I recently had the good fortune to meet Abigail Seidman outside of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia. Abigail is the daughter of a Planned Parenthood nurse and her testimony is quite moving. I had never considered what it’s like to grow up in a culture that embraces abortion and its tragic results.
Rob Schilling, a talented local radio talk show host on 1070 WINA, read her testimony and invited Abigail, Christina Hampton (local coordinator for 40 Days for Life) and yours truly onto his daily talk show. We’ve converted that interview into a video and I think you’ll find Abigail’s insights as a child growing up in the abortion industry eye opening.
Here is the video: http://blip.tv/file/4167384
I’m also attaching a ,pdf version of her testimony. If you’re interested in contacting Abigail her contact information is included at the bottom of the .pdf with her permission.
Special thanks to Mikel Fair for sharing a video clip of Planned Parenthood escorts.
I had been at college for about a month when a friend stopped by to see if I wanted to go with her to buy tampons – her period had just started. I said “Oh, good idea – I suppose I’ll be needing some…any….day….now….” As she heard my voice trail off, she raised her eyebrows and said, “How long has it been since the last one?” I said “First week of August.” She stared at me. “First week of August??? It’s almost the end of September now!!!” We bought tampons and a pregnancy test that night. It came up positive right away, and I suddenly had the perfect explanation for why I had been so tired, and craving strange foods, and feeling sick in the mornings (all of which I had just attributed to the stress of being on my own and academic pressure).
It had never occurred to me to really think about the possibility of unplanned pregnancy. I had always used condoms! The 15% failure rate with ‘perfect use’ was just a random number in my head. Condoms = safe sex = no pregnancy or disease. End of story. I was a good girl, a smart girl, my mother worked for Planned Parenthood and a private abortion clinic, so there was NO WAY it could happen to me. Now that I was… I wasn’t sure what to do. I had come to a very secretly-held pro-life position in my early teens, after reading some of the “hostile” literature in the library above the abortion clinic where my mother worked, and seeing the photos of fetal development in the medical books, plus the sometimes-graphic signs of counter-protesters at pro-abortion rallies. It really didn’t take long after I discovered the reality of what my mother and her co-workers were doing, to be horrified and wish it would stop – but I didn’t know what to do. My mother is a very controlling, volatile person, and expressing an opinion that differed from hers, particularly on a political issue, was simply not permitted. So I toed the line of radical feminism, kept my mouth shut, and suffered inside every time I had to think about abortion – which was often, given that I spent my Fridays as an escort at her clinic, and had to deal with the constant pleas of the sidewalk counselors as well as seeing the women coming in and out, often crying, sometimes downcast with a hostile-looking partner or parent dragging them along by the arm, sometimes lashing out in rage – but never, EVER calm, confident, and happy – which is what I had been told, over and over again, was in fact the case.
Everyone who has an abortion wants one. Everyone feels relieved afterwards. No-one ever suffers psychological ill effects, whether before, during, or afterwards – and if they say they do, it’s only because they’ve been brainwashed by the evil Christians who want to keep women barefoot, pregnant, and illiterate. They must have been weak. That’s not our fault. We did what was best for them and now they’re being ungrateful. They should just grow up and get over it.
I called my boyfriend and told him. He was a year younger than me, and still in high school. He didn’t want me to have an abortion, but he didn’t feel ready to be a father, so we agreed fairly quickly that adoption was our best choice. He was worried about telling his parents, but I thought maybe I could hide my pregnancy from them, disappear for a bit – I *was* away at college, after all – or just hope that they would be happy that we were adopting instead of ‘ruining our lives’ with young parenthood. They were Catholic, so I was fairly confident that their disappointment or anger would come from the fact that we had had premarital sex in the first place, not that we had ‘gotten caught’.
My parents were another story. My father wanted me to drop out of college, move back into his home, and be a single mother. He didn’t have any specific objections to abortion or adoption – I think he just wanted me home again instead of off on my own, growing up. When I insisted on staying in college and doing an adoption, he said he would support me no matter what I chose.
On to my mother. I knew what was going to happen, but I braced myself and called her anyway. I told her I was about 6 or 7 weeks pregnant, and before I could say anything else, she positively chirped, “That’s fine, sweetie, I’ll call Marty and we’ll get you taken care of next weekend. You’ll need to get yourself to the airport but I’ll pay for the plane tickets and Sara will probably fly in too and some other people might come from Toledo, I thought we’d have you done in Cleveland because then we can stay with Mary and you would like the clinic there better, it’s more to your taste, totally medical and not new-agey – ” I cut her off. “Mom? I, um, I talked to Zach already, and we want to do an adoption, and Dad says it’s my choice and I can handle it however I want and he’ll support me…”
Her voice turned icy. “Well, if that’s how Daddy feels then he WILL have to support you. If he wants you to ruin your life by having a baby, then HE can pay for EVERYTHING for you and IT, and I will never put another cent toward your education. I’ve devoted my life to helping women who need abortions, and now you’re the one who needs help, and I’m going to help you, so that’s that, okay???”
I said I wanted to think about it, hung up, and unplugged the phone.
I went to see a counselor the next morning. She was a friendly, middle-aged lady who immediately put me more at ease. When I told her I was pregnant, she said “Congratulations!” That was a bit of a shock. I stayed calm and just told her my predicament – how everyone was already decided on adoption except my mother – and what consequences that could have. I wasn’t surprised when she was adamantly against going along with my mother’s wishes and having an abortion – this was a Catholic college, after all – but I wasn’t expecting her to lay out a complete solution in short order. Open adoption? Check. Stay in college? No problem, there would be funding. Place to live on breaks when I might not be able to go home? Something would be worked out. No medical insurance? Adoptive parents would gladly pay the prenatal and birth costs. It sounded too good to be true – and I had been raised to believe that nobody ever helped anyone else out unless there was a catch somewhere, and that pro-lifers hated women and were never interested in helping pregnant women or their babies beyond getting them out alive. I left in a state of utter numbness. This woman had promised me everything – EVERYTHING I could possibly have asked for in this situation, but I didn’t trust her. I couldn’t trust anyone. I went back to my dorm room and cried for the rest of the day.
My mother called around noon. I told her about my discussion with the counselor and she blew up at me (predictably). She screamed that she was going to sue the college for advising any option other than abortion, and she threatened to cut off my tuition and any other support
money. I gave in. Immediately she fell back into cheerful mode, bubbling on about how great it was going to be to get her friends together to celebrate my rite of passage. She said she would buy the tickets right away after we got off the phone, and that she would call back once she knew my flight time and which airport.
I got a call that afternoon from the counselor. She had found a couple to adopt my baby, just that quickly. They already had two adopted children and wanted a third. They were well-off, and the mother stayed home. They were very open to doing an open adoption, including taking me into their home if needed. They wanted to meet me as soon as possible. They wanted to meet my boyfriend too, if he was willing, because they wanted both birthparents involved in their children’s lives. It sounded perfect. And I had to tell her no. She pleaded with me to come to her office again, to talk to the adoptive parents on the phone, to at least take a week to consider all options before making my final decision. I told her what my mother had said, and that she was already buying the plane tickets and I had no choice. I remember that, so clearly, more clearly than anything else about my abortion. I said: “I HAVE NO CHOICE.” In a last-ditch effort, the counselor told me that if I aborted I would go to hell. I was an atheist at that point, so the threat was empty to me. I said: “I’m more afraid of my mother.” and hung up.
After my mother called to confirm the travel plans, I called my boyfriend and father again and told them what had happened. I still felt strangely numb inside. I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t even angry. I just shut down. I went home to visit them for a few days before the abortion. My boyfriend came over after school and we just held each other and cried for hours. I think he cried more than I did, I was still trying to just numb everything out.
I skipped my classes for the rest of the week, and just hung up on people if they called and told them to go away if they knocked on my door. I alternated between curling up in bed and crying, drinking until I passed out, and waking up to start crying again. On the day I was scheduled to leave, I woke up and started drinking right away to numb myself up for the coming weekend. I packed a bottle in my backpack for the trip. I felt guilty for drinking while pregnant, even though I was going to *kill* the baby in less than 24 hours. My maternal instincts were so strong, had been from the moment I found out I was pregnant, that it took every ounce of will power I had to keep going and not run back to college and throw myself on the mercy of the pro-lifers. I stopped in the bathroom of the airport on the way to my flight, to slug down as much liquor as I could stand. I don’t remember the flight, or anything else until the next morning.
The next thing I remember is waking up with a terrible hangover, and doing my pre-abortion paperwork with my mother standing over my shoulder while everyone else ate breakfast and chatted excitedly about my big day. Since I was a VIP, I wasn’t going to be looking at the fetal development pictures, having any counseling, or doing a waiting period. I just filled out the required paperwork like a robot while my mother told me what to write and where to sign. I remember a sheet with a list of emotions, my mother explained that that would be submitted to some sort of review board and that any “wrong” emotions would be “ammo” for the pro-lifers, so she told me which boxes to tick: happy, relieved, peaceful, optimistic, confident… my
pencil kept veering toward terrified and suicidal but I did as I was told and before long we were ready to go to the clinic. We went to the staff entrance so I wouldn’t come into contact with the sidewalk counselors, and my mother held her hand over my eyes as we drove past them so I couldn’t see their signs.
I didn’t have to wait long – again, the VIP treatment. Before I knew it I was on the table and waiting for everyone to crowd in so the doctor could begin. I know there must have been lights on, but for some reason I remember it as being dark. There were about 8 people in the room, including my mother, myself, and the doctor. Her friends were so excited. They kept saying things to me like, “You’re part of the sisterhood now!” It started and I still felt mostly numb, until the pain took over. It was excruciating, but I kept a stiff upper lip and didn’t make noise. I let out a tiny cry at the end, when it hurt the most, and then immediately braced myself for my mother’s reaction – but she wasn’t upset. As the doctor cleaned up and left the room for the next patient, my mother helped me to sit up. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I am so proud of you, sweetie.” Looking back on it, I realized that, despite my previous track record of academic and artistic achievements – this was the only time in my life that my mother had ever said she was proud of me.
I was taken to recovery and everyone left for a celebratory lunch. I was alone, and no VIP treatment this time. The nurse was someone I didn’t know, and she was extremely hostile. I saw her bring in another girl and put her in the chair across from mine. The other girl looked up at me through her tears and said, “You, too?” I nodded. She said, “It hurts, doesn’t it? I mean it really hurts.” I said “Yes, it does”, and the nurse stormed over and shouted “NO TALKING!” at us, then pulled a curtain to separate us. A while later, my mother and her two best friends came back to pick me up. I was in a lot of pain and just wanted to go home to bed, but they were adamant that I deserved my celebratory dinner. I could barely eat, and when they went to another place for ice cream afterward, I spent the entire time in the bathroom vomiting and crying. The only one who came to check on me was my mother’s friend’s 10 year old daughter. (Ironically, she had been born when her mother was 16. I always wondered how she felt about that, and how her mother felt about working as an abortion counselor after choosing life as a teen mother. She wasn’t in it for long – a few years later she started working with elderly people instead and as far as I know, she still does.) After the ice cream, we put the top down on the car and went for a scenic drive. I hated every second of it. I was still in agony and I hadn’t been given a prescription for pain medicine – the doctor offered, but my mother vetoed it. I couldn’t sleep that night because of the pain. The next day my mother found the Kahlua bottle in my bag, and took the rest of it for her and her friends to make milkshakes for breakfast. I didn’t get one – she said I shouldn’t have alcohol so soon after an abortion. The flight back was barely manageable – I limped to my seat and left a bloodstain when I got up. I couldn’t get back to my dorm fast enough, to lock myself in my room and drink until the pain – and everything else – went away.
I tried to cope and act normal once I was back at college, but I still felt empty and numb and self-loathing, and while I did well in my classes, my social life was nearly non-existent. I went home most weekends to visit my boyfriend and cry together. His grades started to plummet as
he spent more of his time and energy on drinking and partying, getting mostly C’s his senior year and wrecking his previous A average, and losing interest in his extracurricular activities and sports. He went to a “party school” college and lasted a year and a half before dropping out. We broke up a year after the abortion, but remained friends for a few more years. The last time I heard from him he was heavily into drugs, promiscuously bisexual, and working on and off as a waiter.
In the last few weeks of the semester, I started getting warning letters saying that my tuition hadn’t been paid, and that I wouldn’t be able to register for classes. I checked with the financial office and found out that other than my books and some startup fees, nothing had been paid. I called my mother and got a very unexpected message. She felt that she had done enough to help me by arranging my abortion, and that my dad should be responsible for my education since “he was the one who wanted you in the first place”. My parents’ combined income was far too high to qualify me for any sort of financial aid, and my father didn’t want me to go to college in the first place, so that was that. I packed up and left the day exams started. I had A’s in every single class.
In the space of a few months I had gone from bright, hopeful young honor student with perfect boyfriend and prestigious university, to… what? I didn’t know. I knew how to drink, party, eat, and cry. So I did those things. Addictively. I spent endless nights in my room weeping and cutting and burning myself. I have physical scars to match the mental ones, and I considered suicide more than once. I went from anorexia to bulimia to compulsive overeating and back again. The future that I had always seen – the one my mother planned out for me and pushed me toward – had evaporated. I knew one thing for certain – I was never going to be the feminist lawyer of her dreams. I spent a few years going aimlessly from job to job, never lasting more than a few months. Most of the time I was unemployed and hung around the house reading, drinking, and waiting for the next opportunity to party.
I had nightmares all the time – when I could sleep. I slept with all the lights on and music playing for years, because I was terrified of darkness and silence.
When I was 22, I met my husband. He seemed too good to be true – but I had learned my lesson about ‘too good to be true’ things, and took a chance. Things seemed to be looking up for me, and they were. But I still had problems. We both wanted children, but I was afraid of everything about it – afraid something would go wrong with the pregnancy, afraid of giving birth… What if I couldn’t get pregnant again in the first place? Most worrisome of all, I still had problems with alcohol, drugs, and self injury. I just couldn’t believe that I could ever be a good mother after what I had done.
We started trying to get pregnant a few months after our wedding. It took 8 months to get a viable pregnancy, with a few very early miscarriages along the way. When I finally became pregnant and it stayed, week after week, I was elated – but it alternated with dread.
When we found out it was twins, I was even more elated, and somehow it seemed less
terrifying. I felt like, in some way, my dead baby was being replaced by getting two for one. I lost one of the babies at 7 months gestation, the other was born full-term and healthy. I wouldn’t let myself grieve over his sister – after all, fetuses aren’t babies and we don’t grieve when they die, because they weren’t really alive. I was still stuck with a lot of the old abortion mind-set.
When he was 7 months old, we started trying to get pregnant again. It took 6 months and one early miscarriage. I had hyperemesis gravidarum this time – imagine the worst morning sickness ever, only it lasts all day and night. I lost 15 pounds in my first trimester (everyone told me I looked fabulous, of course!). I refused medication, feeling like I deserved to suffer somehow, until I started having painful, regular contractions at the end of my first trimester, and decided to accept medication for my constant nausea and vomiting, as well as go on partial bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. Thankfully, there were no more threatening contractions, and the rest of the pregnancy progressed smoothly. My second son was born, perfectly healthy, on Valentine’s Day. I felt wonderful at first, but quickly descended into postpartum depression.
A month after that, I lost my endometrium to early-intervention cancer treatment – and with it, my ability to have more children. My emotional problems and guilt spiraled and I ended up on several antidepressants and anxiety medications. I started a business to try to jolt myself out of it, but the stress just made me turn to alcohol again, combining it with pills. When my business failed, nearly taking my marriage with it, I felt completely helpless – on the verge of losing everything and ending up hanging around my father’s house drinking and reading for the rest of my – hopefully short – life. My husband and I reconciled, taking some very positive steps, but my drinking was still out of control and I was tired of trying to be perfect and then plummeting back down to the depths again. I started searching for something – anything – that could make a difference IN me and not just FOR me – something that would heal me spiritually, somehow. The tipping point was when my older son was diagnosed with autism, and all of the support groups and websites were religious, generally Christian. I tried asking around on atheist sites, but the overwhelming response was “I’m sorry you weren’t able to find out and abort him in time.” The thought of not having my son, difficult though his condition sometimes is, was unthinkable. I realized that I *was* a good mother, a loving mother, and most importantly, now, without question, a pro-life mother. I started to explore Christianity, and somehow it didn’t seem as hostile and threatening now. In fact, it seemed like just what I needed. I started my exploration with the intent of becoming a cultural Christian, just to have a group of friends who supported and affirmed me and my special-needs child – but before long, I accepted it as not just a nice idea, but as the actual truth. I accepted Jesus as my savior in June of this year, and was baptized in August.
As important as my faith now is to me, it is not the most important lesson I want people to take away from this. It is important to recognize and effectively counter the culture of death that drives the abortion industry. Most people who are pro-choice have no idea about it. If they have given the issue any thought at all, they view it as either a religious one – “Christians hate women and sex” – or a civil rights one – “women have the right to make their own reproductive decisions”. Many of them are unaware of the scientific facts about fetal development. Many of
them are unaware of the statistics and medical facts regarding miscarriages, infertility, infection, ectopic pregnancy, difficult births, cancers, and mental health issues that so often occur in post-abortive women. Many of them are unaware of the non-religious arguments against abortion. It is worth noting that I considered myself pro-life – although not an activist – for ten years before coming to belief in God. I was, and am, pro-life because I believe that the potential negative physical and mental effects on women outweigh the dubious positive of “not having to have a baby”, and that the fetus, from the moment of conception, is a separate human being with unique DNA, who deserves the right to life as much as any person, regardless of their state of weakness, helplessness, or dependency. I see a slippery slope effect in our post-abortion culture, where children, the disabled, and the elderly are becoming devalued as “dependent” or “unproductive”. The value of a person is without measure. It cannot – SHOULD not – be measured by intelligence, strength, appearance, economic status, ability to communicate, mobility, or any other subjective man-made standard. A person is a person, and if we allow – even encourage – them to be killed in abortion, then all manner of currently unspeakable horrors may become commonplace.
I have hope that this may not come to pass. Through a combination of effective outreach and activism, prayer, public testimony, sidewalk counseling, and simple private conversations, I believe we can – and will – change this world, one person at a time, from an uncaring, selfish, shallow culture of death; to a vibrant, joyful culture of life. We who belong to the culture of life must be careful to avoid artificial divisions that threaten our progress toward our common goal. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, members of other religions, and atheists can and should all work together. There are so many opportunities and ways in which to help end the suffering and violence of abortion, and even the tiniest action makes a difference.