August 14, 2015 (Savethe1) — At the age of 16, just a few days before my 17th birthday, I went on my very first date. I was thrilled. He played football and was popular. We ate and saw a movie. I still had some time left before my curfew, so we drove around our rural area for a little while. We went to some of his family's property and walked around looking at horses. My first date, which seemed like a total dream, soon turned into a nightmare when he forcibly raped me in a barn.
I didn't tell anyone initially; after all, he threatened me immediately after, telling me that I would live to regret it if I told anyone, that he’d make my life miserable, and that nobody would believe me. A couple of weeks later, I told a friend. After talking with a few people, and finding out that he had already been spreading his version of what happened that night, no one believed me. People who I trusted and loved and who should have supported me did not. I began to just deny the whole thing and started trying to block it from my memory.
I didn’t think a lot about the possibility of being pregnant because I had a distorted view that because it was rape, then it was somehow less likely I’d become pregnant. It wasn’t until I started having symptoms that I began to realize I might be pregnant. I drove to a different town by myself to buy a pregnancy test kit, doing the test in the gas station bathroom so no one in my hometown would ever know. Before I took the test, I had kind of already thought ahead of what I would do if it came back positive, and so, I had the name of a pregnancy center with their phone number because I thought they were an abortion clinic. I felt extremely scared and angry there all alone in the gas station restroom. I was angry at God, asking “How could you allow me to raped?” I was angry at myself for putting myself in a position to allow this to happen.
From a pay phone, I called the pregnancy center and they said I could come in right then, which I did. It was about an hour drive for me. I trusted no one at this point and chose not to tell any friends or family. I felt like this would only confirm what people were already saying about me “making up the rape.” I went to the crisis pregnancy center because I thought it was an abortion clinic, hoping to get one that day.
They were so nice to me and told me everything I already knew about the life inside me. I didn’t feel like I was judged by them at all. They only had certain days of the week that they did ultrasounds, and I would have had to return two days later to get one. Crying, I told them I was so scared and couldn't handle facing people with the pregnancy, and that I was still going to go to an abortion clinic when I left there. The counselors told me that even if I did go through with an abortion, that I was still welcome to come back there and talk to them about it. To this day, 17 years later, I still have a relationship with one of those counselors.
Scared out of my mind of facing ridicule, having to address the rumors the rapist was already spreading, already overwhelmed from my reputation being slandered, I drove to an abortion clinic that same day. It was the opposite of the pregnancy center, which was warm and inviting, even though it still had the feel of a medical office. But the abortion clinic was cold and sterile. There were others in the waiting room, but no one would look at each other or acknowledge each other’s presence in any way. There was no privacy speaking to the receptionist, telling her why I was there. She said they could see me, but I’d have to make an appointment to come back to get the procedure done the next day. I told her I couldn’t skip school another day, so she said they would take me right away.
There was no waiting and no questions. All they cared about was that I had the money to pay. They didn't even care that I was by myself. It was the absolute worst experience of my life — even worse than the rape. I kept telling myself that it was going to be okay, that I was raped, so this was justified, and I would get through this. I didn’t believe any of it, so I just kept saying it to myself over and over again. I told God that it was all his fault, and I was just so angry in the moment. But I knew that there was a baby inside of me. I knew that life begins at conception, but in my 17-year-old mind, I just wasn’t making the connection.
The abortion clinic estimated I was between 14 to 16 weeks pregnant, so they used ultrasound during the procedure. The screen was turned so I couldn’t see it. I don’t know if it malfunctioned, or if the nurse made a mistake, but I heard my baby’s heartbeat, and that was when the connection finally happened. I told the doctor that I wanted him to stop, but he said it was already too far along to stop. I was out of it because they’d given me a Valium to relax. The nurses helped me to get cleaned up and to get dressed. They were rushing me because they needed the space. I wasn’t ready to move or to go anywhere, but they didn’t care about hurting me or that I was upset. They didn’t offer to walk me out to my car, or even ask if anyone was there to drive me.
I sat in my car in pain and crying for two hours before I could even think about driving home. I really shouldn’t have been driving at all that day. The problem had been taken care of according to society, and I should have been relieved and ready to go on about my life, but relief was the farthest thing from what I felt. I remember having a dialogue myself, like a good vs. evil talk, first telling myself, “You did what you had to do. Did you really have any other choice? Most people would understand what you just did.” But then I’d tell myself, “You know that was a baby. How could you do that? You’re a horrible person.” I thought, I must not really be a Christian.
For many years, I did anything I could to numb my pain. I barely remember college because I drank all the time. I also struggled with an eating disorder and honestly don't know how I survived, but by the grace of God. I was attending church this whole time, but part of me just felt dead and I still really questioned, “How could God love me? How could He ever forgive me for killing my baby?”
With lots of counseling, I stopped drinking and I curtailed the eating disorder. We focused on the rape for a certain period of time and worked through that, which was helpful, but we hardly ever touched on the abortion. My therapist even told me, “You really did what you need to do in that situation because you were raped.”
I met a Christian guy through church, and we abstained from sex until our wedding night. I felt like I’d have enough garbage in my life and I wanted to do things right and honor God. But as time went on, I still suffered from depression and struggled with the eating disorder.
I’d always felt that because of the experience I had when I went to the pregnancy resource center, I knew that later in my life, I wanted to be involved in this kind of ministry. We had just had Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at my church, and I told my pastor that the nearest center was about an hour away and that there’s a huge need for a center in our area. He felt God had given me a vision, and encouraged me to start a local center. So I got people together and we began to plan the opening of a pregnancy resource center. During that process, I heard of post-abortion ministry for the very first time by visiting other centers and learning what services are offered. I dove into reading about post-abortion syndrome, and I realized that this was my big issue, and that’s why I’ve suffered so much. It just all clicked.
So a couple of years ago, I went through a post abortion bible study, finally understanding and accepting God’s forgiveness and grace. I’ve finally overcome the eating disorder. I still get depressed at times, but it’s manageable and no longer dictates my life. I’ve now started a post-abortion ministry through our local pregnancy resource center and I’m guiding other women through the healing process.
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I'm here to tell you that abortion is never the answer. It will only cause an already painful and difficult situation to be even more hurtful. During my abortion procedure I was terrified. I kept asking questions about what was about to happen and no one seemed to want to answer me. Looking back, I think they wanted to hurry up before I had a chance to change my mind. For many years after, I would have terrible anxiety and even panic attacks at times any time I heard anything that remotely sounded like a heartbeat. For a long time I didn't know that's what I was reacting to and it wasn't until many years later when my husband and I were expecting our first child together that I connected the anxiety to certain sounds.
I lived in my own private hell until I went through the post abortion Bible study and found healing. The pain I felt all those years literally felt like it would kill me at times. I was very depressed. There were times I cut myself thinking that it would release some of the pain I felt on the inside. There were many times I thought about ending my life and a couple of times I came close to trying. I honestly thought my eating disorder would eventually kill me and that actually became my intention with those behaviors. I felt like I deserved to suffer and not live any resemblance of a happy life because of what I did.
I want people to hear my story. As hard as it is to tell, it needs to be told. Something terrible happened to me on that date that night. Then I was betrayed by the people closest to me. All of that was extremely painful, but it doesn't come close to comparing to the pain, the guilt, the shame, the remorse, or the self hatred I heaped and Satan heaped upon me in the years following the abortion. I thought at the time that I was justified in what I was doing because I didn't choose to be in that situation — I was pregnant by rape. I knew there was life inside me but I thought it wouldn't matter because of how that life got there. I've never been more wrong about something. Aborting a baby that's the result of a rape doesn't affect the woman any differently than under any other circumstance. I've talked with many post-abortive women over the years through working with a local pregnancy center and what I've learned is that we all share the same pain. It's absolutely no different. The end result is still the same.
My prayer is that through me telling my story, more rape victims will speak out about theirs as well, so that we can put a stop to rape being an excuse for keeping abortion legal. I love and grieve for that baby's life, just like I would for either of my other children. I think about every day how old she would be and what she would be like. I don't know if I would have raised her or placed her for adoption, but it's terribly unfair that she never got a chance at life. Even though her life was cut short as a result of the abortion, that didn’t stop her life from having meaning and purpose, and through me telling our story, I’m ensuring her life was not in vain and that she will be remembered.
Tammy is a wife, mother of 2, post-abortive ministry coordinator, serving on the board of a pregnancy resource center, and is now a pro-life blogger for Save the 1. Reprinted with permission from Save the 1.