Even though it happened 34 years ago, I vividly remember the day I learned I was pregnant for the first time. It was September 23, 1983, and it was my sixteenth birthday.
My stomach did somersaults as my mom and I waited for Dr. Gunther to reveal the results of my pregnancy test. I sat nervously on the edge of a leather-blue-padded exam table and Mom sat calmly on a cushioned chair next to the table where Dr. Gunther wrote notes in charts.
Dr. Gunther was a handsome man in his forties with soft-brown wavy hair. It was the first time I visited an OB-GYN, as I was only 16 years old. Overall, I was physically healthy and rarely went to the doctor.
Although Dr. Gunther seemed like a nice man, he made me anxious. He briefly stopped in the exam room to introduce himself to my mom and shook her hand. He turned toward me and gave me a nod. No hand-shake, just a head-style acknowledgement. Then he excused himself and said he would return shortly.
It felt odd to be sitting with my mom in what I considered an adult-only room. There was a poster hanging on the wall that showed fetal development with a belly at different stages of pregnancy. On Dr. Gunther’s writing table, there were pamphlets with headlines like “morning sickness” and “methods of birth control.”
Instead of hiding my eyes like I would during a scary movie scene, I couldn’t help but stare at instruments sitting on a metal tray next to me. Some tools looked medieval, and I didn’t want to know how Dr. Gunther used them. I also didn’t want to know what the metal holders at the bottom of the exam table were used for. Though I would soon find out.
Just when I was about to make small talk with my mom, Dr. Gunther returned. He took a seat on a backless round-rolling chair and wheeled closer to my mom. He said directly to her, “Laura is pregnant.” He shared this news as if I wasn’t in the room and this life changing test result only concerned my mother.
He then stated as a matter of fact that I had three options. One, have the baby and keep it. Two, have the baby and give it up for adoption. Or three, have an abortion.
Abortion was the choice made on my behalf. After all, I was just a kid with no legal rights. My mom knew what was best for me, so I reasoned.
A few days later I had an abortion. It was awful from the moment I stepped into a Planned Parenthood in Milwaukee, WI, 40 miles from home. Nothing good happened during that procedure and I would be negatively impacted for more than 20 years after.
After that dreadful day I spiraled out of control. I continued to be sexually active with no thought of getting pregnant again. My mind was numb and I couldn’t let myself feel anything for the loss I experienced through abortion.
I neglected a deep sorrow that lingered on and no one around me knew I was grieving. I didn’t even realize I was grieving. It would take years for me to understand that the fog I lived in was a direct reaction to my abortion.
Then I got pregnant again. I was seventeen and by the time my parents learned about this pregnancy; I almost reached my second trimester.
My parents were divorced and this second pregnancy was handled by my dad. I was sent to live with him three hours away to take care of my situation. Once again, abortion was the choice made on my behalf.
As my dad parked the car at a Planned Parenthood in Appleton, nearest to his home; I felt like I would vomit. Not from morning sickness, but from a flood of memoires. All at once, my abortion experience from the previous year came rushing into my head.
I begged my dad to not make me go through another abortion. Sternly, he said it was not up for debate. As we passed through the doors, my heart deflated and I almost stopped breathing. I tried to erase the memory of the procedure from my mind, but the Planned Parenthood employees and the environment within their walls made it impossible.
As if it was a year before, everything inside the Appleton facility was the same. It was a different location, but the same cold and eerie place. Just like last year, I heard zombie-like employees calling out the names of girls and women who were summoned to end the lives of their tiny babies behind the closed procedure room doors.
My second abortion differed from the first because I was farther along than the first time. The so-called doctor not only had to use a vacuum-like instrument, he also used a sharp instrument. He was not gentle, and the pain was unreal.
In strokes like that of a sporting fencer, he shot back and forth inside my body and then removed what he cut-up and placed all of it on a metal tray. My eyes darted at the clumps of tissue and fixated on what looked like a tiny arm and leg. I gulped and panicked. Tears ran down into my ears as the nurse stood to begin the clean-up.
Even though I asked the nurse about what I thought to be an arm and a leg in the clump of red-stained tissue, she brushed my desperate inquiry aside. Instead she stated I wasn’t supposed to see that and then took the metal tray to a side room and instructed me to get dressed.
I would spend the next 20-plus years trying to keep the image of my aborted baby out of my memory. Alcohol helped, and I drank more than enough to blot out the sadness and guilt my abortions made me feel. I drank excessively to forget about the emptiness I felt deep in my gut.
Depression took up camp in my head and often; I thought about ending my life. A couple times, I came close. I became isolated as well. I didn’t want to be around many people and found it hard to be the extrovert I once used to be.
When I was eighteen years old, I got pregnant again. When I told one of my best friends I was pregnant, she said, “obviously you can’t keep it, it will ruin your life.” She didn’t know about my other abortions, they were kept secret. So she couldn’t know the pain I had already suffered from having gone through such a procedure.
In defiance that was helped by being a legally-aged adult, I decided to keep my baby. I knew it was the only choice to make this time and one that I had a right to choose. The father could not be a part of this decision, so I started a new life on my own and prepared for my single-parent journey.
Not having a partner during this pregnancy was a challenging and lonely time. However, as every day inched closer to the due date, I knew God had a purpose for my struggles. I knew this because I could feel my baby growing inside my belly and this gave me hope.
On January 13, 1987 I gave birth to my daughter, and I knew my life was forever changed. It changed for the better and her birth set in motion a pathway that eventually led me to finding forgiveness for my reckless past. Though it would take so many years to get there.
When my daughter was two years old, I married her father and we became a family. In 1991, I gave birth to a son, and we became a family of four. I felt blessed, yet I also felt a deep sorrow.
Sadly, in the years that followed, I struggled with shame and guilt from my past. I suffered emotionally, physically and spiritually. My marriage was nearly ruined as I couldn’t come to grips with the loss I still felt from my abortions.
Eventually I learned to fully trust Jesus and accept His forgiveness. Once I did, I was able to forgive myself. Forgiveness is a powerful remedy for anyone suffering from regret, shame, and guilt. It is what saved my marriage and family from brokenness. I am confident forgiveness also saved my life.
Forgiveness allowed me to move on. It allowed me to not let my past define how God wants me to live each day I am blessed to have.
And God wants this for all women who suffer from the aftermath of abortion. Of course, the best decision is to not have one in the first place. However, we are not there as a nation yet. Relatively speaking, abortion is too easy and convenient.
Abortion is also a tough conversation to have in a public forum because it has been politicized, rather than being what it is. Abortion is a moral issue. It sits on the same level as cop killing and child abuse. Unfortunately, abortion doesn’t share the same legal considerations.
Somehow more women need to speak out about their abortion experiences. Unfortunately, most women who have suffered through an abortion are too ashamed to speak about their experience. This needs to change. Honest and frank testimony will give more credence in validating how destructive abortion is for women.
I can’t turn back time and undo the reckless behaviors that led to my teenage pregnancies. But I can share with those who are affected by abortion that there is healing and forgiveness. You can smile again and live in peace with your past.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones that searched and found forgiveness. But I know there are millions who have not. And for these women and their loved ones, I pray earnestly.
By Laura Eckert