A Good Girl Speaks
By Diane Fial Svoboda, LSW
I became a teenager at the start of the 1960s, the time of the sexual revolution. I was hearing from my family and church to wait until marriage to experience intercourse, but the culture was coming on strong with "Make love not war," and women's "right" to have the same sexual experiences as men do, and on and on. Two opposing messages confused my mind, and I finally "gave in" to the secular cultural influence. After all, I didn't want to be left out. I also did want to follow Christ's commands, but once I became sexually active, it was difficult to end that behavior. I had guilt with every sexual encounter prior to my marriage.
I was in college and began dating a young man who had recently left the seminary, and was finishing college at the university I attended. We began dating, and at some point became physically intimate. He was the first man with whom I had a sexual encounter. I was in my last year of college when I discovered I was pregnant. I was in a state of shock and disbelief. At that age I guess I did not really believe pregnancy could happen to me. I was panicked, and could not sleep. I felt I could not live with having the child since I would be disappointing my parents, and making them and myself look bad to the community in which we lived. I was so ashamed, and did not want anyone to know that I had been sexually active outside of marriage.
I told my parents because I did not know where else to turn. This was during a time when abortions were still illegal. My father was a physician, and he knew of another physician who performed abortions illegally. My mother told me a couple times that this was her first grandchild, and I know she would have accepted him with love. But, I was adamant about having the abortion. I did not want to marry my boyfriend, or rather did not want to marry a man as a result of the pressure of a pregnancy. So, I believed that in having the abortion, numerous problems would be solved. Nobody would know what an immoral person I was, my parent's honor would be saved, and I could finish school.
I do not remember much about that day. Since it was an illegal procedure, my father had do drop me off in a downtown location. I was picked up and brought to a high rise apartment building where the procedure was performed. All I remember about the physician was that he seemed kind, and he was black. I felt that I could go on with my normal life after that day.
I did not tell any one about my abortion for the next 19 years with the exception of a priest (I went to confession because I feared being excommunicated) and my husband prior to our marriage. He did not react or seem to give it much importance. I had 2 healthy children during our marriage. Approximately 18 years after my abortion I began working in a children's hospital in the town where I lived. As a medical technologist, part of my job responsibilities included phlebotomy, i.e. blood drawing from patients. This included premature and newborn infants. It was in that critical care nursery where the staff was putting all their efforts into saving the young lives of premature children that I began facing what I had done many years previously. I went to a priest and retold my story. I started seeing a counselor, and the healing process began for me. I should add that my self-esteem was almost non-existent during these 18 years. My life was miserable, I felt I would never be forgiven, even though I had received Reconciliation, and I was depressed. After all, I had killed an innocent human being, how could I have a good bone in my body!
I knew I wanted to be involved at some point in helping women who have had, or are considering abortion. In May of 2004, I attended a Rachel's Vineyard retreat with the intent of working on future retreats, or somehow helping in this ministry. A requirement they have is that you have to attend a retreat as a participant in order to help in the future. The retreat weekend was one of the most healing experiences of my life! I felt like a heavy burden was lifted, and I did not feel the need to keep the secret any longer. I told my children who were in their early 20s, and my brother who had never known. I am no longer afraid to speak out and tell people about it because there is healing to be found. And most of all, I really know that God is a very loving and generous God, and loves me despite my errant ways. I feel that now I can truly minister to men and women who have experienced the horror of abortion.