Abortion and the Church
I grew up in the church. My father is a minister and from a very early age I believed that I could bring all of who I am to the church. As I got older, this belief was shaken to its core.
When I watched the church struggle to include gay and lesbian folks in Christian community, and go back on its commitment to ordain women in ministry, I felt the deep pain of exclusion. It also taught me that the church wasn’t always a safe place for me to bring my whole self.
I felt this acutely after my abortion 12-years ago, which is why I didn’t tell anyone about it for many years.
But, I’m talking now.
Recently, I told my story – as a mom and a minister who has had an abortion - in Parents Magazine. I’ve also shared it in three sermons I’ve given at different churches around the country as part of a Pro-Voice Tour in partnership with an organization called Exhale.
I’m sharing my story because I have met many women of the Christian faith who lived in shame and silence around their abortion experience and who questioned what their congregation would think of them. I want them to know that they are not alone.
I was pastoring a church when I got pregnant. I was married and the mom of an 18-month old son when I discovered I was pregnant. After many conversations with my husband and lots of prayers and tearful nights, I made the decision to end my pregnancy. I knew I could tell no one.
And so, the week before Holy Week, I travelled to another state (about a one hour drive) and had an abortion. I remember driving away and sobbing and sobbing, because this was not what I wanted to happen – I always imagined I would have 2 children. Even worse, I could not publicly grieve.
That Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter brought about new and complicated feelings for me. I felt I was a betrayer. I couldn’t sleep. I saw no new life, no resurrection. And, I knew I had to be silent.
I couldn’t bring that baby into the world 12 years ago – but what I can do is be a part of birthing the vision of church from my childhood self - one of love and care and healing. Our world must embrace and embody a beloved approach to community and conversation and care.
I know I’m not alone. Many of us long for church to be a place to bring all of who we are and be loved and accepted and forgiven. Many people who I know and love – domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, GLBQT individuals, formerly incarcerated folks, people who have been abusive – are also longing for this church.
Let's make the church what we all need it to be: a place where we can bring all of who we are – our stories of both joy and sorrow – and be embraced and accepted and loved all the way.
Rev. Susan Chorley
p.s. If you're interested in learning more about how to move congregational conversation beyond tolerance to a place of deeper understanding, check out this Ted Radio Hour. Listen with an open heart to how Aspen Baker recounts her heartbreaking realization that most of the people in her life were too afraid of judgment to tell their stories, and let's all think together how we can create safe spaces in our communities to open new conversations.
A big SALT thank you to Rev. Susan Chorley, ordained American Baptist minister extraordinaire, for this vulnerable and bold call to action. Susan is co-founder and sits on the Board of Exhale, a pro-voice organization that uses listening and storytelling to create a more respectful, supportive culture for people who have abortions. She is the proud mom of a 14 year old son and currently serves at a Unitarian Universalist social justice organization and has been working with survivors of domestic violence and their families for the past eleven years.