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January 8, 2018 (Save The 1) – Just touch one, Lord. . . .  My repeated prayer ever since I first told my story almost twenty years ago has been the same — for the Lord to somehow use my saga of shame and regret to help someone else.  He's always answered.  The first time I shared my testimony publicly, a woman came up to me afterwards and said, “Thank you for sharing.  My mother forced me to have an abortion when I was sixteen.  I have always felt it was wrong.  You're the first person to validate what I've always known.”  But, my favorite answer to that simple prayer lies in the story I'm about to tell.

First, let me tell you my own journey.  I grew up in a Christian home.  As a teenager, I remember my father telling me, “Abortion is wrong.  I'm pro-life except in cases of rape or to save the life of the mother.  As with most of my father's opinions, I took his and made it my own.

A short time later, my biology teacher told the class to write a birth plan for an unplanned pregnancy, and I refused:  “If I never get pregnant, there won't be an unplanned pregnancy.  Abstinence works 100% of the time.”  I never contemplated at age 15 that just a few years later, my “plan” would be tested — and I'd learn the hard way that this “plan” fell way short of preparing me for reality. . . .

I met him on an airplane while traveling home for Christmas.  He offered to get down my overhead luggage for me, and then refused to give me my suitcase.  As I followed him off the plane, still asking for my suitcase, he said, “I'd like to carry it a while longer, if that's okay.  Would you like to get something to drink?”  Surprisingly, I decided I liked him, and agreed to give him my phone number. 

When he called a couple of weeks later, I invited him to church instead of going for a drink.  He counter-invited me to attend his church.  Thrilled he was also a “Christian,” I readily agreed.  When I told him, “I'm waiting for marriage for intimacy, so if sex is what you're after, we should end this now,” he assured me, “You're preaching to the choir.”  He lied.

I'm convinced now that he was in the later stages of a significant pornography addiction.  I can't rationally explain his behavior any other way.  You see, a pornography addiction left unchecked, will always lead to acting out what you read about, and look at.  Over time, your conscience is seared, and just like a cocaine addict, you'll do anything to get your “fix.”  For him, I would be his fix — whether I agreed or not.

When his initial attempts to lure me into bed were futile, he turned to the date rape drug.  

One night I had a horrible dream.  In my dream, I was back on my old college campus — only now, I was in the later stages of pregnancy.  Late at night, I went from dorm to dorm, looking for a place to sleep.  Desperately tired, everyone turned me away.  Finally, my former boyfriend let me in, but told me I'd have to use the top bunk.  With difficulty, I climbed up, and subsequently fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning, I woke up and told my “boyfriend” about my dream.  His eyes were as big as saucers.  At that point, I still didn't know.  But then I went to the bathroom and something unusual fell out of my body.  Plus I had a growing awareness of soreness, and I knew something was wrong.  I ran out, and yelled, “I need to go to the emergency room!”  He convinced me nothing had happened, but two weeks later, I learned the truth. 

Denial has a sedative effect.  People who have never been there like to say, “I'd never allow myself to be abused like that!”  When you have the starring role in your own horrible TV reality show, it just doesn't seem possible.  In fact, your mind helps you to believe it's not really happening in order to preserve your sanity.  I couldn't believe my boyfriend — the man my heart had set on marrying — would rape me.  So, I believed him instead . . . , until two weeks later when two positive pregnancy tests forced me into a reality I wasn't prepared to face.

In the days and weeks after realizing I'd been raped, I walked around in a daze.  My dayplanner for work usually had very little “white space” due to all of my notes.  The near-blank pages after the rape reflected my distracted and zombie-like mental state.  I merely went through the motions of life.  

At the same time, the world's standards demanded I make a life or death decision for another human being.  I just couldn't.  So, I leaned on those I trusted most — my family, my best friend, and my church.

I tell people now that if you have the honor of being asked for your opinion in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, be prepared to give a real answer.  Telling someone in crisis, “Whatever you want to do, I'll support you” is of no real help at all.  She's asking for definitive advice.  She needs to hear, “I know this feels horrible and you can't see how you're going to get through this, but you will.  I'll walk with you every step. You are going to make it.  You're strong.  You can do this.  I know nine months seems like forever, but it's really not.  Don't make a decision today that you will regret for the rest of your life.  Choose life.  It's the best choice for both of you.”

Unfortunately, the only specific advice came from my pastor.  She told me, “Let me put your heart at ease.  In the eyes of the church, any decision, prayerfully considered, is okay.  In your case, I think you should have an abortion.  You need to be able to move past this.  You should have an abortion.”  

She went on to tell me about her two daughters who had also faced unplanned pregnancies.  One had chosen adoption, the other abortion, and both were equally good decisions, she said.  She dismissively added, “There's a couple in the church who want to adopt, but, no, you shouldn't talk to them.  You need to have an abortion.”

I remember my heart telling me, “Isn't there something in Psalms about this?”  My heart began to break as the door slowly closed inside.  I felt I didn't have a choice.  I was convinced that nobody would adopt my baby with my having a 50% chance of carrying the gene for neurofibromatosis (a horrible disease my Dad battled most of his adult life.)  I began to steel myself for the abortion.  I felt like a lamb being led to her death inside.  I didn't believe I had a choice.

After the abortion, I learned there is something worse than being raped.  The abortion felt like being raped again — only worse, because this time, I had consented to the assault.  In both cases, men assaulted me physically.  The second trauma — the abortion, shut me down emotionally, putting me over the edge.  

It took four years to begin the slow path out of denial and into healing in Christ.  If it hadn't been for the wonderful husband God sent me, I don't know how I would be here today.  He told me from the beginning, “I love you, but what you did was wrong.”  That chink in my denial helped me years later, after the birth of our first son, John, to finally see the truth.  It shattered my heart.  But, it needed to break . . . so God could put it back together again.

A “Divine appointment” took place a few years ago when I spoke at my church.  Plans for me to speak had been rescheduled several times over many months until the Sunday in November when I finally shared a ministry update with our church.  I now work with the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, sharing abortion victim images primarily on college campuses across Virginia and the Southeast.  That day, I prefaced my talk by saying my words weren't meant to condemn anyone, and not to believe the Enemy if they felt that way.  

As a post-abortive woman myself, I understood that misplaced guilt all too well.  I explained the reasoning behind our work, citing the work of successful historical social reformers like William Wilberforce, Lewis Hine, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..  And, I showed pictures of first trimester abortions — little babies, with limbs and appendages torn from their tiny bodies.  It's devastating to see for the first time.  And, I had no idea there was a pregnant rape victim in the audience that day. . . .

Morgan told me two months later that she'd been there.  Sitting in the audience, it had been a rare Sunday for her to be in church at all.  She told me, “You were there for me.”  

The night she'd been raped, she had snuck out of her home to hang out with friends.  Gang-raped on the way home, she hid her ruined clothes, and told nobody, except a few close friends what had happened.  When she discovered she was pregnant, her high school friends arranged for her to have an abortion the following Saturday.  She had told her parents she had a sporting event in Washington D.C. so they wouldn't be suspicious when she left for the abortion.

But, then, in church, she heard my testimony and saw the pictures — and she knew she couldn't do it.  

Nicole Cooley and Morgan

Morgan gained the courage to tell her parents what had happened — despite feeling ashamed she had snuck out of the house and that she'd planned an abortion.  They rallied around her, and supported her in choosing adoption for her baby instead.  During her pregnancy, I was able to connect her to Save The 1 and she joined their private Facebook for birthmothers from rape, so she wouldn't have to be alone in this.  A family at the church put her in contact with the perfect family for her baby.  Months later she gave birth, and named him “Justice.”

The pain from losing my son Matthew is the single greatest regret of my life.  It crushed me.  Abortion forces a mother to turn against her own flesh and blood.  It's self-destructive like no other trauma — the scars run deep.  Rape is traumatic too, no doubt.  But, compounding the trauma of rape with the second trauma of abortion is contraindicated.  Abortion hurts rape victims; it never helps them.  The best choice for the mother who has conceived in rape is to continue the pregnancy, surrounded by supportive family and friends, or through the support of a pregnancy resource center.

In His Word, God promises that all things will work together for good to those who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).  For me, Morgan's story is proof of His promise.  My baby died and broke this mother's heart.  But, God used my pain and suffering to propel me into ministry on behalf of the pre-born.  Because I am willing to share my painful testimony of my son's death, baby Justice is alive, and his mother lives without the regret of abortion.  Indeed, when you save the baby conceived in rape or with a fetal abnormality, you actually save two — mother and child.  We call ourselves “Save The 1,” but when you save the 1 child, you save the mother too — you save them both.

Editor’s note: Nicole W Cooley is a wife, mother, Project Director for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform – Virginia,  author of Into the Light, and a pro-life speaker and blogger for Save The 1.  Her website is www.NicoleWCooley.com. This piece first appeared at Save The One and is republished here by permission.