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Thursday, August 14, 2008

I could endure another rape...but not another abortion!

*Publisher's note: the personal testimony of Geri Riggs is being reprinted in light of the upcoming vote in South Dakota on Initiated Measure 11 and the recent statement by the American Psychological Association that abortion does not threaten women's mental health.

By Geri Riggs
Sturgis, South Dakota

Thirty six years ago, as a young single mother just out of my teens, I was raped and consequently became pregnant. I was so afraid of what people would say that I didn't think I could bear it, so I made the unspeakable decision to end my baby’s life. Not because I wanted to or because I didn’t want the baby, but because of the judgment I perceived by others. At that time, rape was the only exception (in California) for an abortion; that and a threat to the mother’s life.

I was deeply ashamed of what I was doing but I remember moving in great confusion and a fog, and the people from the state welfare office that I talked to were only too happy to help me get an abortion. They just asked me, “Were you raped?” I said yes, and that was that. It was several months after the fact, but that was all they asked. Sadly, they made it very easy.

Almost immediately afterward, I started suffering severe anxiety attacks and ended up a virtual prisoner in my own house, afraid to drive, go shopping or even eat out. I was afraid of everyone and afraid to go anywhere. I became severely depressed and went through years of counseling and some drug therapy. Some of it helped, some made things worse. These nightmare years almost culminated in suicide but my only child walked in at a crucial moment and I resolved to fight to stay around for him.

Before this time, I was in too much pain to think of anyone else. I was being eaten up with shame and guilt and didn't know it.

I had always believed in God and prayed frequently as a young girl, but had turned away as a result of rejection and deep hurt. However, He didn’t turn away from me. Through my child, He started drawing me back. He began a work in me that resulted in a dramatic and supernatural healing of the deep, deep shame I carried for 16 years as a result of abortion. Like a disease, the unhealed pain festered inside me, causing several physical problems. It resulted in deep debt due to medical bills, even in spite of having medical insurance.

Twenty years ago, I gave up on trying to control my life and while praying one day asked God to take charge. He very clearly showed me the truth about the “sin” I had covered up, and like King David’s experience, it was destroying me slowly. After I repented and renounced what I had done, He showed me that He not only forgave me, but He loved me very, very much—and that I was not dirty.

That was the defining moment in my life. I never felt that kind of love before, ever. It was the start of true healing: physically, mentally, and spiritually; not the band-aid treatment that I got from counseling all the years before. My health started dramatically improving and now it has been (by the grace of God) over 6 years since I have been to the doctor and I take no prescriptions or medicine of any kind.

Some have asked me, “How do you know it was the abortion that caused your emotional problems? Would it have been the same if you had been raped and there hadn't been an abortion?”

The answer is an emphatic NO! Because, you see, I had also been raped much earlier as a young teen and I didn't fall completely apart then—not until after the abortion. The rapes where humiliating but I was able to survive them, and could again, if I had to. But I could NEVER, EVER survive another abortion.

All those years of counseling, we talked about the rapes and the abuse, but I never saw the real root of my problem, which was guilt and shame from abortion, because it was so traumatic that I buried it deep, deep inside me and never talked to anyone about it. The idea that I had taken my own child’s life and rejected the most precious gift God can give us was far too painful for me to share with anyone. The only, and I emphasize the ONLY reason I can talk about it now is because of the blood of Christ, which washes away our sins, and because I know I am forgiven. I don’t like to talk about it…but I can now, for the sake of the children.

It also damaged my relationship with my only surviving child. Abortion takes the strongest force on earth—a mother’s love for her child—and short-circuits it. It was like I was left with a hard, crusty, dried-out heart and didn’t have the natural desire to hold my child or nurture him. I didn’t care to play with children or even be around them until Jesus filled me with His love and softened my heart. Now I can love the way I was designed to do!

It saddens and angers me to hear people use the excuse that HB 1215 (Referred Law 6) is too extreme or radical, with negative connotation. Radical means excellence, revolutionary and willing to change the system. It also means to root out disease, as in radical surgery. Just like “the radical truth of repentance and forgiveness through Jesus Christ” and what that truth did for me. The “radical truth” cleansed the root of the disease—depression and anxiety, which was caused by the guilt and shame from abortion. Radical pain takes radical measures.

TRUTH: Being a victim of rape did not exempt me from the devastation of abortion. It added to it.

If I could do one thing over again in my life, it would be to go back and save my child’s life! There is “no excuse” to ever take an innocent life. As one woman asked, “Does a child conceived in rape look any different in ultrasound than a child that is conceived during consensual sex?” How can we say that the innocent have to die for their father’s sins?

To this day I respect all life and have no desire to hurt anyone or any living thing, but to impart life and healing wherever I go.

*Reprinted from Dakota Voice, October 2006.


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