Who hides the secret pain of abortion?

Saturday, January 19, 2013
Anne Reed - Guest Columnist

They are your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends and your fellow church members. Outwardly they look like anyone else, but inside they hide a heart-breaking secret.

Since 1973 when the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision set the precedent for legalized abortion, an estimated 55 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. Every single day, more Americans lose their lives by abortion than were lost as a result of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's own research arm, 43 percent of women of childbearing age in America have experienced at least one abortion. Where are these women who make up these staggering statistics? Are they in our places of work? Are they standing beside us in the line at the local grocery store? Is it possible they are sitting beside us in the church pew? What is being done to address this underground tunnel of secrecy, shame and heartache?


In 2007, Lifeway printed Surrendering the Secret, a post-abortion recovery Bible study authored by Pat Layton, who had been serving women and their families through a crisis pregnancy intervention program and other life-affirming ministries since 1986. Lifeway took Layton's personal journey of healing, added a DVD series and a leader's guide, and made it an accessible tool with unique journaling exercises and meaningful group activities for use in a confidential and compassionate group environment.

God had moved on Layton's heart with a longing to see the church operate more fully as the hope of the world, a hospital for the lost and broken who had experienced abortion in their past. She became keenly aware that the local church was generally unequipped in this area and had not embraced its place in the redemptive healing needed by so many who have received and participated in abortions.

Layton became more deeply rooted in the desire to serve and equip the church to recognize post abortion recovery as a mission field. In January 2009, she began training women and men across America to lead the Surrendering the Secret Bible Study in their local churches. She has personally trained over 700 women and men, and has since added a national training team.

One church's story

Northern Hills Church in Brighton, Colorado, is one church that embraced the STS ministry after a young lady in the congregation confessed to Susan Sorenson, the women's ministry leader, about her past abortions.

Although Sorenson did not personally know the pain of abortion, she was deeply touched by this woman's pain and doubt. So she went to the pastor and leaders of the church and expressed the need to educate and equip the church to meet the needs of post-abortive women and of men who have suffered the loss of fatherhood.

Northern Hills leadership agreed, and Sorenson began leading the church's STS studies in June 2008. The church numbers about 1,000 in attendance each weekend, and about 75 women from the community have completed the healing process.

Through the intentional study of God's Word, these women have been set free from the condemnation that kept them bound, have come to know the work of Christ more intimately, and have become mobilized for serving God without reservation and without shame. A significant number of them have since received leadership training and taken this ministry of reconciliation into other churches in the surrounding communities.


Shari Rigby, a Hollywood actor and post-abortive mother, has joined the STS ministry team as an ambassador and spokesperson. Rigby is transparent as she shares the story of her healing breakthrough that began with her role in October Baby, a pro-life movie produced by American Family Studios and released in March 2012. (See movie website)

When producers asked Rigby to read for the role, they had no insight into her life experiences. But Rigby relates that she was stunned to find the script closely matched her own story, and playing the role started her on the path to recovering from the secret pains of a past abortion.

Rigby's healing continued through the STS study, and her experience led the film producers to see the opportunity for further ministry to post-abortive women and men who were being impacted by the movie. Movie-goers will now be pointed to the Surrendering the Secret website where they can click on "Get Help Now" and be connected with a leader who will personally help them get connected to a group in their area.

Rob Kelly, teaching pastor at Northern Hills, indicates that the STS ministry is flourishing. "With God, the thing that is a millstone around your neck for much of your life becomes a lifeline for others," Kelly said.

Anne Reed is a member of the staff at American Family Radio, the national radio ministry of the American Family Association. This article was originally published by AFA Journal.

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