A diverse group of North Dakota women whose connection comes from having sought healing after abortion will be telling their stories at a presentation sponsored by Dakota Hope Clinic in Minot Saturday.
"Out of the Darkness ... Into the Light: Healing After Abortion" begins at 2 p.m. in The Vegas Motel. Admission is free but an offering will be taken to benefit the Minot clinic.
The six women from the Fargo area who participate on the panel have given nearly 60 presentations since they were first invited to speak to a group of pastors and priests in 2009.
Kay, one of the women on the panel, said their presentation weaves together their stories of crisis pregnancies, abortion decisions and the aftermath.
"With one in three women having experienced abortion by the age of 45, you look around the church community, and that's a lot of women who personally carry it as a secret," she said. "With that percentage of women having this experience, more than likely it's in just about every family and, again, it has long-standing effects in a woman's life and many, many women have not talked about it. So there are a lot of women trapped in this place of fear and guilt and shame, feeling they can't talk about this, feeling they can't be forgiven."
It's unknown how prevalent post-abortion trauma is. However, some women have reported depression, lowered self-esteem, sleep disturbances, fixing on or fear of children and self-destructive behaviors. Kay said among the women on the panel, there have been substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal urges, relationship dysfunction, promiscuity and emotional fallout from fear, guilt and shame.
"I did engage in self-destructive behavior immediately following, but after that, I lived a life that looked practically perfect from the outside so nobody knew that I was still having this issue on the inside," Kay said. "So many women keep it a secret. They function in their lives, but they may not be open about the fact that they had this trauma.
"You are different because you made this decision and you can't undo it," she added. "It's a heavy and grave thing to live with."
Although the panel presenters believe abortion is wrong, that is not the message, she said.
"We are not there to judge anybody or make any sort of a political statement," Kay said. "Our point is that our personal experience is that we were hurt by abortion emotionally, physically and spiritually. There are countless other women who have had that same experience but don't know there is hope and healing to be found."
The panelists found their healing through their Christian faith, which is a primary focus of their presentation. They also talk about the ministry resources that they have found helpful.
There were 1,330 abortions performed in North Dakota in 2012, compared to 10,072 live births, according to the most recent statistics from North Dakota Health Department. Of the abortion numbers, 917 involved North Dakota residents, and 167 were residents of Region 2, which includes Burke, Bottineau, McHenry, Mountrail, Pierce, Renville and Ward counties.
Nearly 13 percent of women who sought abortions in North Dakota in 2012 were married and 56 percent had at least one child.
Kay said post-abortion speakers on the panel talk about factors influencing their decisions to abort and how other people impact women's choices.
"The words that you speak can change the course of her life," she said.
Kay said that although Saturday's presentation will not be graphic, parents may wish to exclude children younger than junior high or prepare them in advance because of the emotional nature of the material.