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 would ask. I used to ask that question at least once a week, but I haven’t asked anyone that in at least four years.
Four years ago, I saw a woman in a store and I knew that I recognized her. I could tell that she recognized me, too, 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, but she could not figure out where she had seen me before. As soon as she started talking, I knew. She had sat across from me at my desk at Planned Parenthood. I had talked her into getting an abortion. I remembered her story vividly. She was crying. I was reassuring her, 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. I finally pulled out the final 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 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 was now, once again, staring this young woman in the face. I had left Planned Parenthood. I was pro-life. I was sorry that I had done that to her. But what do I say now? I panicked and said, “Well, who knows? Maybe I will see you around again.” I rushed off, feeling ashamed.
I really hoped that would never happen again. But, it did. Several times. Each time, I would look into the woman’s eyes and walk the other way. How could I face these women? My sin was staring at me when I looked at them. I didn’t want to look at that sin. It was too real.
After a while, it happened less and less. We moved to a different town for my work and I rarely saw people that I recognized from the clinic. And even if I did, I was more confident now. I was okay 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 I healed, the easier it became.
About six months ago, I received an email that I wasn’t expecting. My confidence was shaken in just a few seconds. A young woman had come to my clinic when she was just 16. 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.
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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 was the cause of her pain. And while I read her email, I felt that pain. I also felt that shame that I hadn’t experienced in several years.
I probably read her email at least fifty times. Honestly, I thought about just deleting it…pretending that I hadn’t ever received it. But I knew I couldn’t do that. I had to respond. I had to apologize. After pondering about my response for two days, I finally sat down to write.
I took the blame. I apologized at least ten times in my first response. I didn’t make any excuses. I didn’t justify my words or actions. I just apologized, over and over again. And then I offered help. This young woman, who was now in her early twenties, needed healing. We have now had 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. And because of her honesty, I am a different person.
I recently 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, I can’t change the past. I can’t change the poor decisions that we have all made. But I can let you know 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. I have found freedom and healing from my past. You can find that freedom, too.
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