Printed with permission from Judy Charest, Nashville, TN
I know there is a law against coerced abortions....on the books anyway. This is my story of what happened to me in April of 1972. I know there are countless others, who like me, have been forced into an abortion. My story is unfortunately not unique.
I was a 16 year old girl from Nashville in a long term relationship with my boyfriend Steve, and living with my mother and step father. My mother was very ill and my stepfather made all the family decisions. When I found out I was pregnant, I knew my step father would force me to have an abortion. But Steve and I had a plan. We hid the pregnancy until I was past the stage for abortions, or so we thought. We managed to hide it until I was 5 1/2 months along. Just as we thought, my step father took me to a doctor for an abortion. He told my father I was too far along so we thought our baby was safe.
When I was 7 1/2 months, I was awakened at 4:00 AM and driven in the dead of night to a hospital in Cookeville, TN. I knew this had something to do with the baby but he was kicking, rolling and very much alive. There was nothing they could do now! I was wrong.....a nurse came in to listen for a heartbeat, and found a very strong heartbeat. What music to a mother's ears to hear the heartbeat of her baby! But this would be the first and last time I would hear his heartbeat. No one would answer my questions about what was going on. I was becoming very agitated and scared.
Finally a doctor came in and explained in a harsh voice that he was going to perform a salt saline abortion. I became uncontrollably upset, I said NO, I screamed NO, I tried to make the deal that if they would just let my baby live I would give him up at birth, I tried to get off of the bed, I did all a 16 year old could until they sedated me and started the procedure. My labor was 12 painful hours of knowing what was happening to my baby.
When I gave birth to my son, I begged to hold him but I was denied even that. Before they took his little burned body away, I caught a glimpse of his little leg and foot. That is all I saw of my son. He was dead.
Less than 24 hours later I was taken back to Nashville to inform my boyfriend they had killed our baby; that I couldn't save our son. I was consumed with guilt and sorrow. Being denied the opportunity to mourn, I was told this was my fault and I must never tell anyone about this; no one would understand or ever love me if they knew what "I" had done.......I believed what they told me.
I left Nashville a pregnant teenager, I returned a broken women, girlfriend, sister, friend, daughter, but most of all a broken mother.
Steve and I named our son David.
As time passed my world grew darker..... the relationship didn't make it and I spiraled down into my very own private hell. Years passed and the birthdays and dreams of what David could have been haunted me. The maternal instinct that longed to hold and protect him never left me.
In 2009, after much prayer, I made the decision to find a way to heal. I wanted to acknowledge that my son existed, even if for a short time. God was in control and I was headed for the journey of my life.
God's perfect timing....the journey begins.
My research on the issue of abortion led me to TN Right to Life. There I met so many remarkable people who were dedicated to the cause of life and helping women and men just like me. As I became more involved, I found out that their legislative liaison was working on a piece of legislation along with two great sponsors called "Freedom from Coercion Bill" sponsored by Representative Susan Lynn and Senator Jack Johnson. This legislation would require signage in facilities performing abortions that no one was allowed to coerce a women into an abortion against her will regardless of her age and there is help for them. Many are unaware that there is a law against coercion to protect a mother when she said NO to abortion. This was all about what happened to me and my son! I was so excited and wanted to be a part of this historic event. What better way to heal then to educate the public and legislators about the need for this bill. I was now bold enough to go public.
I became concerned about finding David's father and informing him of my actions. I realized that this bill and my story might get attention in the media. I knew reading about this in the papers might cause him pain. I had looked for him over the years without success but amazingly found him just in time on Facebook. We spoke for the first time in over 30 years , I was able to tell him my plans with for the upcoming bill and my planned involvement. I told him I wanted to give our son a voice...a voice that had been denied him and save other babies from the horrible death he had suffered against the wishes of his own parents. To my relief, he told me that he supported me 100% and would stand with me though the process!! We would stand together for our son.
For the next 3 months we walked the halls of the Legislative Plaza and told our story to anyone who would listen . We sat through countless meetings in the House and Senate to follow this bill. I went to many county chapter meetings of Right to Life to tell our story and encourage their work. I spoke at their annual Rally for Life reliving the story I hid for years...the time was right. The story must be told and the truth uncovered. Finally I felt I was able to act on behalf of my son.
On March 31, 2010 both the House and the Senate passed the Freedom From Coercion Act in a historic vote!
For the first time in 37 years Steve and I felt that we had given a sort of rebirth to our son. David's voice had been heard ! On April 19th, two days after the date of David's birth and death, the TN Governor signed the bill into law.
David's voice will now be heard in every abortion facility, doctor's office and hospitals that perform abortions. As women read the required signage that
"It is against the law for anyone, regardless of the person’s relationship to you, to coerce you to have an abortion. By law, we cannot perform an abortion on you unless we have your freely given and voluntary consent. It is against the law to perform an abortion on you against your will. You have the right to contact any local or state law enforcement agency to receive protection from any actual or threatened criminal offense to coerce an abortion.”
Our son, David, finally has a voice.