I am a pastor who had an abortion.

by Rev. Laura Young

August 24, 2021

I’m a pastor who had an abortion. I mean, I wasn’t a pastor when I got one. I was a college student. I wish I had known then what I know now.

I had recently broken up with my boyfriend of almost four years. I went off the pill because I figured I didn’t need it. I was on the rebound.


Jim* and I had dated for a few weeks. But I kind-of liked one of his fraternity brothers better. Not a good sign. I broke up with him and he took it fine. But then his grandmother died. I went over to comfort him.


Sweet guy. Proposed to me at a Ruby Tuesday. Smart, very tall. Top of his dental school class. I was a junior. Headed to law school.


It was the era of L.A. Law. I was ambitious. I was literally a card-carrying member of the Pre-Law Club. I was in the College Republicans, and had been raised by a Republican mother who, I now see in hindsight, indoctrinated us. She was a former Goldwater Girl who loved Ronald Reagan like the father she never had (Papa was a disappointment to everyone anyway).


I stuffed envelopes for Lincoln Day Dinners. I thought I was “pro-life.” I didn’t think there was another option. My conservative mom said, “I don’t think it’s a mother’s job to counsel her daughter to have an abortion.”


My ‘radicalization’ might have started in the “Women and the Law” class I was taking where I learned about snuff films and read Andrea Dworkin. I was also in a writing class and had to compose an essay from the point of view opposite of what I held. I wrote a pro-choice paper.


It was a whirlwind, that bitter cold January week I found out I was pregnant. Then I had the Ruby Tuesday proposal. I went home for the weekend and put a couple hundred dollars down on a wedding dress. I just let it all happen.


And then my friend Sarah, headed to business school, and like me, smart and ambitious, called and said, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? GET AN ABORTION NOW!!!” It was as if I hadn’t even thought of it. But when she said it, it sounded so right. I was flooded with relief. I still thank her to this day.


I called a local clinic. They were supportive. I called my mom. She called our family doctor who had put me on the pill when I was sixteen and in love with the four-year boyfriend. He called the family’s ob-gyn, who later delivered three babies in our family.


Dr. Larsen* put her hand on my knee and said, “Are you sure this is what you want?” I said YES.


I had an abortion in a hospital by an OB-GYN under general anesthesia covered by my mom’s excellent insurance five weeks from the date I had sex one time with a man I had just broken up with.


In the 1940s, my mom’s mom took a cab to the “Black section,” as she put it, of our large Midwest city, and had an illegal abortion alone on a man’s kitchen table. In 1988, I had the Cadillac of abortions. Every woman should have such a shame-free, easy experience as I did.


At 22, just after graduating from college, I went on to law school (just for a year) and later married a man I wanted to marry; in my second career I became an ordained minister in a Mainline Protestant denomination.


I’m a pastor who had an abortion. If I hadn’t, I’m sure I wouldn’t be a pastor. (I might be a dentist’s wife in a suburb!)


What I see now is that God was with me the whole time.


God was with me when that condom failed. God was with me when the stick turned blue. God was with me when Sarah called with her abortion advice. God was with me when I saw the flickering heart on the ultrasound. God was with me when they wheeled me away into the operating room. God was with me when I laid on the couch at my brooding mother’s house with a heating pad on my belly.


God was with me when I got pregnant with each of my now-adult children. God was with me when I told my abortion story at my state’s Statehouse (because evidently, we must tell our stories publicly now to get things changed!). God was with me when I told my daughter, when I told my dad, when I told my bishop.


And God is with me as I write this now.


*Names changed for privacy


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