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A Booties Memorial
The PRC isn’t only about changing minds and hearts. It’s also concerned with the emotional wounds of post-abortive women. Some women, such as the 27-year-old in the Utah Women’s Clinic recovering from her abortion, regard the wounds that the PRC struggles to heal as simply part of her life. “It’s always at the back of my mind if I see a baby, a child,” she admits. But, she’s too busy with her career. While she might feel like crying or being sad, “you still have to move on.”
Women who wish to volunteer at the PRC and have had an abortion have to go through PACE, the 11-week Bible-study course. Currently, two middle-age women, Sue and Laurie, facilitate the course for typically six post-abortive women in a cozy living room, with plush carpet and sofas, at the back of the PRC.
When Sue learned the PRC was looking for post-abortive, Christian women to volunteer as facilitators, she thought, “for God to be any clearer, he would have to be right in front of me.” While she thought she had come to terms with the three abortions she’d had in the early stages of her marriage—“completely about my own convenience and economic situation”—she realized when she went through the training that was not the case. Finally, she says, “I was able to admit I killed my babies. My biggest regret was I denied them a life.”
One client, Sue recalls, had an abortion because her youngest child required constant attention. The abortion, Sue says, affected her marriage, her relationship with her oldest child and friends. “She and her husband ended up blaming each other. They both knew it was not God-pleasing,” Sue says. “The Bible is clear. Life is precious to God.”
After Jackie heard PRC’s Anderson speak at Calvary Chapel, she wanted to volunteer at the PRC but first had to complete the PACE course. “I wanted to give women like I was other options, but I didn’t want to deal with [my abortion].”
In the first session, four women shared their abortion stories. Jackie shared part of hers before the end, but afterward felt worse than ever. “The pain was at the surface, right in my face.”
The second week, she watched a video of a mother reading letters to a child she had aborted. Jackie says she asked God to apologize on her behalf to her child. God, she says, replied, “Why don’t you tell her yourself?” After the fifth session, on forgiveness, she sat in her car, furious, repeatedly going over her abortion trauma. Again, she says, God spoke to her. “He said, ‘You’re not the victim in this.’ That made me stop and think. The life that I took was the real victim.” Her anger, shame and guilt, she says, melted away.
At the end of the course, the women hold a memorial service and release balloons with messages for the children they never had. Jackie wrote her child a letter, read her a picture book and bought her a pair of booties, which sit in a glass case with dozens of other booties in the PRC living room.
In the basement of the PRC is the Clothesline, which provides free clothing and toys for babies up to 1 year old, for those in need. “But, what happens after [that first year]? That’s the thing,” says Utah Women’s Clinic’s Staker. What are mothers who couldn’t afford to have the baby in the first place supposed to do then? Anderson responds that she refers mothers in need to state and nonprofit social programs that provide support.
Staker’s question is one that led 25-year-old Karen to have an abortion, something she thought she’d never have. She sits in a chair in the Utah Women’s Clinic, her knees drawn up to her, her face betraying both physical pain and emotional tension. “I’m a very spiritual person,” she says, in love with the man of her dreams. But the moment she realized she was pregnant, “alarms were going off” inside her head.
She and her partner live in “a tiny little condo, we have no car, no insurance, everything is against us.” She tried to “go with the flow,” have faith it would work out, but just the thought of a child was so stressful. “We can barely afford food at the end of the week.”
When she accepted abortion as an option, “I had my first moment of serenity, of peace.” Now, in the immediate aftermath of the abortion, at least, she says, she and her partner can prepare themselves to have and raise the baby they both want someday.
If Anderson’s young-adult daughter were pregnant, “I would not want her to have an abortion,” she says. “I’ve seen the heartache.” She acknowledges there are “tough situations,” like incest or rape, although in three years, she says she’s never seen an incest case and only one involving date rape. “What I’ve seen is women who made a choice to participate sexually and they become pregnant.”
Staker, however, estimates that during the past three years, she’s dealt with several pregnant minors every month. One such 13-year-old minor and her single mother are waiting in the Utah Women’s Clinic for a post-abortion ultrasound. The girl’s expression is stoic, the mother, a deer in the headlights.
The mother took her daughter to Planned Parenthood after she admitted she was sexually active. The girl says, “I was not really surprised [about being pregnant], it can happen.” She starts to cry when she acknowledges her mother won’t let her see her boyfriend any more. Girls her age “should wait,” she says, to have sex.
PP’s Staker knows the complexity of the abortion issue better than most. A practicing Catholic, she walks the line between the anti-abortion dictates of her faith and the needs of the many young women who come to her clinic. “We’re doing something good to help women,” she says, “trying to get them the best information to make their decision,” a belief Anderson shares, even if they disagree on what constitutes “best information.”
For women like Crystal who find themselves caught between choosing Planned Parenthood or the PRC, whichever door they take can, it seems, lead some to taxing emotional terrain. But the end result can also bring relief and, in Crystal’s case, joy.
“I don’t regret having [the baby] at all,” she says. After the doctor cut the cord and brought the child to Crystal’s waiting arms, placing him inside the hospital gown against her skin, she says, “I was just happy he was born healthy and glad he was in my life.”