How do I communicate about my sexual past—which sadly includes two abortions—to the people in my life?
I often hear from women trying to process the aftermath of an abortion. What I like to do is pour a cup of coffee and invite them to tell me the whole story. I share mine, too, and we talk about what it looks like to move toward healing with grace and wisdom.
It is impossible, in an article, to address every nuance of a person’s situation, but if you have an abortion in your past, I’d like to offer a few things to consider before you share.
1. People can know you without knowing about your abortion.
I was 16 when I had my abortion, and in that moment, it felt like my identity was permanently altered. Convinced no one could truly know me if they didn’t know my shameful past, I became a reckless oversharer. New friends, first dates, youth pastors, and college-ministry staff heard my story in all its gory details.
At best, I needed them to know who I really was in order to believe they loved me; at worst, I was giving them a chance to reject me before I got in too deep. This oversharing did nothing to heal the wounds; it only caused me to relive them, over and over again, as I reinforced what I thought was true: I am a tainted woman.
I realized I didn’t have to live defined by my sexual past and post-abortive status.
It wasn’t until I re-entered the church at 25 and began to grasp my identity in Christ that I realized I didn’t have to live defined by my sexual past and post-abortive status. “Such were some of you,” Paul writes, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
In Christ, we’re given a new birth certificate as adopted children of God. We don’t have to add annotations about our past to qualify our new status.
If we’re going to share about our past in a wise and healthy way, we must do so knowing it is part of our story, but not part of our identity. We can be known and loved by those who might not know all the dark and painful parts of our history.
If we’re going to share about our past in a wise and healthy way, we must do so knowing it is part of our story, but not part of our identity.
2. You can’t pay for your sin.
On the heels of my reckless oversharing came opportunities to share in larger settings. People love a good testimony, and I jumped at the chance to share far and wide, hopeful I could deter anyone listening from making the same painful choices. Even as I started to process my abortion in healthier ways, I wrestled with how the Lord might use my story.
Those of us with an abortion history may be uniquely poised to join the pro-life movement; we can certainly speak firsthand of abortion’s evils and painful consequences. But what I’ve seen in many post-abortive women, and what I recognized in myself, is the mistaken belief that my willingness to share my story would somehow make up for the sin of my past. If I could keep someone from an abortion, would that saved life redeem the one I forfeited?
The reality is this: I can’t pay for the sin of my abortion, and neither can you. No amount of activism, no number of babies saved, not even the best stewardship of our stories can make up for it.
Only a perfect, sinless substitute can pay for it—and he has, in full. Only in looking to Jesus by faith can we know redemption. As we think about how to share, we must remember that Christ has already secured our justification.
3. Sharing your story can be a tool for healing.
While our abortions don’t define us, they can be a source of great shame and struggle. And I’ve found that those who love me and care for me can do so better when I’ve invited them into that struggle.
I started by sharing everything with a Christian counselor. Because abortion is both sin and trauma, it can take time for God’s truth to penetrate the dark and painful places, and a skilled counselor can help facilitate that process with compassion and patience.
I also shared with a few godly women who were mentors and friends to me early in my faith. They supported me alongside my counselor and helped me discern when and how to share when I was dating the man who became my husband.
I’ve spoken with women who were afraid to share with their spouse before they got married and now struggle to know how to communicate about their past. These conversations are difficult, but it’s important to remember that while shame whispers that you must hide your secrets or risk being abandoned, in Christ there is no condemnation for you (Rom. 8:1, 33–34).
More often than we might think, our spouses will respond with grace, and their unconditional love will further the healing work of Christ in our hearts. Knowing I can turn to my husband for love, support, and reminders of truth in hard moments helps me to walk in the light (1 John 1:7).
Though it may feel daunting to tell someone about past abortions, remember: your identity in Christ is secure; he has paid for your sin in full.
Sharing your story with your pastor may enable him to shepherd you more effectively. Whenever your conscience is heavy, you can go to him unhindered to be reminded that you’re indeed forgiven. Also, letting him know your past can help him speak with greater sensitivity from the pulpit.
As I’ve shared with trusted people, I’ve experienced greater healing and freedom in Christ. Over time, it’s become easier to discern when and how to share this part of my story.
Though it may feel daunting to tell someone about past abortions, remember: your identity in Christ is secure; he has paid for your sin in full. But he has also placed you within his family, and you don’t have to carry this burden alone.