“We’re married in God’s eyes.” That was the line Donna’s boyfriend, Doug, used to convince her that sleeping together was compatible with her Christian convictions of purity. After all, they were already discussing getting married in less than a year, as soon as high school was finished and Donna turned 18. At the time, it made sense.
While Donna had been raised in the church, and even taught a pre-school Sunday school class, true Christianity was neither taught nor modeled in her home, leaving her with little guidance in applying the faith she clung to. Despite the fact that her mother was the church organist, and her father a deacon, her home life was abusive, and the only remnant of faith her parents portrayed was a rote prayer before mealtimes.
After only a few times of intimacy, Donna left town for few weeks to go on a summer mission trip and, while there, spoke with one of the leaders about her relationship with Doug and the idea of being married “in God’s eyes.” God worked on Donna’s heart in those weeks, and through the gracious counsel of her leader, she began to realize that Satan had gotten a foothold in her life and that she would need to take serious steps to make a change. She confessed her sin and, immediately upon returning home, told Doug of her decision to stop intimacy until they were married. He didn’t agree. On a trip to Cedar Pointe, Donna was raped by the boyfriend she intended to marry.
After that, she was careful to never be around Doug alone again, but it was too late – she had become pregnant as a result of that day. Roe v. Wade was four years old at this point, giving her a real “choice,” but for Donna, abortion wasn’t even an option – she had always loved children, and she found herself actually excited about the tiny child growing inside her. One of Donna’s sisters had been born when she was 11, and Donna knew from caring for her sister, even in the middle of the night, that raising a newborn was a massive undertaking. Yet the thought of a tiny babe to love and hold was a joyful one.
Adoption was the most common result for young girls pregnant out of wedlock, but Donna’s boyfriend told her they would, indeed, get married and raise the baby together. His parents owned several rental properties and agreed to let the couple live in one of the houses for a reduced rate. Donna planned on doing in-home childcare to help make ends meet, while Doug already had a job at a nearby gas station and was set to graduate high school in just one semester. And then Donna’s parents found out.
Her father never said a word, but Donna’s mother reported his anger and her own. They were business leaders in the community, not to mention well-known at the church – if word got out that one of their daughters was pregnant, business would surely suffer. Without Donna knowing, they spoke to the family doctor, who told them where to take her to have an abortion, and Donna’s mother and sister brought her to the clinic just a few days later. She had to have an abortion, her parents had decided.
She knew Scripture said for children to obey their parents, and she had nowhere to go to ask how that would fit into this sort of situation. Crisis pregnancy clinics were still in their infancy, and she had never even heard of such a thing. Torn between what she believed Scripture taught and her love for the little one inside, she kept quiet at the clinic – at first.
Because she was a minor, her parents consented on her behalf, and Donna was never asked. In fact, she was told almost nothing, and nothing was communicated to her, except that they would remove the “tissue.” That, and forging the due date on the paperwork – Donna was 13 weeks pregnant, but, unbeknownst to her, abortion wasn’t legal at 13 weeks yet, so the clinic worker wrote down that she was 11 weeks. She then gave her a gown and led her away from her mother and sister, into the procedure room.
It was there that Donna told the nurses she didn’t want an abortion – she wanted to go home. The long-touted “woman’s choice” was thrown away, and the nurse informed her there was nothing she could do about it – her parents consented, and since she was a minor, it was completely up to them. The doctor performed an abortion with hardly a word while the nurse held Donna’s hand and tried to comfort her as she screamed, crying that she wanted her baby.
Donna’s mother and sister, who could hear her screaming from the waiting room, were prevented from going to their daughter and sister by the clinic security. And then it was over. After a few hours in recovery, Donna was released to go home, vomiting on the clinic steps as she left. Empty – nothing but the knowledge that her precious baby was a little boy. The nurse showed enough compassion to tell her that much.
Tears came often for the next year, as she did everything she could to atone for her mistake, wishing she had been strong enough to avoid agreeing to intimacy in the first place, and mourning the loss of her son. She left Doug about a year later, when she found out he had been sleeping with other girls and had fathered a second baby by one of them. Depression had always been a struggle in Donna’s life, and it was compounded greatly by the loss of her son. Anger as well became a coping mechanism, and while Donna later married a godly man and had four beautiful children, despite difficulty conceiving due to the abortion, the anger at God, her parents, her boyfriend, and those involved in the procedure continued well into what was otherwise a very blessed marriage.
It wasn’t until Donna attended a Bible study at the local crisis pregnancy center called “Forgiven and Set Free,” and received counseling from her pastor, that she began to truly believe and cling to the promises of redemption and forgiveness laced throughout Scripture. “It wasn’t just me who sinned,” Donna recalls finally understanding, “Everyone has, but Christ paid the penalty for my sin and my sin is removed from me.” Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, and Psalm 103:12 became beautiful truths that she clung to and finally grasped as her own – promises even for her.
As Donna moved through the grieving and healing process, she named her little boy “Doug” and wrote a letter to the son she would never meet on Earth. A small memorial service was held for her tiny baby and a Precious Moments figurine kept in his memory. Gradually, healing and closure began, and slowly, redemption came from what was stolen.
Donna began to share her testimony of hope and redemption to other women and men, and she helped restore and rejuvenate a ministry for post-abortive women at the local crisis pregnancy center when former leaders moved away. Eventually, she co-wrote a Bible study book with another woman, Heidi Heystek, called “Abortion Recovery for Teens and Twenties,” aimed at helping younger women deal with their abortions. “Most women wait 20 or more years to deal with their abortion, and many lead very destructive lives up to that point,” Donna explains. “Our prayer is that younger women will find healing so they can become the women God desires of them.”
Restoration with most of Donna’s family came, too – twenty years after the abortion, Donna’s mother finally apologized for forcing her to have the procedure. Donna has also been able to extend the grace of her Savior to her oldest sister as well, who struggled with her own guilt over not stepping in and supporting Donna instead of helping push for an abortion. Other family members who became aware of Donna’s testimony have referred their own friends to her for counseling and help, and after many years, she was even able to find the father of her little boy, and share God’s forgiveness and redemption with him as well.
What counsel does Donna give to women facing this ultimate decision? “They need to know that they will grieve the loss of their child. It doesn’t matter how pro-choice they are and how much they wanted the abortion; they will still grieve the loss. And 95% of couples break up after an abortion, so if they are having an abortion to try to keep their man, it likely will have the opposite effect.” For women contemplating abortion, she believes that ultrasounds are perhaps the most powerful tool, as seeing and hearing their babies move helps women connect with and treasure the little life growing inside them. Encouraging post-abortive women to be open about their abortions is also key: “I wish each woman considering an abortion could talk to someone who had made that choice and can testify to all the consequences that come with it.”
She also urges those active in the pro-life ministry to remember the fathers involved, having seen firsthand how many grieve the loss of a child they are powerless to save. There are many, many victims when abortion is the choice.
Most of all, Donna encourages friends and family to share the truth of God’s love and forgiveness with women contemplating, or suffering from, an abortion. Promises of hope, and redemption, and forgiveness. Promises even for her.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”