In 1989, a terrified pregnant 17-year-old girl sat on an examining table at an abortion clinic, asking over and over to be allowed to see her dad, who had driven her there that day. Over and over again, the abortion workers refused. This was best, they said. A familiar refrain – Jacquie’s dad had said the same thing, and so had his girlfriend. So had her mom, the baby’s father, and his mother, too. “You don’t really want a baby.” “You would have to get married, and you know you don’t want to be married right now.” No one even discussed other options – they didn’t really exist. “This is best.” Yet that day, abortion workers finally relented to Jacquie’s pleas, and she told her father she wanted to go home. That day, Jacquie and the little life growing inside left the clinic, still whole.
Back home, though, there was no one to turn to, and no support. Her parents had divorced just over a year earlier, and her mom and sisters moved half an hour away. Jacquie lived with her dad, but he was almost always gone at work, playing in his band, or with his girlfriend, and loneliness was pretty much all there was to be found at home. Her boyfriend of two and a half years had no desire for the baby, and he told her to “get rid of it” when she revealed the pregnancy. Friends at school slept around continually and had no use for pregnancy or little ones. Not long after she had walked away from the clinic, Jacquie found herself back inside, convinced by her boyfriend to return, and this time, she would leave with a wound that would never fully heal.
“It was the worst day of my life,” she would later write – “horrifying.” She remembers very little – not a single doctor or nurse. Just the excruciating cramps that followed the abortion, the noise of the suction machine, and the sight of uterine contents flushing through the tube. The quick and easy fix that was promised became the beginning of a downward spiral into cheating on her boyfriend, partying, and promiscuity. “I didn’t like myself,” Jacquie recalls.
That could be the end, except for a Savior who gives beauty for ashes. A Savior whom Jacquie encountered nearly a decade later, offering the forgiveness and healing that had so long eluded her. In 1998, while seeking counseling during a difficult marriage, Jacquie met Jesus Christ, who transformed the once-terrified, ashamed teenager into a vibrant woman passionate for life and truth. “I have found so much healing,” she shared recently; “I am no longer hiding behind it. I know Christ loves me, and wants me to help others make better choices and heal through Him.”
The road to healing is never simple or easy, but several things helped – a women’s retreat at church in 2005, where a pastor’s wife shared her testimony of healing from abortion and opened a floodgate for Jacquie. This woman’s testimony was a catalyst for taking specific, and often painful, steps to better restoration. Praying was key, but so was taking a class at the local crisis pregnancy center and using the book Surrendering the Secret, which Jacquie highly recommends for anyone healing from an abortion. That, and telling others, “The more you are open, the less Satan can keep you feeling ashamed.”
Today, Jacquie is married to a godly husband and has three beautiful children. She speaks openly with her oldest daughter, now a teenager, about her abortion, and she uses every opportunity to reach the young women around her, even through simple means like taking her daughter and a friend to see October Baby, and using the movie as a catalyst to talk to the girls about the gift of life. She shares her testimony wherever possible, and she prays for God to open more doors. She is also preparing to begin advocacy training with the local crisis pregnancy clinic, and she prays for God to bring young women to her when they are in crisis.
Jacquie’s experience gives fellow pro-life advocates a glimpse not only into how to love women who have suffered from abortion, but also into reaching women in crisis. While there was no support for Jacquie as a teenager, she is adamant that if she had received even one person’s encouragement to keep her baby, it would have made all the difference for her – just one voice. Being shown that she was carrying a life would also have changed her decision.
No information was available on what a pregnancy really “was,” and Planned Parenthood, of course, insisted that nothing but tissue was being destroyed. Ultrasound ministry is another avenue Jacquie is passionate about – it wasn’t available when she was faced with her decision, and having now seen ultrasounds performed, she knows that it would have communicated powerfully with her. And despite the healing and restoration, she also wants women faced with this decision to know that “it will hurt emotionally forever. The pain never goes away.” Wounds heal, but scars remain.
And for women who have already made this choice? “I would ask them if they know Christ. He is where they will find their peace.” The peace that can take the pain and shame of a teenage girl and transform it into joy and passion, and turn the wounds of a young woman into a powerful testimony for restoration and life. Beauty for ashes.
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. . .to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” – Isaiah 61:1-3