I WAS JUST 27 YEARS OLD THE EVENING I walked into my home and faced my husband holding a shot gun pointed at me, with a look of murder in his eyes. His cocaine-addled brain had tormented him into believing that I was out having an affair, one of many he had accused me of, when all I had been doing was running a meeting at the local food co-op. His scream at me was so loud and rattly it woke our kids, ages seven and three, and they came out of their room scared to death. It took some time, but I was able to talk him into putting the rifle down, at least for the moment. As he turned and walked back toward our gun safe, I picked both kids up and ran out the front door, opened the car and threw them across the front seat. When I jumped in and fired up the car, I landed on my daughter’s legs. My son was frantically trying to pull her out from underneath me as I screeched down the driveway while she screamed bloody murder. For the record, I had never had one affair.
I drove to a friend’s house and knew I had just come to the end of my marriage. I was a Christian and I wanted to reach out to my church to let them know about my terrible situation, to let them come around me, offer support and prayer—which they did. But several of them urged me to return to my husband, “How will he ever see the love of Christ unless you display it by going back?” I was so incensed that I took it out on them by taking it out on God. From that point I wanted nothing to do with Him.
As a brand-new single mother who was dead broke, I took a job I had seen advertised in the newspaper for Planned Parenthood. They did not do abortions, which I was glad about, but it was our protocol to refer anyone inquiring about an abortion to a women’s clinic nearby, or to another Planned Parenthood office about 40 minutes away. We made these referrals almost every day. While in my new position I took nursing classes, and when I got my degree, I was recruited to the women’s clinic. They performed abortions there, which I had some hesitancy about, but my salary, benefits and perks, short weeks, and holiday leave between Christmas and New Year’s Day were far more than I had dreamt of. I had to pinch myself. I couldn’t believe I was suddenly doing so well. Over the next five years, I went from assisting with first
trimester abortions to second. I was able to stuff any guilt down with increasing ease—I would have a lot to lose if I didn’t. I couldn’t let anything threaten my new standard of living. Besides, by that time, I was so far from God I was a firm believer in the prochoice cause.
In a freak accident falling off a boat parked on land for cleaning, I broke my spine in three places and shattered my heel. I did my best to get back to work, showing up in a boot, a brace, and with a cane, but I simply couldn’t do the job. The doctor, who was kind enough to keep my position open for me as long as he could, finally had to let me go. I was no longer needed. I left the clinic and returned home to try to heal but the depth of the wounds inflicted by working in the abortion industry were so severe. I had two more failed marriages because I lacked the ability to connect, really commit, and be completely honest with another person. Over the next two decades I took different nursing jobs around town, some part-time, some full-time. When my third marriage failed, I found myself living alone and working in a city I had not lived in before. I had started going back to church by then, and had once again grown close to God, just like I had when I was young. The people I went to church with were nice folks, and when the opportunity came to join a small group, I jumped at it. One of the women in my small group revealed that she was a volunteer in a prolife ministry. It had been nearly 20 years since I had anything to do with the abortion industry, and yet, the need to confess came surging up, like it had been sitting just below the surface for all those years. I took her aside, and as soon as I opened my mouth, my face pulled from the strain and went disfigured. I cried awful, ugly tears. “You need to speak with Abby Johnson,” she said. Whoever Abby was, I agreed.
As I sat down to write Abby an email, a Christian song I had been listening to came to mind and wouldn’t go away—it articulated my condition to a T. The opening lyrics were, “I feel so worn.” “Dear Abby,” I wrote, “I feel so worn…” When she replied to me, the first thing she said was, “Oh, Pam, Jesus does not want you to feel worn.” I breathed deeply and felt something I wasn’t used to feeling; I felt hopeful. Abby graciously invited me to an And Then There Were None healing retreat, and I was eager to attend.
While on retreat, I recalled two abortions that particularly hurt the most—my own. I had had two abortions between my first and second child. I was just 16 the first time I got pregnant. I couldn’t get pregnant again so quickly and have three babies before I turned 25. I
didn’t want to become some pitiful statistic. During the rest of the retreat, I listened, but did not speak and I did not cry. I was the only one who didn’t say a word. I think I may have just gone rigid by the shame of it all. But when I got on the plane to go home, my heart broke open, and big, fat, silent tears streamed down my face. That area where I had stuffed the guilt had been knifed open by my shame, and my body and soul began to react. So shaken by my own complicity in enough abortions to fill an entire stadium, I ran to the bathroom and vomited.
As painful as it sounds, the wound had to be reopened in order to heal properly. It made me feel something—hope. It burned more deeply now, first kindled when Abby responded to my email, and was fanned into flames by listening to the other women at the retreat. When I was invited to attend another ATTWN healing retreat, to my own surprise I readily agreed. The hope was fueled while surrounded by women who shared similar experiences in the abortion industry. I knew we could tell our stories to each other without judgment and be guided through the painful parts of healing…together. It was true, at the following retreats I spoke, I cried, and I healed a little more. Each healing retreat has brought me more peace with my past and not only closer to God, but to my fellow Quitters, who understand what it means to have worked in the darkness of the abortion industry and followed the light out of it.
I have noticed that a lot of women will apologize for their tears, for making people uncomfortable. But I am not going to apologize for crying. Those tears, and the tears I still cry, are redemptive. And I am not going to try to somehow create a plan to try to rectify the number of deaths that I have caused. I don’t feel compelled to—I can’t make up for what I’ve done, and I can’t make it about me. I just have to let God use the darkest part of my life in his own way. I just confess and leave the rest to Him. Jesus has already paid for my sins. Sometimes we must go back over healing bridges that we have already crossed and cross them again. Healing is a journey, not a destination.