*Publisher’s note: this personal testimony is being reprinted in light of the upcoming vote in South Dakota on Initiated Measure 11 and the recent statement by the American Psychological Association that abortion does not threaten women’s mental health.
By Danelle Hallenbeck
North Carolina State Leader
I believed in the right to get an abortion. I believed that because it was legal it must be okay. When I got pregnant and exercised that right, I was not told of the devastation that it would cause. I was only told how everything would be all right and that it would be over before I knew it.
For 12 years I lived with torment and sorrow. I hated myself, and I felt undeserving of anything good, even life. I told counselors and psychiatrists about all the bad things that have ever happened to me, but I would not tell them what was really wrong. I was too ashamed.
I was given all kinds of anti-depressants. They helped for a short time, but the pain kept coming back. I kept stuffing my pain down inside me for the fear of exposing the shame, anguish, and grief that filled my spirit and was at the very core of my being. It just kept seeping out no matter what medications drugs I took.
I was a workaholic. I made sure I didn’t have time to feel or reflect. I felt I had committed so great a sin that I could never ever think about forgiving myself, and I knew I could not ask God to forgive me. I punished myself by being judgmental, critical, unforgiving, harsh, and self-destructive – showing no mercy to others or myself, which hurt people around me. I did everything in my power to keep all of the pain under the surface, but to no avail.
No matter what medications I took, I still felt the same, so I decided to quit taking them. Then, I began to face and feel the pain I had been hiding for all these years I was struggling with the bitterness and unforgiveness because I didn’t know how to forgive, and I felt as if I didn’t even have the right to ask God to forgive me for what I had done. There were a lot of things in my past that had hurt me – things that were done to me that I felt were unforgivable. I realized I had to forgive others so I could forgive myself for my abortion.
A few weeks after I quit taking my medication, I talked to a neighbor who is an ordained minister. I asked her how to forgive when it seemed impossible to forgive in my mind. She said all things are possible with God, nothing is impossible. She told me I had to let go and pray for God to put love and forgiveness in my heart so I can love and forgive others. It is true; you can’t give away what you don’t have. It was from this point on that I really began to see God work in my life.
On July 6, 2005, I asked God to help me make the right decisions in my life, to know His will, and to please fill my heart with tender mercy, forgiveness and love for everyone.
That same day, I saw the Faces of Abortion television show with women telling stories of their pain after their abortions. I could not believe it. I was so relieved to know that I was not alone. I cried through the entire show.
I learned that day about a retreat to help women like me. I printed information from the website and drove home. I got home and walked back and forth until I finally handed my husband, Jeff, the information. I told him to read it but not to say anything because I couldn’t talk about it. He walked out onto the front porch and read it, then came back in and said “See you later.” Jeff has always been supportive of me.
God knew exactly what he was doing because if I had to plan it, or if I had time to change my mind, or if I knew what I was getting into, I would have stayed home. Some women there had been going through the same torturous pain as I had – for over 20 years! Some had an abortion more recently.
The next day was one of the most difficult days of my life. We all told our stories one at a time. Everyone’s story had the same common denominator: pain, shame and guilt.
The very thing that I was most ashamed of – and could not talk about – is the one thing God is going to use to help heal others. I know now that God has given me a purpose. He has given me a ministry to help and heal the hurting.
Danelle is the North Carolina State Contact. She serves as a volunteer with two pregnancy centers and leads abortion recovery programs. She graduated from Iowa Sate University with a BS in Sociology, and she has worked as a branch manager for a mortgage business, as a financial office manager, and as a paralegal.
*Reprinted by permission of Operation Outcry.