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I found a receipt for an abortion in my daughter’s trash. What should I do?

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The place where grief, pain and unconditional love must meet

Dear Katrina,

Recently my wife called and said she found a receipt from an abortion clinic in some trash my daughter was throwing out. It looks like my 20-year-old daughter had an abortion about two months ago. I am sick with grief. What should I do?

Thank you for your prayers and faithfulness.

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Abortion is such a tender subject and one that hits close to home. I’ve written elsewhere, and painfully, about having had two abortions, one when I was 21 and another when I was 22. I can still vividly recall the feeling of hopelessness and despair I felt at the time. Almost 20 years later those emotions remain fresh.

Both times I became pregnant I was unwed, living on meager wages, trying to finish school, and under immense pressure from the fathers to abort, suffering their threats of harm and denials of responsibility. Even my friends abandoned me and treated me like I had a contagious disease. I was left utterly alone. I never went to my mom because I believed she would just be one more voice of disapproval. I was in a state of panic when I decided I had no other option but abortion.  

Those days before and immediately after the abortion are a blur of hormones, emotions, stress, fear, and tears. I was not once thinking clearly or calmly. Even writing about it now makes me feel anxious and tense.  

I am sharing all this so you can at least have an idea of where it is your daughter may be coming from and, perhaps, why she didn’t tell you she was pregnant. Perhaps she didn’t want to disappoint you and feared losing your respect. Or perhaps she had made up her mind and didn’t want to risk your talking her out of it. Whatever the reason and circumstances surrounding her decision, know that she probably anguished over it and it wasn’t one she made easily.

Now, from my perspective as a parent: if in the future my son and his girlfriend were in this situation, I would hope and pray he would come to me for help and advice. If he didn’t and decided to let his child be aborted and I learned of it after-the-fact, I would be devastated as well.

I would wonder what I could have done, as a parent, to prevent this or to teach him better. I would consume a large amount of guilt and blame, that my child didn’t feel he could come to me with his troubles. I would also grieve the loss of my first grandchild. And yes, my immediate reaction would be to confront him.

But would I suggest the same to you?

In the end I think that keeping abortion private and hidden is wrong. It’s precisely that secretive attitude that fuels the “my body, my choice” mentality. It denies the plain fact that abortion affects more than just the pregnant mother — abortion affects grandparents, fathers, siblings, any future children, and of course the personhood of the unborn child. Deciding to take a life is not a private decision and should not be treated as such. In my opinion, staying silent to avoid conflict is the same as approval.    

My abortions directly affected how I parent and what I teach my son about sexuality. My abortions also directly affected my parents when I robbed them of grandchildren, but more importantly, I  battled serious depression and self-destructive behavior for many years after abortion.

For that reason alone you need to let your daughter know that you and your wife are there for her. She may need emotional and mental support, and if she continues to hide her abortion she may not seek the help she needs.

I would sit her down and gently let her know that you found the receipt. I would avoid demanding explanations, or being accusatory. Just let her know that you love her — that you will always love her — and that you and your wife are there for her. Let her know that you hurt for her, and share her pain because of that love, and that when she is ready to talk, you will listen.   

She may be relieved or she may become furious. She may cry or act out in anger. She may refuse to speak to you or accuse you of violating her privacy. Whatever her reaction or however long it takes for your family to heal, it’s important to accept and forgive your daughter. Pray for her (and with her, if she will let you) and grieve the loss of your grandchild, and forgive yourself as well.

There is another consideration, too. My “legal, safe” abortions seriously impacted my ability to carry a baby to term, causing wholly unanticipated, excruciating, pain and guilt that I bore alone, long after. If your daughter endures something similar — and I pray she does not — knowing that you are there for her will be a real consolation.

And yes, it’s OK for you to grieve. You lost a grandchild you’ll never know and haven’t been allowed to acknowledge.  

Rachel’s Vineyard is the absolute best organization equipped at helping women and family members cope with the loss and grief of abortion. Look into it for yourself and your daughter. Abortion is a deep scar that fundamentally wounds women. Your daughter needs to know that she is unconditionally loved.

This would be my advice to you and to any parent facing the same tough situation. Be there for your children and put aside your own feelings for the sake of their well-being. As painful as it is, the situation needs to be addressed in order for healing to begin.

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