounters occurred less often. We moved to a different town for my work and I rarely ran into anyone that I recognized from the clinic. Even if I did, I had more confidence to deal with it as it arose. I was more comfortable than before to tell them who I was and how I knew them. I was now quick to apologize for my part in their abortion. The more healing I experienced, the easier it became.
About six months ago, I received an email that I wasn’t expecting. In those few seconds my confidence was shaken. A young woman had come to my clinic when she was just 16 years old. Admittedly, I did not remember her. She told me her story through a message and I was heartbroken for her. She had gotten hooked on drugs, dealt with very serious depression, and even attempted suicide after her abortion.
She blamed me. “You told me I would feel fine after my abortion,” she said. I told her she wouldn’t have any regrets, but she did. She told me that I caused her pain. While I read her email, I felt that pain. I also felt that shame that I hadn’t experienced in several years.
I think I read her email at least 50 times. Honestly, I thought about just deleting it, pretending I had never received it, but I knew I couldn’t do that. I had to respond. I had to apologize. After two days of discerning my response, I finally sat down to write.
I accepted the blame. I apologized at least 10 times in my first response. I didn’t try to make any excuses. I didn’t try to justify my words or actions. I just apologized, over and over again. After that, I offered help. This young woman, now in her early 20's, needed healing. We have now exchanged several conversations through email and phone. I was able to get her connected to a post-abortive healing ministry in her area. She is a different person. Due to her honesty, I am a different person.
Recently, I asked a few former abortion clinic workers a question, “If you could go back and say something to a woman who had an abortion in your clinic, what would you say?” The responses were somewhat varied, but all had the same theme. They would tell these women that they were sorry. They would apologize for lying, for misleading them.
So, here is that apology to any post-abortive woman reading this right now. I am sorry. I am sorry that we did not tell you the truth about abortion. I am sorry that you were deceived by people who you thought you could trust. I am sorry that we didn’t listen to you when you cried in our offices. I’m sorry that you were treated like a number and not the beautiful person that you are. I’m sorry for the pain you felt. I’m sorry for any regret that you felt or continue to feel because of our dishonesty.
As much as I wish I could change the past, I’m not able to. I can’t change the poor decisions that we have all made, but I can tell you that there are many of us who care about your healing. You don’t have to live with regret, pain, and shame.
If you haven’t yet, please take that first step and find help. Call your local pro-life group and ask about resources in your area. The Catholic Church offers resources as well. Receiving the sacrament of reconciliation is a physical and spiritual healing that comes directly from Jesus. I have found freedom and healing from my past. You can find that freedom, too.
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