Jackson

Jackson

Abortion, Male, 17, High School
“As I shared my story, I struggled to speak the words aloud…”

My partner told me that she’d missed her period, and she invited me over to her house to share the results of a pregnancy test with me. At first I was in denial and disbelief — I never expected to experience this situation. Once I accepted the reality of her pregnancy, I felt alone, afraid, and ashamed.

I hadn’t been open with any friends or family members about my sexual activity with my partner, largely because I felt ashamed of it in the context of my church and family community. Against this backdrop, confiding in someone about a crisis pregnancy just did not look like an option. I made up my mind within a day that an abortion would be the best option for both of our futures. We were both in our last semester of high school with four-year universities ahead of us. I didn’t feel capable of shouldering the responsibility of caring for a pregnant girlfriend, especially given the isolated nature of our relationship and the disapproval we each were projecting onto the others in our lives.

Shortly before the abortion, but after we’d committed to having it, my parents discovered that we’d been dealing with this. They didn’t try to change my mind, and they didn’t ask me very much about it. They did offer their financial support and let me know that they still loved me.

On the day of the abortion, I felt numb — sort of how I’ve felt when loved ones have died. I would describe it as being in shock and completely isolated, even from myself. After the initial shock, I continued to avoid thinking too much about it. I remember two distinct times — once with my girlfriend and once by myself — looking at a copy of the ultrasound from the day of the abortion and weeping in mourning for the lives (she was carrying twins) that might have been.

Immediately after the abortion, little changed in my spiritual life because it had never been vibrant before. I would say that I only felt even further from God than I’d felt before, and even more out of touch with myself. I didn’t presume to know how God felt about me, but I seemed to know he wasn’t nearby. I felt hollow, and I did everything I could to avoid having to process my feelings about both the abortion and the circumstances of the relationship surrounding it.

Months later, in my first few months of college, I became involved with a Christian campus ministry. I remember a time when some student leaders made an announcement regarding a fundraiser for a pro-life organization, and this triggered both shame for my part in choosing abortion and also resentment toward these leaders and the pro-life movement as a whole for failing, in my eyes, to see me and others like me and for reinforcing the otherness that I felt as a Christian who had chosen abortion.

About six months after the abortion, I was working as a counselor at a Christian summer camp where I found the courage to share my abortion story with a few other counselors. I was terrified that they would make me leave because, in my mind, good Christians didn’t even have premarital sex, let alone choose abortion.

As I shared my story, I struggled to speak the words aloud. I eventually pulled out my copy of the ultrasound to communicate what had happened. I’m sure it was confusing to my friends, but instead of condemning me they saw me as a person with a lot of pain and shame who needed a place to belong and be seen. They gave me hugs and recommended that I continue sharing my story, which I did. After I began opening up, I experienced a sense of belonging that changed the way I perceived both other people and the God that I followed. I became obsessed with the story of the prodigal son, because I felt I had finally been spotted by my Father as I walked away from the life I’d been living.
It has been a long journey from the place of despair I was in six years ago to where I am now. It started with opening up to my fellow counselors and experiencing acceptance, belonging, and compassion where I expected to find condemnation and shame. As I sought God further through small groups and close relationships with friends, I was able to process some more of my feelings and identify with others in my community who had similar stories. I no longer felt so alone.

Eventually, I sought out counseling to process some of the grief and trauma I still carried. This led me to joining a 12-Step recovery group, where I have learned to accept my past, share my experience and strength with others, and make amends to those I harmed with my decisions — including my then-girlfriend and the twins she was carrying.

Through all this, I have seen how God has used my story to reconcile myself to him and to my fellow human beings. I have also come to see the pain in my story as redeemed in the sense that it can be a point of connection, hope, and healing for others with similar experiences.

If I were talking to a guy in a similar situation, I would offer to him my experience, which has been that being open and vulnerable with others in a safe context has always left me feeling connected, whole, and grateful for all aspects of my story.

As a male with an abortion story, I wish that more people were equipped with tools to talk about shame in general and sexual shame in particular. Sex is a hugely important topic, and in my case I let the shame surrounding it keep me from opening up to others and seeking advice and support in the midst of crisis. I think that my experience might have been different if I and those close to me had been better equipped by church and school to confront shame and promote true intimacy.

I find most of the public conversation to be based in shame and fear on both sides. In my experience, actions taken and words spoken out of fear and shame have never promoted healing, compassion, or reconciliation, which are sorely needed in our world today. I think that shame and stigma continue to keep people with stories of abortion from opening up and experiencing connection and healing. The more I experience healing in the wake of my pain, the sadder I find this fact.