Helping to pay for my girlfriend’s abortion 20 years ago at the age of 14 seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
It would get rid of a bad situation in our lives; we wouldn’t have to deal with the “problem” anymore. After all, we were told — and we believed at the time — that having a baby at our age would “ruin your lives.”
But the opposite was true. The abortion sent each of us into a downward spiral that was fueled by drugs, depression and denial.
By the grace of God, I was rescued from my addiction — and am forever grateful to the Lord.
Sadly, my then-girlfriend Jane (not her real name) died of an overdose before she even reached her 30th birthday.
Over two decades later, I am still dealing with the scars of that abortion. I know things won’t completely heal until eternity. I wonder about the daughter I would have had (I don’t know for sure if the baby was a girl, but I often think that was the case). What would my little girl have looked like? What would her name be? What would her life be like now?
Growing up near Chicago in the early 1990s, I was a wayward teenager. Jane and I had no real moral framework in which to operate. Our parents weren’t around much, so we spent a lot of time alone together. Plus, I was kicked out of the eighth grade and she spent a lot of time ditching school.
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One night, as we were talking on the phone, she told me she was pregnant. I remember feeling scared. We had no idea that one of her parents had picked up another phone in the house and was listening in on our conversation.
Things were tense. My parents kept asking how Jane knew for sure the baby was mine. Her parents were insistent she could not have the baby, especially since her sister had had a baby out of wedlock and was struggling to raise the child. Her parents’ solution? Abort the baby — and I should pay half the cost, to the tune of a couple of hundred dollars.
At the time, I felt a sense of relief. The notion of having a child terrified me. Being a father had never crossed my young teenage mind at that time. All the adults around me seemed to indicate it meant that life was over. That wasn’t appealing to a 14-year-old.
What did appeal to me was paying a little bit of money to get rid of a big problem that was threatening my “freedom.” It would be a thing of the past.
Except it never would be. I remember the call I got from Jane after she had abortion. She was crying — and not softly weeping, either. It was as if something traumatic had happened to her (because it had). She was sobbing and distraught as she briefly painted a picture of how the doctor had used cold, metal instruments to perform the abortion. It wasn’t as if they put her somewhere, knocked her out — and the baby was gone. I’m pretty sure she was conscious for all of it.
Changes that followed. Jane’s phone call about the abortion changed things for me. I started to wonder about the baby, about who this child had been. I was struck by the truth of what had just happened, that it didn’t just “go away.” The doctors had forcibly pulled a human being from the mother.
I remember wondering what they had done with my child’s body.
I went to talk to my dad about it, and to console me, he told me that before I was born, my own mom had had an abortion.
I remember thinking, “OK, well, he knows what this is like, then.” But it triggered even more questions: If my mom hadn’t had an abortion, would I have been born?
When I pressed my parents for more information, they couldn’t bear to talk about it. To this day, it’s a source of shame and pain.
After the abortion, Jane and I broke up and plunged into some desperate times. Each of us started to use hard drugs — including heroin. Within five years, she had become a prostitute on the South Side of Chicago and was selling her body for drugs. I remember one time getting off the expressway there — and seeing her on the side of the road, soliciting.
At one point she had been very attractive, almost a Christina Aguilera lookalike. When I saw her that day, she was almost unrecognizable.
Not long after that, at age 23, I ended up at a rescue mission where God changed my life. I began to wrestle through some of the hard things in my life and to see God’s sovereignty and grace despite my terrible choices and parents’ terrible choices. I realized that God still had a plan for me — and that God can make beautiful things out of the ash heap of sin.
A few years later, in 2010, I found myself at a Bible college in Kansas City, Missouri. During my first year there, I got a call from Jane. We hadn’t talked in years.
She claimed she was getting clean. I told her about what God had done in my life. A few months later, I got a call that she had overdosed and died.
“I get to serve Him every day.” To this day I continue to heal and am grateful my family does not have to continue down the path of abortion. God has provided for me in so many ways. I’m married to my beautiful wife, Kyndra, who loves the Lord. I have a job at Samaritan Ministries, where I get to serve Him every day.
We need to address the evil that is being done to precious babies in the womb. We need to help people who live with shame and guilt.
But the wounds of the past still affect me. They affect my relationship with my mom. They affect my outlook on children. I have to continually bring lies into the light of Scripture — including such lies as I don’t deserve kids, that I didn’t have anything to do with the abortion, that my family can’t be healed, and that no other men are going through what I’m going through.
Looking back, the abortion was the most significant event of my childhood. Even to this day, talking about it is weighty. But I can’t imagine I’m the only guy who is wrestling with the guilt, the shame and the consequences of abortion.
I feel that one of the errors we can make is to avoid talking about this in church. We need to address the evil that is being done to precious babies in the womb. We need to give attention to the countless men and women who live with the shame and guilt of past abortions.
Many need help from a loving Christian community, a Christ-centered community, to work through the implications of what was done in the past.
There is healing and much hope through the Gospel of Jesus. God’s grace is greater than our sin!
Dustin Garrett works in membership development at Samaritan Ministries International and represents the health care sharing organization during the Winter Jam music tour. A version of this article appeared earlier at SamaritanMinistries.org.
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