Lyn Coles tells her story and how she now helps others
The ripple effect of one abortion can affect as many as 45 to 50 people.
Those people will include the mother, the father, the grandparents, the existing and future siblings, health professionals, abortionists, clergy, friends, co-workers, extended family members, future spouses – and so the ripples continue.
As believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are we equipped to come alongside those affected by abortion in our churches and in the communities in which God has placed us? Abortion is a mission field – but the workers are few.
Suffering in secret
Many women hide the secret of abortion deep in their hearts and they are suffering the consequences. They carry an incredible burden while wearing smiles on their faces. Both Christian and non-Christian women ‘choose’ abortion.
The rhetoric of ‘choice’ though, hides the reality of coercion. Women will not choose abortion if they have another choice. In a crisis pregnancy, coercion towards abortion comes in many forms – losing your relationship, income, home, or education; bringing shame on the family / church / yourself; misinformation on what abortion actually entails presented as fact – with no mention of the long-term, detrimental consequences on your life.
Christian women often choose abortion to hide sexual sin outside of marriage. Whatever the reason for choosing abortion, the disenfranchised grief is the same in each woman. The circumstances may differ, but the humanity and personhood of the pre-born child remains the same.
My abortion and PAT
I aborted my son Stephen on September 21, 1980 when I was 18 years old. I wasn’t a Christian and I was completely ignorant and naïve as to what abortion involved. I was told by those I trusted that it was a simple procedure, that my son was just a ‘blob of cells’ at 10 weeks gestation and that I had my whole life ahead of me to have children. I could have the abortion and my problems would be solved.
Little did I know that abortion, rather than solving my problems, would just give me new ones. I struggled with ‘post abortion trauma’ (PAT) for the following ten years and suffered in silence. Some symptoms of PAT are depression, anxiety, guilt, drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders and self-harming, to name but a few. Often anniversaries, like Christmas, birthdays, the anniversary of the abortion itself or the due date of the birth of the aborted child, trigger and exacerbate these symptoms.
Forgiveness and grief
I gave my life to Christ when I was 32 and I instantly knew that I was forgiven for all my past sin, including my abortion. So why was I still struggling with it? Through the grace and mercy of God, I was led to another Christian woman who talked me through aspects of PAT and I went through healing for my abortion. For the first time, I was allowed to grieve the loss of my son Stephen and recognise that he was a child, created in the image of God, and that abortion is never the answer to an unplanned or unexpected pregnancy. Ever.
That was 20 years ago and since then I have been involved in abortion recovery ministry on a voluntary basis. The elders of our church commissioned me and my husband Andy into this ministry back in 2006.
Setting women free
Surrendering the Secret (STS) is an abortion recovery Bible study rooted in the gospel. I am a ‘Certified Leader’ of the study, having trained under its author, Pat Layton, in the USA. I have been running this programme in Belfast for the past four years. It is amazing and such a privilege to be part of God’s plan in setting women free from the pain, shame and guilt of a past abortion. Jesus doesn’t want us to live a guilt-ridden life, whatever your secret sin, but instead he wants us to live a guilt-free life and live it to the full. If he sets us free, we are free indeed!
Over the years, post abortive women learn to live in silence and secrecy, stockpiling hurts they have buried deep inside. We struggle for years with repressed memories of guilt, shame and depression. Most women feel they are not allowed to talk about their abortion experiences because it was their ‘choice’. They carry a great burden of shame and failure, afraid to reveal their hidden pain.
Secrecy and shame are a destructive combination, as women are forced to endure long-lasting destructive effects in isolation. As with any traumatic event, many post abortive women experience physical, emotional and spiritual symptoms related to PAT. Often the medical community overlooks abortion as a risk factor in a woman’s physical and emotional health. One study in Finland showed that, in comparison to women in the same study who carried children to term, women who aborted were six times more likely to take their own lives through suicide.
Inspired to speak
In a recent American Family Association Journal article, David Platt (senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Alabama) confesses to have been ‘shamefully passive’ about the topic of abortion until some of the women in his church began to journey through the STS Bible study. Platt’s heart was stirred to take action by the women in his own church who came forward with their ‘deep scars, emotionally and relationally to experience the healing that the gospel provides when it comes to past abortions’. He was inspired to speak about abortion, combining biblical truth balanced with spiritual care for the soul. The women in his church have responded and are being set free from the heartbreak of past abortions, and future generations are being protected.
A generation yet to be born
‘They will come and tell a people yet to be born about his righteousness – what he has done’ (Psalm 22.31).
Healing occurs best in the context of a redemptive community. The gospel is all about redemption. Surrendering the Secret is an eight week course and includes a participant’s workbook and weekly DVD sessions and it is rooted in the gospel. Ideally the primary facil-itator of the group should be a woman who has had an abortion and been through recovery, but it is not imperative. If you can facilitate a Bible study and have a heart for hurting women, you can lead this course.
The demand is there, but women are not aware that abortion recovery help is available to them. In 2014 we hope to provide national training opportunities in the UK and Ireland for STS. Please pray and ask the Lord what he would like you, your pastoral team or your church to do about bringing hope and healing to your community.
Trouble and wounds are inevitable in this life, but we have the power to choose how we deal with them. Abortion attacks us at our very core – our identity as women. We believe the lies the enemy of our souls whispers to us and the secrecy enslaves us. God wants to set his daughters free from the choice of abortion. Our identity is in Christ alone. He gently walks women through the past pain towards repentance, healing, redemption and hope which is to be found in him alone.
Lynn Coles is a certified leader with Surrendering the Secret www.surrenderingthesecret.com
If you are interested in finding out more about how you or your church can facilitate an STS study, please contact Lynn on +44 7788 151339 or firstname.lastname@example.org Please note that abortion does affect men, whatever our culture and society says, and help is available for men also.