“That was the Planned Parenthood where I learned about my unplanned pregnancy in 1981,” I pointed out to Sarah Buler as we looked out the window of the Alternatives of Kalamazoo pregnancy center in Michigan two weeks ago.
Over the years, I have purposefully walked through many locations that housed disturbing memories. “Exposure therapy” is a clinical term for this process of ending any avoidance of PTSD triggers that might remain or even intensify over time.
Eighteen years earlier, I felt God’s urging to visit places that held my traumatic memories. One locale was the college campus where I attended at the time of my abortion. When the director of center near that location invited me to speak at their banquet, I knew it was time to revisit that campus. This director, Ron Curtis, offered to drive me to the campus before returning me to the airport.
As those arrangements were made, I felt relief that I would only be walking around the campus and not actually sharing my testimony to the student body.
I said, “I’m going back to Taylor University to walk through those memories.”
Dr. Dobson responded, “You are going to speak when you are there, right, Sydna?”
“No,” I said, “I don’t know how one invites themselves to speak there. I just want to put those memories to rest by walking through them.”
Dr. Dobson then smiled and said, “I will personally take care of that speaking invitation, Sydna. These students needs to hear about your abortion experience. Many could be in the same spot you were back then.”
My heart skipped 700 beats with his edict. Dr. Dobson didn’t realize the concept of addressing those students terrified me. He simply was ensuring my visit included an added spiritual impact of a transparent testimony.
Four months later, my heart was racing as Ron’s car drove onto the campus. My whole body responded negatively. I grew anxious and troubled as deep recollections of events were exposed again.
Many scenes from my past there flashed quickly in front of my eyes. Yet with each “scene” came a deeper understanding of my days on that campus. That helped my ongoing process of forgiving the younger version of myself for making such a choice.
When Ron and the Taylor staff prayed with me before I spoke, God tamed every foreboding. Peace descended into my heart when I was introduced. You could have heard a pin drop as over 2,000 faces listened in shock as I outlined my abortion experience at that Valentines Day Chapel in 1997.
It was evident from body language and physical responses that Dr. Dobson was right – abortion was still possible on that campus. The audio of my presentation would later be featured on a Focus on the Family broadcast.
After our visit at Alternatives of Kalamazoo two weeks ago, I noticed the gates to my Planned Parenthood clinic were wide open and no protestors were in sight. I asked my husband, Tom, to drive into the parking lot that bore so many memories 34 years earlier. As we stopped to take the above photo, I relived my moments leaving that clinic as a 19 year old.
There had been excitement in my heart as I walked out those doors. I felt some joy at the thought of actually being pregnant. My heart started to dream of motherhood and the fairy tale possibility that my boyfriend might actually propose now that this truth was verified.
My head then turned to the location where my boyfriend’s car had been parked. The distance from the door to the parking lot was exactly as I had remembered. I then recalled his words when he saw my tear-stained face and read my thoughts.
Dashing all my hopes, he had said, “I know what you are thinking, Sydna. You think I might marry you and we can have this baby. Well, you’re wrong. I’m not marrying you and you are not having that baby.”
I’m grateful that visiting this Planned Parenthood didn’t unlock any added stress or anxiety. This boyfriend had long been forgiven for the part he played in my choice. The special gift of this last exposure was viewing the Alternatives of Kalamazoo’s sign from that parking lot, offering women in that community the support to make a better choice than abortion.
If you are struggling from a past abortion, please know you are not alone in that pain. There is no sin that God cannot forgive, even abortion. Your local pregnancy center offers a private and confidential settings to help you address this pain and find God’s healing. Call or visit your local center today!
Sydna A. Masse is the President & Founder of Ramah International and author of the book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion. Contact Sydna at firstname.lastname@example.org.