They’re Right — Having An Abortion Does Change You

I could be the proud mother of an 8-year-old honor roll student right now, but I chose to have an abortion instead.
04/19/2017 08:00 am ET Updated Apr 19, 2017
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Peter Heeling
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Most people my age were raised to believe abortions are bad and only bad people have them. So, it’s no surprise that immediately following my abortion, only three individuals knew (my boyfriend, my sister, and my closest co-worker who had to put up with me).

I felt like I had to carry the burden, grief, and tears of the experience all alone. Out of shame, I pushed the experience of the abortion deep down into the most hidden parts of me. I didn’t want anyone to know I was THAT kind of woman― the woman who chose herself over her unborn child. The one who was condemned to eternity in hell for her sin (according to all of my church friends).

After nearly a decade of trying to repress the experience, I decided it was finally time to own it and tell it. I’m tired of editing out parts of my life experiences to make my story more acceptable to share.

You see, around the time I would have given birth (if I had not had an abortion), I finally decided to turn my life around… and it started with getting healthier.

As a grown adult, my first visit to the doctor was at that Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. I grew up fat, and it escalated to around 300 pounds by the time I was 25 years old. As the target of constant verbal abuse and bullying, I grew to be ashamed of my body, and the anxiety of being judged by a doctor was just too much.

I can’t say for sure what was hardest for me to face: the emotional distress of aborting a baby, the physical agony that followed the procedure, or the blow to the ego while filling out intake forms and not knowing anything about my current health.

Over the course of the last eight years, I’ve lived my life for a child that was never born.

Maybe it was a combination of all three stressful events that created the rock bottom moment I needed to get my act together and finally do what I said I was going to do.

Over the course of the last eight years, I’ve lived my life for a child that was never born.

Instead of nourishing and nurturing a baby’s needs, I cleaned up my eating and got serious about physical activity. Every day, I committed to becoming healthier than I was the day before. That lead me to lose 150 pounds in the first 11 months.

Instead of enrolling my kid in her first day of pre-school or teaching her how to spell Mississippi, I stopped being a high-school dropout and enrolled myself into community college and started taking the classes that would eventually lead to a degree, scholarships to a prestigious private university, and a great government job.

Instead of teaching my kid to know right from wrong and how to be brave enough to stand up to a bully at school, I had to gradually develop that courage and confidence for myself.

Over the years, I’ve pushed myself more and more to do uncomfortable things—like running marathons, starting my own business, and even spending three years volunteer mentoring at-risk youth.

So, would I go back and change it all if I had the chance?

No.

That $836 procedure I had the week before Thanksgiving was one of the best decisions I ever made and I’m thankful for having a choice.

The abortion may have added to the humiliation I already felt about myself, but it was also my catalyst for change and taking more responsibility for my life.

Like every woman who chooses to have an abortion, I had very personal reasons for the procedure. I worked part-time at a department store, and my live-in boyfriend was living on disability assistance because he had schizophrenia. We were barely surviving, and the $836 abortion bill was paid off in installments over the course of six months. I was unfit to be a mother, and up until that point, I never had any desire to be a mom.

The abortion may have added to the humiliation I already felt about myself, but it was also my catalyst for change and taking more responsibility for my life.

When we embrace our shame and own it, we are free to forgive ourselves and use it for good (instead of it being used to isolate and condemn us).

Unintended pregnancies account for half of all U.S. pregnancies, and four in 10 of these are ended by safe and legal abortions.

Only the woman can decide what is best for her in that situation. Yet, many women (like myself) are faced with a greater risk of mental health problems after an abortion because of the negative attitudes and judgment we have to face about abortion on a daily basis.

My life wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t had an abortion.

Every year for the last eight years, I’ve run a family-friendly 12k race in my city. And every year Catholic pro-life activists rally in “peaceful protest” to hold “Abortion is Murder” and “Life is a Miracle, Not A Choice” signs with photos of bloody aborted fetuses.

Does it trigger me? Yes, you bet it does — because it’s designed to.

But it’s also a reminder that my life wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t had an abortion, and these people are still protesting because we still have a choice. And that makes me grin ear to ear.

If you want to support the right to choose, please make a donation to Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice America, so that more women like me have access to unbiased reproductive health care and have a say in what happens to our bodies and our destinies.

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