Holy Week and My Abortion Experience

Note: The Exhale Pro-Voice After-Abortion Stories Hub includes people’s stories of their experiences and emotions, exactly as they have written them in. We do not edit these stories at all, and the content that follows this message is exactly as we received it. We know that people’s experiences are complex, and these stories reflect the many emotions they may be feeling after their abortions. From relief to grief, and everything in between, and all at the same time, we’re here for you.

A month before Easter in 2004, I discovered I was pregnant. I had an almost 2 year old son at the time and was working as a minister in a church in the North Shore of MA. What most would think would be a joyful discovery, sent me and my then husband into a period of painful assessment of our marriage and its ability to remain strong through a second child. Once we made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, we were able to quickly connect with a clinic in New Hampshire for the procedure.

I experienced Palm Sunday and Holy Week and Easter in a whole new way that has deepened my compassion and my spiritual life. The kiss of betrayal felt personal. The call for crucifixion felt personal. The backs turned, the washing of hands, the shouting of the crowds felt personal. 

Where is the resurrection? I wondered.

I continued to ask that question once  left the parish to engage in ministry in Boston with families who experience violence and abuse. I found a home and a place among people who society has discarded – immigrants, queer and transgender people, people living with addiction and mental health struggles, sex workers, people who accepted violence over and over and over again because it is all they have ever known. As I  listened to stories of staff and interns and volunteers and the young and old in the shelter I learned to mourn with those who mourn. We grieved together for the pain and isolation and separation they lived with. I came to see how much of their suffering was caused by a broken and oppressive society which provides little room for hope and transformation. 

Those stories propelled me to begin to share my abortion story publicly and move to full time work leading Exhale, an organization I cofounded that  provides caring support to individuals with abortion experiences. What I found on the Exhale talkline again and again were individuals who were struggling to make sense of their abortion in a broken world that only offered shame, judgment, stigma and pain. 

I now serve as a minister in a Unitarian Universalist congregation in the South Shore of MA and six months into my time here, our world is facing a global pandemic the likes of which we have never experienced before. It is painful and terrifying and bizarre – and yet, this time, I know what is needed.

We need to gather for prayer.

We need to cry out our laments.
We need to stay in virtual community with one another.
We need to remember our joy even in the midst of the pain.
We need to know a changed world – a resurrection of sorts – is coming.

This Holy Week, during COVID-19, I have some hope that we will as a state, as a nation and as a world begin to see that the pain in our bodies, the places of shame in our lives, the times when we were not our best selves – are all true. And, all is not lost. We can be healed. We can make it to resurrection. We can learn and grow and show up for one another. And, any place where we want to discard or demonize another person’s experience is only another betrayal. For, we live in a broken world and it has infected us all. But, even this pandemic can not prevent us from using the fuel of our collective hopes mixed with ancient promises from our ancestors and communal dreaming of a new and repaired world to spur us forward.

You deserve nonjudgmental
after-abortion support.

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4 responses to “Holy Week and My Abortion Experience”

  1. Shella

    So well said…I can relate. Thank you for sharing and God bless!

  2. Wow, Susan. This is gorgeous. I am deeply grateful.

  3. Cari

    Beautiful and Blessed framing of your story for this Holy Week. Thank you.

  4. Mark Scott

    Thank you for writing and sharing this Holy Week passion.

    It made me think of a book I am working my way through: Spirit and Trauma by Shelly Rambo.

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