Why I Supported My Friend Through Her Abortion

And how I feel about my decision thirty years later

Christy Heitger-Ewing
Nov 4 · 7 min read
Photo: ImageSource/Getty Images

I was sitting in the high school library, completely engrossed in my biology textbook, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I glanced up and saw my friend Karen* wearing a pained expression. It was a mixture of shock, horror, and pure panic. She gripped my shoulder as if she was trying to steady herself.

“Karen, what is it?” I asked in a whisper. She had just celebrated her Sweet 16 so I thought she’d be on top of the world.

She sunk down in the seat beside me.

“Christy, I’m freaking out,” Karen said, her voice trembling. She shook her head. “This can’t be happening. It just can’t.”

I had never seen Karen so rattled. She was always such a chill girl — the epitome of the goofy friend who lived to put a smile on everyone else’s face.

I reached for her hand and squeezed it.

“It’s okay. Just tell me what’s going on,” I said.

“I’m… pregnant,” she said softly.

My eyes grew wide. As far as I’d known, she wasn’t sexually active.

“What? How? When?” I asked all in one breath.

“Rob — the new manager at work… The other night he and I were closing up. We started kissing and… ”

Her voice trailed off as she fixated her eyes on the red and green checkered floor.

“I mean, I was curious,” she continued, her chin quivering. I could tell she was using all her might to hold herself together.

“I don’t know,” she continued. “It all happened so fast and I immediately regretted it. Especially now. I mean, look what happened.”

Tears began rolling down her face, and my gut clenched in sympathy. I couldn’t fathom the confusion she was sorting through.

I wrapped my arms around her, then went into counselor mode, encouraging her to confide in her parents, a teacher, a minister or a therapist. But she vehemently opposed every suggestion I made, claiming her parents would disown her for doing something so stupid and that no teacher in our school was trustworthy enough to keep the news to herself. She didn’t go to church and therefore had no interest in seeking out pastoral advice. I offered to introduce her to mine but she said she wasn’t in the mood for moral lecture.

I had been a Christian all my life, which meant that God was my go-to anytime I was scared, sick, worried, or confused. I couldn’t fathom getting through a huge personal problem without having Christ in my corner and yet I could see why Karen was shying away from that route. After all, some Christians are pushy and judgmental, and act morally superior — which is a joke because we all mess up. Every. Single. Day. Who are they to judge the actions of others? Sadly, I regularly ran into them in my own congregation. In fact, a girl in my youth group had told me how abhorrent she thought abortion was. I asked her to consider the pain and confusion of the pregnant mother, but she refused to see my point of view. She was too busy pointing fingers.

I had been a Christian all my life, which meant that God was my go-to anytime I was scared, sick, worried, or confused. I couldn’t fathom getting through a huge personal problem without having Christ in my corner and yet I could see why Karen was shying away from that route.

I wasn’t about to push my beliefs on my friend when she was already spiraling. The truth is that my Christian upbringing had taught me to love my neighbors, my friends, and even my enemies. It also taught me to care for those who are hurting. I certainly didn’t think any less of Karen for getting herself into this predicament because although I had not had sex, I had certainly done my fair share of sinning. God still loved me and I wanted to pass that love on to Karen at a time when she was feeling vulnerable.

“I’m taking care of this. I’ve made the appointment,” Karen said.

“Really? Already?” I asked. “Don’t you need some time to process?”

“I didn’t just find this out this morning, Christy,” Karen said. “I’ve known for two weeks. I’ve thought through all my options. This is what I need to do.”

I wanted to scream: “But you’re only 16! And two weeks is not that long to make such a life-altering decision! You need to talk to an adult! Someone! Anyone!”

Instead, I bit my tongue and held her hand.

“What do you need from me?” I asked.

She told me that she could really use a ride to the clinic because it was an hour’s drive north and she wouldn’t be able to drive herself home afterward. The appointment was for the following Wednesday, in the middle of the day. It would mean skipping school, which provided a whole separate moral dilemma for me — a strict rule follower. Yet I knew my worries about an unexcused absence from school paled in comparison to her situation.

“I get it if you don’t want to skip school,” Karen said, sensing my anxiety. “I can take a bus or something.”

“No. I’ll drive,” I insisted.

Over the next few days, I checked in with Karen and gently brought up the topic of alternative choices, but she remained adamant that she had made her decision. I honestly didn’t know how to feel.

Though I remained steadfast in my commitment to stand by her, each night I lay in bed, facing my own crisis of conscience. While Karen wrestled with equal amounts of guilt and shame about winding up pregnant, I, as her friend who was supporting her through her decision to have an abortion, was doing the same. After all, I was gearing up to hide information from my parents. Usually, I told my mom everything, but I didn’t feel like this was my story to share. And then there was my relationship with Christ. I worried it might suffer because of this. I wondered if God was disappointed in me for not talking Karen out of having this procedure. Was He angry that I was a party to the termination of His precious creation? I couldn’t help but wonder if I was disrespecting God by supporting my friend.

But when I put it that way, it got me thinking. Maybe God was proud of me for loving someone through the most gut-wrenching time of her life. Maybe He was glad that I put her hand in mine and promised to walk beside her through the darkness. Did He place me directly in her path so that she wouldn’t feel so scared and alone?

The following Wednesday, I sat uncomfortably in the clinic’s waiting room taking in shallow breaths, chewing on my nails, and glancing up at the clock every few minutes. When Karen finally emerged from the back room, her face hung low. I put my arm around her and helped her out to the parking lot. I got her situated in my backseat and covered her in a fleece blanket. The whole ride home, she whimpered and moaned, a combination, I suspected, of both the physical pain and emotional trauma she had endured.

Maybe God was proud of me for loving someone through the most gut-wrenching time of her life. Maybe He was glad that I put her hand in mine and promised to walk beside her through the darkness. Did He place me directly in her path so that she wouldn’t feel so scared and alone?

When we got to her house, both her parents were still at work, thankfully. I took her inside, dispensed her pain medication, and sat with her.

I wanted to comfort her with some sort of promise like: “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’ll be okay.”

But instead I asked, “Do you mind if I say a little prayer?”

She shook her head.

I placed her hand in mine and asked God for grace and peace for my friend. I asked that He heal her body, mind, and soul and that He renew her spirit and zest for life.

If I’m to be honest, I struggled for some time with whether I made the morally correct decision in supporting my friend through her abortion. In the end, however, I felt I did what Jesus called me to do. I did not judge or lecture her. I did not tell her what to do, nor did I abandon her to figure it out on her own. My heart told me to shower my friend with love and support, not just in the moment of crisis but in the days, weeks, and months to follow. So that’s what I did. For a time, she pulled back quite a lot from social activities, and she wasn’t as chatty in class. But slowly she started to blossom and the Karen I’d known since childhood started to re-emerge. She once again became playful and giggly. She not only found her footing but she found her voice.

I did not judge or lecture her. I did not tell her what to do, nor did I abandon her to figure it out on her own. My heart told me to shower my friend with love and support, not just in the moment of crisis but in the days, weeks, and months to follow.

Though Karen’s abortion was 30 years ago, the abortion debate is still going strong today, and honestly I have never understood why someone who is pro-life is made to feel bad for choosing to support someone in whatever decision they make when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I think back to this decision I made three decades ago and wonder if I would do it the same way again now that I’m older and, supposedly, wiser. I’m still a Christian. I always will be. And that’s precisely why my answer is a resounding “yes.”

*Editor’s note: name has been changed

Christy Heitger-Ewing

Written by

Christy is an award-winning writer who has written more than 1,000 human interest stories for national, regional, & local magazines.

The Salve

The Salve

The Salve is a progressive Christian lifestyle publication covering love, doubt, politics, and more.

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