Should I Tell Others
About My Abortion?
"I'm still trying to decide how 'open' to be. I've been very 'discreet' in revealing my past . . . which I think is wise. But a part of me just wants to let it out! It is such a big part of me and affects what I do, and my reasoning. I'm struggling with the balance."
Lisa M. Bertuzzi
n Chapter Five we discussed the benefit of talking to someone about your abortion in order to work through it in your own mind. In this chapter we look into the advisability of telling others about your abortion.
Why am I afraid to speak out?
For many years my abortion was a secret shared with my husband and no one else. When the topic came up in conversation, I cried inside and sometimes outwardly too. I wanted to tell and yet I wanted to keep it a secret. I wanted others to know how painful abortion is, both physically and emotionally. Most of all I needed to know I was accepted in spite of what I had done. Yet I knew that the more people I confided in, the greater chance there was of my secret slipping out.
Robin Fornengo puts it this way, "I still don't feel the freedom that I would like to have about sharing my abortion. There's still fear in having people find out. I'm not real open about it. . . . But I want to be able to speak out more without that fear."
Once we begin to admit to others the fact that we had an abortion, we open ourselves to ridicule and rejection. That's scary. We may fear that revealing our abortion will hurt others who, until this point, have been spared the knowledge.
Should I care what others think?
Yes, you should care what others think. It matters how people perceive you. Your testimony ¾ that is, the way you live your life ¾ speaks volumes. It is said that Christians are the only Bible most people will ever read. The Bible is filled with incidents of people caught in sinful situations. What they are remembered for is how they dealt with their sin and how they lived their lives from that point forward. Your changed life should speak louder than any words you may utter.
You should also care what others think when you ask them to keep your secret. Over the years, I've been privileged to help many women resolve their abortion's aftermath. Most have gone on to realize that telling others is good. However, one post-abortion woman, a close friend of mine, has asked me not to reveal that she once had an abortion. She is afraid of what others will think. There have been times when I've had to ask God to put a guard on my tongue so her secret will not slip out. You see, I now have the burden of bearing her secret. In some ways I wish she had not told me about her abortion, because it puts a strain on me to keep her secret.
We must learn that life is filled with people who will reject us for one reason or another ¾ if not for our abortion, then for the way we dress or the church we attend. We can't live our lives to gain acceptance from others. We must live our lives to glorify God and please Jesus Christ. Laura has a good comment, "I have to trust the Lord with how people perceive me if I share what happened to me. Before I kept it inside for fear of rejection and because of my shame. That was Satan's lie ¾ everyone I have ever shared it with has had compassion, and felt sorry I endured such pain."
Why should I tell others?
There are several reasons why I recommend that you tell others about your abortion. The most obvious one is that if you are writing or speaking publicly, people you have not told will eventually find out. Telling those special people in your life about your abortion says to them , "I care enough about you to let you hear this from my own mouth." It's a courtesy that others will appreciate.
Prior to the release of my first book, Abortion's Second Victim, Leigh and I decided to tell his parents. Because Leigh was not the father of my aborted baby, there had never been a need to tell them of my abortion. Now, with the name of Koerbel to appear on the cover of a book about abortion, we felt they should be told. Again, we wanted the truth to come from our lips rather than from a friend who might chance to comment, "I saw a book the other day about abortion. Is the Koerbel who wrote it related to you?"
We sat my in-laws down at a quiet moment and told them simply and plainly that I was writing a book about something that happened in my past. I had had an abortion and was writing to help others deal with the emotional problems that follow. Telling was our way to show love and courtesy to Leigh's parents.
Telling people about your abortion also opens the door for you to help others. You will undoubtedly run across other post-abortion women. Some may be women who have been your friends or acquaintances for years. You may find the opportunity to join or start a support group in your community. Nothing has happened in our lives that is so shameful we cannot speak of it if our telling will help another person.
A primary reason to tell others about your abortion is the more people that know, the less burden you carry. Where there is no secret, there is no shame or fear of others finding out. There is a release in telling others. Read Julie's words:
Immediately after leaving the clinic I put on a front. My roommate had driven me and paid the money for me. We got home at noon. All of my roommates were there. . . . I wanted to be brave for them and not show how bad I was hurting. I managed to do that for about eight hours, when I went in my room and began to read a pro-life book I had bought. It was a harsh book and I cried hard for a couple of hours, when my roommates finally came into my room, talked with me for a long time and finally forced me to go out. I saw [the father of my baby] that night and many nights following that. Anger really began to build in me, to the point of wanting revenge ¾ wanting someone else to feel as guilty as I did. I was very bitter towards him and men in general . . . for weeks I lived with this guilt and shame. I'm surprised my eyes didn't fall out of my head, I cried so much! I began to keep it all inside because I felt my friends who knew were sick of hearing me. . . . That was untrue of course, but that was how I felt. Finally after a period of time of bottling it all up inside of me, I broke. Maybe I was finally tired of living the lie. Because that's what my life was ¾ one big lie!
So I told many of my friends I had previously sworn would never know. . . . This was a great help to me. I needed to talk and I needed to stop living the lie. And my friends were wonderful and not condoning what I had done, but supporting anyway. God gave me wonderful friends who He worked through to help me. I never saw a counselor. I didn't need to, because I had about ten of them right at my side whenever I needed them ¾ two of them Christians who were the most helpful! But that wasn't enough. I had already asked God's forgiveness, but I couldn't feel it yet. Telling my friends helped, but I was still living the lie to my family, the people most important in my life. Now the thought of telling my parents and one of my sisters still scared me beyond belief. . . . I had one sister I felt I could tell first of all. She lives [close by] and one afternoon I broke down and told her the whole story . . . from beginning to end! She is a strong Christian and I was very scared to tell her. But again, not condoning what I had done, she was very supportive and understanding. . . . Talking with my sister was the key. I finally felt forgiveness. I finally had some hope to go on.
Mary Ann gives another reason why we should tell others about our abortion:
The amazing thing that has come out of being honest with [my husband] is that he is the one who is most responsible for my being healed of the guilt and grief I experienced years after when the reality of my abortion hit me. How many times I cried on his shoulder, little by little easing out my grief and horror at what I had done! Recently, he told me it was hard for him when I suffered during those times because of his own painful feelings concerning the affair [I had had], but I guess it must have helped him to come to terms with it, too. But his feeling of compassion towards me at those times always gave him a willing ear and a tender heart. I thank God for a husband that has loved me through everything.
If someone doesn't know you hurt, he or she can't help you.
Finally, sometimes you need to tell others in order to set things right. Debra writes, "God has been very gentle in His dealings with my past hurts and I know He has forgiven me. [Hooray] for the cleansing blood of Jesus! He seemed to deal with my hurt in stages ¾ I guess I could only handle so much at a time. One of the stages I was in was the 'tell it all' stage. I told everyone in my church about the abortion and a few of my relatives. I think the stage I am moving into now is asking my parents' forgiveness. God is definitely going to have to help me through this one."
You will never have freedom from the emotional aftermath related to your abortion as long as you refuse to tell someone you feel led to tell. Have you ever wondered why you are even considering telling that person? It may be that the Holy Spirit is prompting you to set things right.
Whom should I tell?
Every situation is different. Only you know if you can live at peace with yourself while keeping secret your abortion from someone close to you. Most women can't. They live in fear that one day that one person will find out.
As you decide whether to tell people about your abortion, many questions may arise, such as:
· Will a man love and respect me after finding
out about my past experiences?
· I have only confessed my sin to three other people
(besides my husband) and I really don't feel like telling
just anyone. Is that considered deceptive?
· Will I ever be able to discuss the subject of abortion with
· I always hesitate; I feel some guilt or condemnation and
wonder what others think of me. Why does it still hurt?
· Should I ever tell my parents? I had my abortion two
years after my sister had become pregnant, carried baby
to term and gave up for adoption.
· Should I tell my parents I had an abortion? I was not
under their roof at the time; I was on my own. I didn't
want to hurt them back when it happened, and I don’t
want to hurt them now either.
· Should I tell my other children (either ones born before or
· Should I spare this pain with the father of that child?
With my family?
· Why do I find it hard to talk to my female friends about it
¾ especially the ones with children?
· Will my friends reject me if they know?
Now let's look at some specific people you may want to tell. Included here are some practical answers as well as some questions for you to think about.
Should I tell my boyfriend or fiancé?
One woman asked, "Should I share this with my future mate?" She answered her own question with another, "How could I not?" Only you can decide whether or not to tell your fiancé or boyfriend about your abortion. You might ask yourself, "Do I want to marry a man who refuses to forgive me a wrong for which I have repented? Love implies forgiveness and reconciliation. A man who truly loves you should put you first, not your past sin. If he can't, it may be that he struggles with a secret sin of his own. If he is the father of your aborted baby, he may have guilt and hurt of his own to resolve.
Linda counsels: "The only advice I have for others is 'tell him.' His reaction will tell you a lot about the person. Tell him before you marry. You never know what may happen to bring the past into the present (like my miscarriage did for me). So much better to start out with no secrets. If he cannot deal with it, then there will probably be other problems too."
Should I tell my husband?
Communication is the key to any relationship. Without it you are doomed from the start. Leigh knew about my abortion prior to us dating. Leigh is my best friend, my confidant, my lover. I would not withhold any fact regarding my past from him. That doesn't mean I just spout off an important fact without thinking (well, sometimes I do!). I try to wait until we are both calm and rested. After many years of marriage, there is not much we don't know about each other. I'm glad, because it gives each of us insight into the other's thinking and actions.
Judy Schmid gives a very practical reason for not keeping your abortion a secret from your husband:
I didn't want to lie on my medical records so I recorded the abortion in case of complications. We [my husband and I] were at our first pre-natal check-up. . . . I had just had an internal exam and was sitting in the doctor's office. The doctor told the nurse to go get [my husband]. I heard her footsteps go down the hall and I was just about to tell the doctor not to mention my abortion when I heard [my husband's] voice. The next thing I knew, I heard the doctor say, "So, this is your second pregnancy?"
I remember [my husband] staring at me with complete disbelief on his face. I couldn't look at him and I couldn't bear the thoughts that must have been going through his mind. . . . [My husband] was so hurt, not because of the abortion, but because he felt I didn't trust him or love him enough to tell him the truth. It could have been a disastrous point in our marriage and it was tense for a time. But because of [my husband's] deep love for me and our commitment to each other, we came through it!
Wouldn't you rather have your husband find out about your abortion from you? When you consider how he might feel if someone else told him, telling him yourself may not seem so difficult. The real issue here is not should you tell your husband, but how you should tell him.
Should I tell my parents?
If you are still living at home, you may find it burdensome to keep your secret from your parents. Although knowing may deeply wound them, it will give you the opportunity to talk it out, perhaps to resolve some of the conflicts that prompted you to choose abortion in the first place.
If you live independently, Patricia L. Tompkin's words may help you:
I never believed it would be possible to tell my parents about my abortions, but the Lord worked on my heart through the reading of Abortion's Second Victim and the help of a close friend. One day I called my friend and my pastor [and asked them] to pray for my parents, and I went because I knew I had to confess my sins to them and ask for their forgiveness.
I will not say this was easy, for this was the very hardest part of my journey. My parents had always given me the love described in 1 Corinthians 13. They always hoped, always believed, always looked for the best in me. Yes, they still demonstrate this special love to me. Because I went to them I am now free from the worry of them finding out through someone else. I am fully free to help others who suffer from the aftereffects of abortion through the Lord's grace in my own life.
Linda has decided not to tell her parents. She gives these reasons: "I've never told my parents. My mother and I are still not close and she would not understand all I've been through. On the other hand I believe it would hurt my dad that I never was able to confide in him. I realize now that he would have stood by me back then. But now I feel it's best he not know." Each woman must decide whether to tell her parents. I do see from Linda's comments that she has prejudged her parents' reaction. They may respond entirely differently than she thinks. You'll never know the understanding and compassion your parents may give you, until you tell them about your abortion.
Should I tell my children?
A woman writes, "My children are three and one. I have been publicly speaking about my abortions to local churches to inform the community of what is going on. I know one day I will have to tell them. I don't want them to find out from someone else." I think this woman has hit the nail on the head. If there is any chance of your children finding out about your abortion (and children are more perceptive than we realize), better it comes from your own lips than from anyone else's.
If you are not writing or speaking publicly, you may decide to wait until they are teenagers or adults. One woman felt she would tell them if "they run into a situation where it would help." My only thought here is that by telling them about your abortion before a crisis situation (possibly pregnancy) develops in their own life, you may impress upon your children the painful consequences of sex prior to marriage.
Another woman shares, "I am trusting that Lord will prepare my children if He wants me to share the pain of my abortion with them and He will cover it with His grace. He will let me know when and if they are ready and/or need to know."
Even if you decide not to tell your children about your abortion, please speak to each one and tell them that although you hope they will never get "in trouble," if they do, they can come to you for help. Many girls and women tell me if they had felt able to bring their "problem" to their parents, the abortion would never have taken place.
Should I tell my friends?
Stephanie shares her thoughts: "I am so scared of losing some close friendships if they ever found out that I had an abortion. As such good friends, I kind of feel like I need to tell them, and that I should just accept the consequences, but I love them so much, I don't want them to hate me."
Making yourself vulnerable comes with the trust that develops with close friends. I think you will experience relief once you get your abortion out in the open with women close to you. One woman states: "Having other women to share with heals in itself. I think the more you try to hide it the worse it becomes. Just like Psalm 52 says, it starts eating away at you."
How widely should I share my secret?
Once I married and moved to a new location where people did not know about my past, my personal policy was to tell people on a "need to know" basis. The number of people I told depended upon the circumstances. Initially, only my husband knew. I also told a psychiatrist. Eventually I told my pastor because I felt I needed counsel. One friend knew. My secret was well kept and burning inside of me for many years.
Prior to my first book, I wrote an article which was published in Moody Monthly magazine. At the publisher's request, and to my relief, it was printed anonymously. Circumstances prompted me to tell a few other people when the article came out. One woman I remember in particular had placed me on a pedestal. She was a new Christian and thought I, a "mature" believer, could do no wrong. One day I handed her a copy of my article and said, "Would you read this and give me your opinion?" This friend had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, married the father, and had her baby. I respected her for her strong decision. After reading the article, she said it was sad and she didn't understand how anyone could do that. I looked her right in the eye and said, "I wrote that article. I had an abortion. I am telling you because you need to know that all people have sin in their life. Just because they are Christians doesn't mean they led a perfect life before or after their conversion."
When I began writing Abortion's Second Victim, I desired prayer support and also to locate other post-abortion women. I sent a letter to all the seminarians (Leigh was in his final year at Capital Bible Seminary) seeking their help. Now all our immediate circle of friends knew about me. I can tell you, it was fairly easy to write the letter, but much tougher to face people in person knowing they knew what I had done. As publication time neared, Leigh and I discussed and prayed about putting my real name on the book. We decided that since God had forgiven me I had no reason to feel guilty about the contents of the book. If someone could be helped, then so be it. We included my name and address in the introduction, knowing that some women had no one to talk to about their abortions. Letters and phone calls began to reach me as women found an outlet for expressing their pain. I have each letter, and I treasure them as proof of God's love and honor of my commitment to respond honestly to a sensitive and personal issue.
How widely should you share your secret? Remember this ¾ as long as there is at least one person from whom you try to hide your abortion, you will always live in fear of that person finding out. When you are hiding something, that thing has the power to destroy you. The walls of shame and fear you have built around yourself will crumble and fall once you disclose your secret. This doesn't mean you must publicly proclaim the fact that you had an abortion. But you should seriously consider telling those people whose names keep popping into your mind regarding your abortion.
What if I've already told someone, but wish I hadn't?
Diane writes, "My stumbling block now is that I regret having told my mother about the abortion. Before I was healed I went to a psychiatrist and they said I should think about telling my mother my secret. She never knew a thing ¾ that's how easy it was! One morning last winter when I was deeply depressed I called her and crying a lot I told her. I then felt relieved awhile but now regret it and wish she never knew about it. She said she wouldn't tell anyone else but we don't even talk about it."
You cannot undo the fact that you told your mother about your abortion. I don't know all the facts surrounding it, but I assume your mother loves you and is concerned for you. However, it must have come as a shock to her and she may find it difficult to discuss. Remember, her grandchild was aborted. Is your mother a Christian? If not, discussing your abortion and the forgiveness you have found through Jesus would be a good testimony to her. In any event, I believe you would do well to ask your mother's forgiveness for any hurt you have caused her. Pray about speaking to her again and do it when the time is right.
What will others think of me?
Now we're down to the bottom line. Our pride rises up to defend our position of remaining silent. Will our silence change the opinions of those around us? Or is our prideful silence merely hindering us from helping other people?
Some people may look at a post-abortion woman and think, "She made her choice ¾ now she's paying for it." I remember back to 1970. New York State had passed a law that legalized abortion-on-demand through the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy. My parents and I discussed the cruelty, the monstrousness of a woman killing her own child for convenience. The thought was abhorrent to me. An acquaintance at college had secretly flown to another country the previous year for a weekend. It was generally understood she had had an abortion. She looked so drained when she returned, and during the months following all the gaiety and spontaneity left her. Yet I secretly condemned her for her actions ¾ she was a baby killer. . . .
Sometimes it’s easy to condemn ¾ to think "That could never happen to me." How differently I view things since my own abortion.
A more likely situation is that you were present when people were discussing abortion. Someone may have made a comment similar to this: "What kind of a monster could kill her own baby?" Those words cut to the quick, don't they? Most people do not realize that whenever abortion is discussed, at least one post-abortion woman is usually present. Such people don't mean to hurt you. It probably simply never occurred to them someone within hearing distance had actually experienced abortion. I have found that although people often say unfeelling words when speaking of abortion in general, they usually sympathize when they personally know a post-abortion woman.
Mary Ann wrote, quoting from Abortion's Second Victim, "You said, '[God] may ask you to go where you are most afraid because He wants to show you that He alone can see you through your fears.' Also, by hiding my sin from the body of Christ, the church of believers, I am missing out on experiencing their acceptance of me and love for me despite my great sin."
Psalm 56:11 encourages us with these words: "In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
Before I read this chapter, I had a question about . . .
In this chapter I have learned . . .
To resolve my post-abortion trauma, I will . . .
I need to talk to God about . . .
A verse from the Bible which helped me in this chapter is . . .
After reading this chapter, I have hope because . . .