I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him. CS Lewis
Before I address the issue of contraception, I have decided to open up an aspect of my life that still causes me some moments of pain. I often say that God takes experiences in our lives and uses them in the here and now. That means the good and the bad.
Some experiences are easy to share, like my time at Ed Young Jr.’s Fellowship Church. Others, such as fighting pedophilia and the church, also portray me in a good light. Then there are some, such as the one I am about to share, which show poor judgment on my part. Thankfully, God is in the business of redeeming the bad to use in His service.
As I share this experience, please understand that this is my story and I am not saying that anyone else would respond, or feel, the same way. However, it is my hope that this story will help our readers understand why I am pro-life. Because I plan to deal with the issue of contraception, I felt it was imperative to reveal my views on abortion.
Even more importantly, I want to explain why, in spite of my pro-life stance, I am in no position to be holier than thou.
I have hesitated to discuss this story until now because it affects others besides myself. My father has passed away and so have the physicians who have connections to this story. I am going to do my best to conceal the identities of hospitals and medical professionals involved in this post.
So many people today discuss Roe vs. Wade as the beginning of the pro-abortion culture in the United States. But, it is an ill-kept secret that abortion was alive and well, prior to legalization. I am not talking about back alley abortions. I am referring to standard of care abortions done in the sterile environments of hospitals for those who could afford to pay for it.
It is important to understand that I, along with my father, were not raised in what would be considered a committed Christian environment. He had a nominal membership in a Russian Orthodox church which he attended irregularly, although he was an ardent participant in all the Polish/Russian festivals. My mother has no particular faith. Consequently, I found myself being brought to both a local Methodist church and a Russian Orthodox church at festival times.
I learned little about the faith in these churches. Was it their fault or mine? I am not sure. The Orthodox services were conducted in Russian and the incense and stern environment were off-putting to me as a child. The Methodist church was primarily a "feel good" environment. They had awesome baked bean suppers that were well attended by the community.
It is embarrassing to admit that I didn’t understand the basics of the Christian faith. For example, I didn’t understand the deity of Jesus, even as I entered my teen years. I thought he was a “good guy" who taught us to be kind to people.
My father, a family doctor for most of his life, was originally trained in OB/Gyn at the Margaret Sanger Clinic. You can read about her here. I believe it was at this clinic that my father developed his views on abortion.
Tired of delivering babies in the middle of the night, some of them in the homes of those who could not afford to go to the hospital, he did further training at a busy city hospital and began his life as a family doctor whose patients came primarily from the immigrant population. He was popular in this community because, coming from a Russian immigrant family himself, he spoke fluent Russian, Ukranian, and Polish.
Back in those day (1950s-1960s) surgeons routinely asked the referring family physician to “assist” in operations and my father loved this aspect of his work, frequently describing to us the interesting details of the surgeries. As I grew older, I began to understand that some women would receive a procedure known as a D+C, dilation and curettage link. They were not always receiving these for typical women’s diseases such as endometriosis. It was understood that they were, in fact, receiving an abortion. The medical charts would merely record a D+C for medical problems.
As I entered my teens, I was exposed to the idea that this sort of deception was necessary to help women. However, I remember overhearing my dad discuss the case of a well-known actress who was in town. She was in the process of a divorce and did not want to carry the “jerk’s” baby. Her “D+C” was handled discretely.
Fast forward to my senior year in high school when I became a Christian. Although I sought out churches, read CS Lewis and other Christian authors, abortion, for some reason, was not brought up as an issue to consider. Also, Roe v Wade was in its infancy and the churches in my area had not yet caught up to consistent pro-life teaching.
In my junior year of a BSN (nursing) program, I was offered the opportunity to care for a teen who was to undergo an abortion. I, sadly, saw no reason to decline. I want to emphasize that I was not forced to participate. I chose to do so. It would prove to be a life-changing experience.
This young woman was 18 and involved in a new relationship. Her boyfriend did not want the baby and her parents refused to help her. I do not remember how far along she was but the procedure involved a vacuum aspiration as part of the operation link.This would mean that she was probably within the first 4-5 months of the pregnancy.
I gave her the pre-op medicines and accompanied her to the operating room which was filled with all sorts of doctors and nurses because it was a teaching hospital. I still remember the older operating room, painted green, and the strong smell of disinfectants. I was gowned, masked and gloved, although I was not to assist with the surgery. The surgeons in this teaching hospital were very kind to the students, often inviting them to approach the surgical field to see what was going on.
As the procedure began, I became distinctly uncomfortable. The surgeon spent some time inserting medical instruments and appeared to be cutting something internally. My emotional state reached a near panic when the vacuum aspirator was turned on and I saw chunks material and blood passing through the extractor. It hit me hard as I realized that this was human tissue. I instinctively knew something was terribly wrong with what I was observing.
I must have looked upset because one of the residents came over and asked me if I was alright. I said I was lightheaded but did not admit to my true state of feelings. To be frank, he looked a bit upset himself.
Shaken, I left the OR and proceeded to get myself a drink of water. I felt dirty although I was not, at least not physically. The post-operative staff called me and said the young woman was waking up and needed to be attended. She woke up, alright. She was sobbing hysterically and I had a hard time calming her. The doctors had me give her something to help her to relax. I put my arms around her and quietly started crying along with her. Great nurse, huh? Actually, I am tearing up again as I relive those raw emotions.
As she calmed down, we were able to talk. She said she felt she had done something very wrong. I told her that such a feeling was understandable. She didn’t know that I felt exactly the same way about my own actions. I needed to focus on her. I would deal with my own guilt later. I urged her to speak to her priest (she was Catholic) and reassured her that God loved her. As I left for the day, the head nurse told me I did a good job. Little did she know the depths of my internal struggle.
I immediately began to research what Christians had to say about abortion. This was difficult since there was no such thing as Google. I spoke with a pastor who walked me through some Bible verses. Better yet, he helped me to confess the enormous guilt I felt for standing watch over an abortion. It would take some time before I could feel like God had forgiven me.
Shortly after this experience, I told my parents that I no longer supported abortion. However, I did not explain my experience since they were not on board with my new found faith.
As time went on, my father would ask me questions about my beliefs. He told me a funny story from his youth. A Pentecostal church rented a room in a building in which a group of men would hold card games. Actually, it was illegal gambling and my dad, a teen, would earn some money by being the lookout for police. While guarding, he would often wander into the adjacent church services and found them fascinating. He told me that the people were very kind to him.
One night, as my father began to fail, he asked me, “Does Jesus forgive everything?” After reassuring him that Jesus does forgive anything and everything, I asked what prompted this question. His answer surprised me. He said that he had come to the conclusion that his support for abortion was wrong and he deeply regretted the years he had spent “assisting” the “D+Cs”. He claimed that he felt like he had blood on his hands. My 80 year old father still felt the guilt decades later.
On his deathbed, my father prayed to receive Jesus as His Savior. He gripped my hand and said “Everything is alright now, dear.” That would be the last coherent thing he would say. He died a few weeks later.
There is much controversy over contraception. Some claim that the Pill causes abortions. As you will see, I disagree with some of these conclusions. As I argue the case for contraception, I do not want anyone to think that I treat abortion lightly.
Just as I told my Dad, I believe in a God that forgives anything and everything. If any of our readers have had an abortion, I know He forgives you just as He has forgiven my father and me.
In light of this confession, I have decided to take this opportunity to introduce you to an amazing new resource that was developed in conjunction with the National Geographic Society. It is the Endowment for Human Development. link In particular, there is fascinating section called the Virtual Human Embryo. link
The Virtual Human Embryo (VHE) Project generated nearly 34 gigabytes of embryonic imagery encompassing all 23 stages of the human embryo. This $3.2 million, 11-year initiative tapped the world's largest collection of human embryos to identify, digitize, and catalogue some of the best serial sections of normal human embryos ever seen. These images were then reviewed and labeled by one of the leading embryologists of the last half century, and are now available to researchers and educators everywhere.
A quick glance at the project stats helps communicate the depth and breadth of what has been accomplished. The VHE Project has generated approximately:
3,347 unique digitized microscopic sections, most of which are available in four levels of magnification for a total of 12,991 images. 590 labeled figures, many with descriptions and high-resolution images. 252 movies which include “fly-throughs,” animations, and three-dimensional reconstructions.
Click on an embryo and explore the pictures and information available for that stage of development. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22 Luke 8:4-21 Psalm 69:19-36 Proverbs 12:2-3