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Thank you, God, for abortion.

*TW: rape and abuse are mentioned in this post.

I was on a layover in Chicago Midway airport, en route to LaGuardia, when I sat at secluded bistro table of some restaurant I don’t remember and called the clinic in Oklahoma to schedule my abortion. It was Thursday, April 21st, 2016. The day before I had found out I was pregnant after taking a pregnancy test during my lunch break in the Target bathroom around the corner from my work. My period was two weeks late but I assumed the irregularity was due to stress, as my husband and I were preparing to move to New York so I could go to seminary. We had already sold almost half of our possessions, including our bed, and were squished together on the full mattress in our guest bedroom to accommodate the tiny Upper West Side apartment along Clairmont Ave. we had secured a few weeks prior.

Images I took from the March for Reproductive Justice in New York

I’ve never shared this story publicly for fear of the very real repercussions that exist for some when talking about abortion or reproductive healthcare. At the time, my husband and I were not living in a supportive community that would’ve been able to love and nurture us through this decision. I drove around the city for hours but finally pulled over to park in a store that sold lawn mowers because I was crying so hard I couldn’t see to drive. I never went back to work after my lunch break. And my boss who answered that hysterical phone call never asked why. And I've always been so grateful for that.

After last night’s leaked opinion by Justice Alito, I could feel the Holy Spirit doing somersaults in the deepest pit of my stomach. "Stop hiding, Hannah,” she whispered. “Your story counts, too.”

I’ve kept this story to myself for two reasons: 1. Because of the people who staunchly oppose abortion, and 2. Because of the people who unashamedly do support abortion. Because my story isn't a cut and dry. Nothing about life truly is. Our lives and experiences are steeped in nuance and lie in that murky in between we rarely are brave enough to wade into. I never showed up for my appointment that following week. I called the woman at the clinic who had held me through the phone the day I scheduled the procedure, to tell her I had changed my mind. God, I wish I could remember her name. Her voice was so gentle. Her instructions and questions so attentive and given with the utmost dignity and care. She wished me well. We hung up and never spoke again but I’ve donated to her clinic ever since.

Our penchant for binaries led me to believe that my story wouldn't be received well on either side of this issue. Would those in the pro-choice camp roll their eyes at my story? Would I be accused of not really having a story to share? Would anti-choice people try and use this story to discredit my ministry or role as a pastor? Abortion access still saved me, even though I didn't exercise my right to use it. Why should I let myself believe that somehow my story didn't matter? Isn't that the whole point of why we are fighting so hard to protect Roe v. Wade? So we can have the freedom to decide for ourselves?

The details of how and why I arrived at my decision not to terminate the pregnancy are mine to keep. And I don't feel I owe them to anyone. The tears and gut-wrenching grief of that day and the many days after are held only by my husband, who believed in my right to choose motherhood for myself that day and every day after. Nine months later, on a wintry night in December, my husband would once again hold me steady as I took deep breaths through tears and pain to bring our beloved son into this world. Four months after that, we would move not to New York, but to the suburbs of New Jersey. And four more months after that, orientation day was upon me. My husband drove me to the train station and kissed me goodbye as I walked out onto the platform, books in one bag, breast pump and bottles in the other.

Me on my first day of seminary. Please note my "free the nipple" pin on my breast feeding bag and the pesky postpartum "baby hair" regrowth. God have mercy, don't we suffer in childbirth enough?.

As a pastor, I'm in the grace business. The unconditional, radical, offensive grace business. The kind that makes you scoff or roll your eyes or boil over with rage. The grace of God has sustained me through my brightest and darkest days. Everyone deserves grace. Because there was a time when I did not believe that reproductive healthcare, specifically abortion, was a fundamental right to protect. I was raised in a culture that preached abortion was murder, an uncrossable line in the sand that separated "us from them." But people who disagreed with me showed me grace anyway. And thanks to their grace, as I grew older, my views on abortion began to change. Even still, I felt it was better to keep those beliefs to myself as to not, "create a stir.” This is a myth we tell ourselves: hiding who we are or what we believe for the sake of being agreeable is polite and a mature thing to do.

Beloved, that is not true.

As a Christian, I believe when I am overwhelmed by anger and rage at the inhumane and unjust things we inflict on one another, like strip people of their dignity and reproductive rights, I am called to hold my head high and speak truth to power. But truth must always be spoken in love. And power’s greatest enemy is rage wrapped with grace. These are holy tools that split our world wide open and open our hearts and minds along with it.

Here is something I want say to anyone who isn't sure about this issue: access to reproductive healthcare does not always mean abortion. The right to abortion— at its very core— is about the right to choose. Think about how important the power of choice is in your life. Think about the thousands of choices you make for yourself every day. Now imagine one of the most life-altering decisions being taken away from you. The possibility of choice allows room to breathe. Choice gives us the space to think. Deliberate. Cry. Pray. And cry some more. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t had the freedom to stretch, wonder, and consider what my life would look like with a baby and what it would look like without one, too. Knowing I had an appointment waiting for me around the corner was a liberating gift. It brought me peace of mind as I discerned what I needed to do.

But here is one more thing I want to say to you who might be struggling to speak out but feels that tug of nuance and human experience: I had everything you could ever want or need to bring a baby into this world. I had a college education, a full time well-paying job, a supportive and loving husband, a house that I owned with two empty bedrooms, healthcare, a loving family, I was healthy, we had a savings account... And yet, in light of all of that, I was still overcome by the fear and grief of an unplanned pregnancy. It was the most isolating moment of my life. In an instant, I felt all the air sucked out of my lungs. Regardless of how my story ended, abortion or not, my deliberation and decision was nobody's business but mine.

That experience, and the myriad of details that came after, forever changed me and my understanding of abortion and the holiness that exists in our power to make our own decisions for our bodies and ultimately the rest of our lives. I promised myself from that moment on, I would no longer mistake politeness for justice. I became an advocate for abortion access and reproductive justice. Because abortion access saved my life by giving me clarity of mind and the option to decide for myself. Abortion access continues to save countless other lives, too.

When my friend broke the news to me last night about Alito, I started shoveling fistfuls of potato chips into my mouth and chugged a spiked Diet Dr. Pepper on the couch with my husband while I cursed and doomed scrolled well into the night. I went to bed red hot with rage. Not because my own rights are in danger. Thanks be to God, I live in a state where my right to choose is protected by the state. But for people all over the country who don't have that luxury, who live in poverty, persons with black and brown skin, people trapped in abusive relationships, survivors of assault or rape, this news hits differently. This is yet another blow to freedom, autonomy, and right to parent or not parent in this world. This is very scary news.

When I woke up this morning and still felt angry from the night before. I reached for my phone to read more articles that said more of the same thing to fill me with even deeper rage but something made me stop short. I flipped my phone face down and laced up my running shoes instead. I sought the healing balm of a well curated Spotify playlist (see below) and ran as fast as my weary heart could stand. I got out of the shower and applied volumizing spray to my roots and methodically blow-dried my hair with a thick round brush, a task I’ve been trying to master since the mid 90s. I put on lipstick before 7 am.

Throughout the morning, every time I felt the urge to waste energy in unproductive ways, I did something else instead. I painted my toenails bright red—candy apple to be exact, my favorite shade of polish. I poured a delicious cup of coffee and took deep breaths while I watched it brew. I gave myself the most generous dollop of whipped cream straight out of the can. Then my daughter wandered into the kitchen and said in her tiniest voice, “I cold! Banket, peas!” So I wrapped her up and together in that same corner of the couch from the night before, we laughed and snuggled. She looked up at me while I played with her hair. I donated to abortion funds of the Great Plains, home of the clinic that cared for me so well all those years ago. I prayed. Lord have mercy, did I pray. And then I got up, packed lunches, and started to organize my thoughts. Because it was about time my story got told.

Will you pray with me?

Gracious and merciful God,

I am angry.

I am not surprised. I don’t feel very generous or kind.

Get a hold of me, God. Don’t let perpetrators of injustice steal my joy.

Give me strength to say what needs to be said.

Give me courage to be kind when I’d rather scream.

Give me endurance for the struggle that lies ahead.

Protect those who are hurting.

Protect those who feel lost and scared.

Protect our bodies from the ignorance and hate of others.

Thank you for the holiness of choice.

Dear God, thank you for abortion.


Links and resources:

Songs for raging and crying:


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