May 2020 | Laura Mann
Laura, post-abortive, entreats pastors to speak about abortion in their churches, to make way for God to heal.
“Jesus did not come to make us comfortable"…
(Conference 2020: Is abortion a gospel issue?)
Transcript | Laura Mann with a plea to church leaders
My story has been a long journey of healing, restoration and revelation. It took over 11 years for me to truly feel like I'm at a place where I'm totally healed from my experience.
So I was 19 at the time when I had an abortion, and my boyfriend at the time was much older than me, so I was expecting that I would get support from him and encouragement to have this child. Instead, the words he said at the time were, “You have your whole future ahead of you.” I had two friends I was really close to as well. I confided in them. They were like sisters to me, and when I told them, they just gave me no hope whatsoever. I'm from a Nigerian heritage, and to have a child out of wedlock is not really the done thing, so I had that in the back of my mind - disappointing my mum. What would my siblings think? What would my peers think about me? And if my boyfriend wasn’t going to support me, or at least stand with me in this, how was I going to raise a child at 19? So there was fear.
Eventually I gave in to having an abortion at 20 weeks. In my case I had become attached to the child because I had the opportunity to see a scan of the child. I got to the point because the pregnancy was so far progressed, that I could feel my baby moving inside me, and I had connected. So I was confused. I knew deep down inside that it was not the right decision that I was making, but I just needed somebody to affirm that everything was going to be okay, that I could actually do this, and I would be supported if I decided to have this child. There was not one person that affirmed that to me at the time. So the decision was basically solely down to me, and when we went to the doctors the doctor quickly gave abortion as though it was the only option. So I went ahead sadly and sacrificed my child, because of fear.
And when I went to the clinic, and I sat down and I was given some pills to take, I remember feeling the sensation of my baby moving into my lower abdomen. Eventually I was taken to theatre, put to sleep, and when I woke up I just felt this complete hollow emptiness inside me. And that feeling, even today, even since conceiving my children, has never left me.
I had the abortion. I remember coming away from that clinic, being told that I was silly, and asked if I did not know the decision I had made, because when the nurses escorted me down the lift to the waiting room I felt as if I was meant to have come away with something. I just felt so empty. And I remember saying to one of the nurses, “Where's my baby?” and she said to me, “Do you not know what you have done?” And I sat in that recovery room, and even on arrival I was told it would be fine, it would be quick, I wouldn’t experience much pain. So I left that clinic, and I held on to those words, “I'm going to be fine.” Little did I know that that would be the beginning of nightmares, night tremors, shame… just riddled with guilt. And I kept it a secret, because it just wasn’t the thing you talked about.
I was raised in a family where my mum really tried her best to instil Christian values in us. I lost my dad when I was 12 years old, and I feel that when I look back, in retrospect, that that had to do with decisions I made later on in my teens.
What had happened was, when I look back in hindsight, I realised that although I’d had the abortion, it didn't just erase the fact that I was a mother and that was my child. Then eventually I came to salvation. Although I grew up in a Christian home, I hadn't really given my life to Christ. I hadn't really experienced that for myself. And eventually I came to Christ, and in the first eleven months of me being saved I would sit in the church in the dead silence, and I would be listening to sermons, and I would hear this high pitch of a baby crying. Week in, week out, it just wouldn't go away. I would turn around and I'd say to my friends (because we all got saved at the same time), “Can you not hear the high pitch of this baby crying? Can you not hear this baby crying?” But no one would move in the service. I was just so baffled. I could hear this baby crying and no one else could hear this baby crying, and my friends would turn around and look at me completely puzzled. And this went on for weeks. And I just thought to myself, “Lord, being saved brings hope and the promises of God.” And I felt comfort in that. But at the same time God was doing a work in me. He was stirring something within me, and He just kept bringing to the forefront of my mind this abortion that I had. And I knew back then that it was not the right decision I had made, but God had a plan. He wanted to obviously heal me from this, but I needed to speak to somebody at the same time. I thought, “I can't just keep this to myself because I feel like I'm being tormented.”
So I plucked up the courage and spoke to my pastor. I hadn't even heard anything on abortion during my 11 months of being saved. My mum never spoke to me about it. I'm one of six siblings. Abortion was like a myth to me. I'd never heard about it. I didn't even know what it was until I found myself pregnant and I knew that that was an option I had. So I spoke to my pastor, he prayed with me, fasted with me, gave me scriptures and that's where it ended. There were no sermons about it in church after that, there was no direction to get support, or post abortive support. I don't know whether he had ever dealt with anybody that had an abortion before but he tried to deal with it the best way he could.
So, after that, God just kept on taking me on this trajectory of healing. I met up with a very good friend of mine named Ruth, in a new church, when I left my old church. And one day she said to me, “I'm going somewhere.” There was an event going on in church, and I kept hassling her, asking her where she was going. It was the Clarkson Academy, and I ended up there with her, and the training course took place, and I went on a display outside the Department of Health. And the images were just there in my face, and that was just another reckoning of healing. I broke down, because that was the first time I had encountered and come face to face with what had actually happened to my baby. I saw pieces of these babies’ bodies and these children that their life had been taken away from them, and I thought, “That's what happened to my baby.” And, you know, God has given me the confidence, He's healed me from within, I've attended things like the PASE Recovery Course. And each time I'm presented with something I can't say no, because I know that the experience itself impacted me so much, and the many years of silence did me no good. And that first step that I took, through the conviction that God had laid in my heart, to go and speak to my pastor, was the healing that I needed. And the healing that many people need, because within the church there is such a thick silence about this topic. Unless we are willing to present help and support, then it just makes it that much harder for people to step up and say, “Look, here I am. This is my situation. How can you support me?”
Thank you so much for sharing. It's just wonderful to hear a message of hope in such a dark situation, and to hear God's grace at work in your life. Thank you for sharing that with us. I'm interested to hear what your response is to that fear that there is from the pulpit. People are aware that when they speak about this issue, there may well be people such as yourself who have actually had an abortion, maybe in the congregation, or whatever their audience is, and they're concerned that they're going to cause further damage and upset. So they just don’t speak at all. What's your response to that kind of fear? What would you say to people who hold back for that reason, so they don't upset people such as yourself?
Well my response to that is that the issue is there. We can't just turn a blind eye to it, because as I said earlier, there are women, there are men, that have been affected directly and indirectly, and they are suffering in silence. For as long as it's not spoken from the pulpit, we as a church and people within the church are going to default to the other options that are out there. The other option that is out there is to conceal the issue that I'm pregnant, that I found myself in a circumstance that I don't feel that I can cope with right now. But where the church is not talking about it, people will just default to the other options that are out there.
I’ve got a similar question but I think it's distinct. There are those who are concerned that this would be a distraction. They might say, “Well we don't get into political stuff or get distracted by social issues. Our job is to preach the gospel. That's my calling. That's my focus. This will blow us off course.” How would you respond to that kind of objection?
Abortion and talking about it is part of the gospel, just like every other topic we speak about within the church, many that are uncomfortable. Jesus did not come to make us comfortable. Where abortion would have a platform of being spoken about within the church, it will bring further light into the darkness, because abortion is such a taboo subject and one which people want to keep covered. I’ve spoken to church leaders about this within my church and the response that I've had, which is very heart-breaking is, “It's too difficult, it's too complicated.”
Before this interview I really sought God and I said, “Speak to me about a scripture, say something to me Lord that I can actually say to pastors, and God gave me a scripture: Jeremiah 32. And within that scripture God has spoken to Jeremiah and said, “Behold, am I not God of all flesh? Is there anything too hard for me?” My word to pastors or leaders out there: there is nothing that is too hard. It's only becomes hard when we decide that we cannot speak about it. We are the oral piece of the gospel. If we keep that oral piece quiet and put a lid on it, then you cannot really deal with the real issues that people are facing. And again, I must reiterate, what will happen is that you will find that you have broken people playing church within church. If it's spoken about, people have that option to actually say, “This is something that God can actually help you with.” And they will come forward.
Over the years I've spoken about my testimony and felt comfortable to speak about it, only because I know that God has healed me from it. If we're not speaking about it, people are not being healed from their situations, or having the option to know that if pregnant, there is support. It's not just one facet, it’s many factors that need to come into play to make this doable, as a church. So everybody has to play their part, talking about it, providing services for it, post abortive, during pregnancy. We just all have to play our part. So my part I feel that God has called me to is to share my testimony, because I wouldn't want to sit back, knowing my experience and things I went through. Many, many years it’s taken. The church needs to wake up, we need to talk about these issues today, so that people have that refuge place. It's not about being judgmental. It's not about casting judgement at all. It's about providing grace for people. And I think the more we talk about it and allow people to see that we are being gracious through the services that we can provide, many people within the church will respond.
And you’re available, and a couple of friends of yours to share this story in churches and that's one way to help churches to begin to open this up, isn't it?
Yes, absolutely. Recently the two ladies that I speak with… God has birthed a vision for a ministry called Voice for the Voiceless. And just effortlessly we have been able to share our experiences, because the three of our stories are very parallel, very similar. We've been healed from our experiences, and God has brought us together, to be a combined voice, to be a strong voice. And the vision is not just to enable women, but also to enable men, because men feel that have been side-casted when it comes to the issue of abortion. Many men are affected just the same as women. So hopefully we'll have some men come on board, and that would empower other men as well.
And if people get in touch with us we can forward you to Laura and others. We're here to help, so we’d love to help you make that first step. Just one more question: We know that under God's sovereign hand mercifully he works everything to the good, and He is masterful at orchestrating redemption. So I am not seeking to ask a question about regrets or trying to change the past, but I do want to ask, what kind of help or information do you wish had been there at that moment when you were 19 facing the abortion decision? What could have made all the difference from the church - what information or help? Or to put it another way, what do you think needs to be there for women and girls today?
Coming to my pastor at the time and confessing my experience to him - at the moment, I’m really pushing in my church for a post-abortive recovery course. Hubs within the church where people can access services, quickly and hands-on, readily available. So, I think, creating (just the same way we create small groups, ministries), whatever it may look like, this is one thing that has to be paramount. It needs to be within the church. Although I wasn’t in Christ when I was going through my experience, but coming to Christ so shortly after, I would very much have benefitted from having a ministry that pays attention to people that may be post-abortive. Also looking at caring for people that find themselves in a pregnancy situation or circumstance that may be quite difficult for them. I think planting the Hope Pregnancy Centres in the UK is a phenomenal idea, with the mission statement behind it and the heart behind it. I definitely think it will benefit us in the UK.