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On Aug. 20 WORLD published an article about the ministries of First Baptist Church of Leesburg, Fla. In it was included, with her permission, what Wanda Kohn, director of its Pregnancy Care Center, noted in an interview: She had an abortion in 1977.
That wasn't a complete secret, but she had never told her parents. It was important to the story because it showed one of her motivations for selfless volunteering over the past two decades, yet if she had asked to take out that information, WORLD would have. As the story was about to be published, she e-mailed a note to her parents. Here, with permission, are excerpts:
"Dad and Mom,
"This isn't going to be an easy e-mail to write, but it is one that is way overdue. . . .
"I am involved with the Pregnancy Care Center for more reasons than you know. The summer of 1977 (graduation) I had an abortion. . . . All I could think about was the consequences of having a baby-my reputation, your reputation, what would you two say, what would the rest of the world say? I was scared, like never before. I felt very ashamed of myself.
"I was early in my pregnancy and I was very, very sick. I couldn't keep food down day or night. . . . The abortion was scheduled quickly. I have blocked a lot of the details out. . . . I do remember sitting in the waiting room, wishing I was invisible, afraid I would see someone there I knew, not realizing that the one who mattered the most was God and that I could never hide it from Him. . . .
"I was in denial in what I had done for more than seven years after my abortion. I used the constant morning sickness to justify my abortion in my mind with, 'There is no way I could have continued this pregnancy . . . something was wrong! I can't stay this sick and not be able to eat ANYTHING! I would miscarry or something anyway.' That's what I told myself for years.
"At some point after the abortion, though, I think a part of me died as well. I became harder inside . . . it had something to do with why my marriage never worked out. . . . I never in my life wanted to have a baby . . . I didn't feel I deserved another baby when I snuffed the life out of my first one. . . . And then when I went to junior college, one of my teachers ended up being the doctor whom I saw on my follow-up visit after my abortion. I was so embarrassed to see him in class. It was a very difficult year for me.
"Maybe now things make a little more sense to you. Please forgive me for making such a serious decision without talking to you. I was just so scared to let anyone know. I didn't want to disappoint you or hurt either of you. I figured I could just get it over with and go on with my life. I had NO IDEA that it would affect me for the rest of my life. . . .
"So this is why I'm writing this painful e-mail at 45 years of age. I have no excuses . . . I not only took the life of my baby, but also the life of your grandchild. I think sometimes of what it would be like for you to play with my child. . . . Will you forgive me for my actions back in 1977? Will you forgive me for not sharing this with you earlier? Telling you these things is the hardest thing I've had to do. Even though this dark area of my life was brought to light by God years ago, it is now in the light with you as well."
There was more, but here's what Wanda wrote when she enclosed her letter, saying she wanted WORLD to see the part it played in helping her "to deal with this last step in my life I needed to take to make things right with my parents. . . . Otherwise I don't know when I would have gotten the courage up to share with my parents." She added, "My heart is racing and tears are in my eyes as I await their reply."
The reply from her dad came the next day: "Your story comes as a complete surprise to us. . . . Last night was a rather sleepless one. We know how painful this must have been to write. We can understand how you must have felt and acted under those circumstances in 1977.
"Questions you ask: What would we as parents have suggested you do at that time? We cannot say for sure what our thoughts would have been at that time, but . . . we would not have 'shut you out.'
"As to our forgiving you for not telling us before now? This probably has been best for US but probably not for YOU, having to harbor this in your heart this many years. Will we forgive you for your actions back in 1977? When you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and repented in your heart, you WERE forgiven of any and all of your sins by God, just as we have been. How could we NOT forgive you when we already know that our God in Heaven has forgiven you?
"We want you to know that this has not changed our love for you. That remains the same. We also pray that by getting this out in the open it will give your heart a better chance to heal. God's grace is sufficient for every need-2 Corinthians 9:8."
That was a joyful response, and it gave Wanda new energy to continue helping young women day by day at the Pregnancy Care Center because she knows that "there are a lot of girls like me, who in ignorance and in rebellion to God, have abortions thinking it's not a big deal because it's legal. I am there at the Pregnancy Care Center to tell them it is a big deal."
She writes, "If only someone would have challenged my thinking and given me hope-that my parents wouldn't kill me, that I would survive my pregnancy, that regardless of all of that, abortion was the wrong thing to do no matter what I suffered by continuing my pregnancy. If someone had shared with me that I was already a mom even at five weeks, that God made the womb to be a safe place for the unborn, that abortion was not a quick, easy fix done behind closed doors, that this abortion would change my life forever."
Wanda still thinks about the "what ifs," but her deepening Christianity helps her to approach her calling rightly: "When I found out about the Pregnancy Care Center, I felt that maybe I could volunteer there to help other girls consider the consequences of such an act before they had an abortion. It was my chance, I thought, to 'atone' for my child's death. I now realize that only Christ has the power and the position to do that."
And as the 33rd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision approaches, she sees small victories: "Another woman came in last week and wanted an abortion. . . . I put a non-graphic abortion procedure video in for her to watch and I turned to her and said, 'This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.' She chided me with a look and under her breath she said, 'It's only a spot.' Even after she watched the video and got an ultrasound with the doctor down the street, she left the doctor's office telling them she was still having an abortion. We prayed for her daily. . . . She came back in this Tuesday and told us she has decided to let her baby live."