More than likely, someone you know has had an abortion. Statistics say 44 percent of American women have an abortion during their lifetime.
Oftentimes it's kept secret, confidential or is taboo to talk about, especially in public. Two post-abortive women, volunteers at Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center, agreed to share their stories of abortion -- the spiritual and emotional pain they felt, and finally their healing -- on the condition of anonymity.
Forgiven and Set Free, an abortion recovery Bible study offered at LAPS, gives post-abortive women a safe place to begin the healing process with other people in similar situations. Two post-abortive women lead the study, and know firsthand the struggles that can follow an abortion.
The Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center has offered Forgiven and Set Free, a Bible study promoting healing for post-abortive women, for the last 10 years. The women who lead the study have had abortions and want other post-abortive women to experience emotional and spiritual healing.
One woman attended the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study after battling guilt, depression and shame for 25 years.
"It was life changing to have a safe place to talk about it," she said.
She got pregnant at 18, and knew she couldn't keep the baby. She didn't tell her parents or friends she was pregnant, only the father-to-be.
"I was shocked and scared," she said. "I wanted a quick solution to my 'problem.' I didn't want any help."
So she made an appointment at the nearest abortion clinic and terminated her pregnancy.
"It was a huge relief at first," she said. "I spent a lot of years in denial, thinking I did the right thing. When I got married and had my first child, then it really set in."
She kept her secret for 15 years, and it ate her up inside.
"I tried not to think about it. I avoided the topic at all costs," she said.
Being a Christian when she got pregnant and had an abortion made the guilt even more unbearable.
"The more it goes against your beliefs, the more it affects you," she said.
After hearing an advertisement for Forgiven and Set Free on a Christian radio station, the woman decided it was time to forgive herself.
Forgiven and Set Free
The next Forgiven and Set Free Bible study for post-abortive women will start in April.
Registration is required. Call Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center at 825-0793 to reserve a spot. To maintain an intimate setting, the study sizes are small, varying from two to eight people.
Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center statistics
Last year, seven women who were "abortion vulnerable" sought guidance at LAPS. Six out of the seven chose not to abort their pregnancies.
Four women attended Forgiven and Set Free in 2004.
LAPS has offered the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study for the last 10 years.
Information from Terri Hopman, LAPS executive director.
"I needed to align my abortion with the truth of God's word," she said. "It was my deepest, darkest secret ... I thought God couldn't forgive me."
Another woman had similar feelings following her abortion. She needed reassurance that she was forgiven in the eyes of God in order to find peace within herself.
She was married and had a 1-year-old child. The family was struggling financially so when she found out she was pregnant again, the financial crunch was unfathomable. She and her husband didn't think they could financially support another child, so they opted to abort the pregnancy.
"Our situation was desperate. We couldn't see a way out," she said.
The couple borrowed money from a friend to pay for the abortion and drove to the clinic.
"(My husband) stayed in the waiting room and after I came out, we never talked about it again," she said. "We shut the door and never opened it again. I wouldn't allow myself to think of it again."
For years, seeing pro-life billboards along the highway made her cry. She'd turn her head every time they passed one, so her husband wouldn't see the tears forming in her eyes.
She suffered low self-esteem and self-hatred following the abortion.
"I wasn't able to forgive myself or accept what I had done," she said. "Fourteen years later I came back to the Lord. I knew Jesus died on the cross for our sins -- except for that one."
Feelings of guilt, anger, shame and regret can plague the lives of post-abortive women for years. Forgiven and Set Free is a 10-week Bible study that takes women through the healing process -- from learning who God is, to revealing the relief, denial and anger that surfaces after having an abortion.
The women said some post-abortive women may feel depressed on the due date of the aborted child or on the day they had the abortion.
"Our study is a safe place for women to grieve the loss of their child," one of the women said.
The study also covers forgiving and accepting God's forgiveness.
"(Abortion) changes a person, it stays with you. Many answers are found through this study and I want to offer it so others can experience the same thing," one of the women said.
"I want women to know they can be healed. They can stand tall and look in the mirror and like what they see," said the other woman. "And healing is a beautiful thing to see."
It took both women more than 20 years to come to terms with their decisions to have abortions. After attending Forgiven and Set Free and eventually telling their families about what they did, both women feel forgiven and set free of their guilt.
"I can speak about this one unspeakable thing in my life and the shame is gone," one of the women said.
HEIDI LAKE can be reached at 855-5879 or email@example.com.
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