Research shows that most women seek an abortion because they feel trapped. “They're caught in what is perceived to be an impossible situation,” said Father Richard Hogan of Priests for Life. “The only thing that looks possible is an abortion, and that is done with great reluctance.”

“Kim” (who wishes to remain anonymous) echoed those feelings when she described her pre- and post-abortion experiences in an interview with Barb Ernster.

Kim was a bright, happy 22-year-old in 1987, just finishing her final semester at a small college in the Midwest with plans to attend graduate school on the East Coast. But after months of denying and suppressing her symptoms, she finally confirmed her pregnancy at 20 weeks. Feeling that she had no other options, she sought an abortion.

Now, 14 years later, Kim is married with two small children. She shares her story in talks and in interviews. She also volunteers with Project Rachel, an organization dedicated to helping women heal from abortion.

Ernster: Tell me about your experience from the time you found out you were pregnant.

Kim: I found the abortion doctor and went into the clinic for the exam. They did an ultrasound on me and the young man, a doctor or assistant, said to me, “Oh I don't think you want to be seeing this little one.” He turned it away before I could see what was on the screen.

They said that I had one week, and then I would be illegal [for an abortion] in my state. Whether or not I would have been, or indeed maybe I was past that, I'll never know.

What was going on in your mind?

It was a panic week. The young man I was dating panicked and I panicked. About the middle of that week that I had to decide, I started to feel the baby move.

Did you know it was a baby or did you believe something else?

I knew that it was a baby. But I didn't know. This was just a horrible nightmare I was in and I was so scared. I honestly believed that I would be giving the baby back to God, and then when I was ready he would give the very same baby back to me. I just kept saying, “God, not right now, not now.”

I remember calling lots of places and I couldn't find information on where to go away and have the baby. It would have been appropriate because I was set to go to the East Coast in the fall for an internship. Finally, it felt like there were no options, which of course, I know now that there were options.

Did the abortion clinic offer any other options?

No. I remember them telling me “You really shouldn't have a child, you're young, you don't have any money, you're not married.” And when they found out I was Catholic, they told me “to be careful because in a couple of years they could really work on you and try to make you feel guilty for this because you're Catholic.”

No, I don't remember any other options.

So you wanted other options?

Yes, I wanted someone to say, “I know you're worried about your parents, but we can find other options for you.” But there wasn't.

Tell me about the abortion itself.

Because I was so far along, they had to artificially dilate me. Then the third day the actual abortion took place.

All I remember is being on this table and there was this huge jug on the side of me that just filled up with blood and other matter.

I remember feeling like this little voice was screaming, “Please, mommy, don't; please, mommy, don't.” I remember crying and the doctor saying, “Oh, you're such a wonderful, good, calm patient.”

I felt this pressure coming out of me and immediately feeling like my stomach was gone. There was a loss there. There was a little person that had been lost.

I tried to make myself feel better because they said, “Depending on the quality, we can give these parts to research to help somebody out, or to fight a disease.”

I remember thinking, “OK, this is a good.” I wouldn't call it a baby at that point, but these little parts could help somebody out.

What happened after the abortion?

I just closed down all systems for two years. A lot of women will turn to alcohol abuse, substance abuse of some form. I became incredibly promiscuous. It's only by the grace of God that I did not find myself in the same position again and again.

I remember thinking that this is what a prostitute would feel like, you just sort of disconnect from your body. It became so self-destructive. My life was a huge lie. You feel dark and evil and dead inside. It's a vicious cycle that you can't seem to pull yourself out of.

How did your healing process come about?

When I left for the East Coast, I was anything but a practicing Catholic. I became almost the extreme opposite. I had lots of nightmares; I attempted suicide.

I finally confided in a friend of mine, and he found [the support group] Conquerors. I met with a woman who was post-abortive for one-on-one counseling. That helped tremendously because here was a woman I could relate to. She knew what I was going through. That started the ball rolling.

It took a while because I continued a lot of the same behaviors. But little by little, it was like cleaning out this wound. ...

I went on a young adult's retreat in 1991 and went to confession for the first time in 10 years. It opened the floodgates. I was in the confessional for an hour. It started from there in a very powerful way and it was very healing.

Were you finally able to forgive yourself?

I did, and I feel so grateful to be Catholic and have this wonderful sacrament called confession. I realized what a gift it was; it's like food from heaven. The graces that come from it are just wonderful.

What are your feelings toward the pro-abortion agenda?

I feel angry and terribly saddened about the fallen nature of human beings and how we can cloud our thinking—for us to say it's a woman's choice, yet we know in our hearts that lives are lost.

Where do you see the pro-life movement today and what advice can you offer?

It's important to get the word out there that the Church is compassionate and merciful regardless of what we do; and for us to be anything but merciful and forgiving is hypocritical. We all are sinners.

Showing pictures of aborted babies is not the way to encourage a woman in that situation. Actually, that fuels the fire for the pro-abortion people. They see it as a fanatical thing.

Show her pictures of life; show her fetal development; show compassion.

This interview first appeared in Catholic Servant and is reprinted with permission.