Carolyn and I are sitting in front of a cozy fire. Since we’ve just met, we both feel a little awkward. We make small talk over apple cider and cookies. We talk about school, Carolyn’s part-time job, our summer plans. Gradually, Carolyn and I begin to feel a bit more comfortable with each other. Considering why we’ve gotten together, that’s not easy.
We’re here to talk about a painful secret. We’re here to talk about Carolyn’s abortion.
A lot of Carolyn’s story might sound familiar. She grew up in a Christian family, attended church regularly, participated in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a small Bible study at her high school.
She didn’t date much until her junior year, when she met Ben, a senior. After a few months, they began having sex. Carolyn says, “In the back of my mind I knew it was wrong, but I pushed that back. We really cared about each other, so it seemed OK. And there was so much peer pressure. Everyone talked about sex, everyone was so curious, it just seemed like we had to do it.
“We’d always used protection, but the weekend of the prom, I had my period. We thought I couldn’t get pregnant while I was menstruating, so we skipped the birth control. After a month or so, I realized I hadn’t had another period. I told Ben and we decided to get a pregnancy test. We were both thinking, Oh, it’ll come back negative. But it didn’t.
“We knew we had to tell my parents. I’d always been able to talk to them about things. I hoped they’d help us figure out what to do. When I told my mom, she just bawled. My dad said, ‘I’m very disappointed in you.’ I knew I had hurt them both.”
So Carolyn looked at her options. She and Ben didn’t want to get married. He had graduated and was getting ready to leave for college. And she didn’t feel like she could keep the baby or put it up for adoption. As she talked it over with her family, it became clear what she would do.
“None of us ever had strong feelings one way or the other about abortion before this happened. I guess we never thought it was something we’d have to think about. But when we were faced with this situation, we just reacted without really thinking or praying about it. I think the whole family, me included, just wanted the whole crisis to go away. We thought, What’s everybody going to think of us? Abortion seemed like the quickest solution to a big problem.
“I think part of the reason I went along with it was that I felt so alone. Ben said he’d support me, but he was leaving for college soon. But not one person in my family said, ‘It’ll be OK. It’ll be tough, but you can get through this.’ I would have liked someone to reassure me, to say, ‘Whatever you decide to do, we’ll still love you.’ Looking back, I think my whole family would have reacted differently if they knew then what they know now.”
What they know now is how difficult things have been for Carolyn in the two years since her abortion. As she talks, she tells me this is the first time she’s been able to talk about her abortion without crying. But it’s obvious her pain isn’t far from the surface. I ask her if she’s willing to tell me about the actual abortion. “Yes!” she says. “If people know what an awful experience it is, they might not see it as a quick fix, the way I did.”