Author and speaker Patricia Layton describes how God has helped her find emotional and psychological healing after an abortion she had when she was younger, offering encouragement and hope to women who are struggling with similar pain. Pat also discusses her ministry to post-abortive women and dismantles the cultural lie that "abortion hurts no one." (Part 2 of 2)
John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, we’re returning to a very important conversation about post-abortion recovery, and the grace and forgiveness that God offers to those who have experienced an abortion. I’m John Fuller and our guest, Pat Layton, shared something last time that, frankly, isn’t appropriate for younger listeners.
Patricia Layton: I did go back and have the abortion again and I became dead woman walking. I had no idea what was goin’ on in my life, but all of a sudden, all I could think of instead of abortion and women’s rights and a simple procedure that’ll make you safe and free, all I could think of were parts of the fetus. And so, I was having nightmares for years. I would wake up in the middle of the night with baby parts reaching out at me, little baby hands.
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Jim Daly: John, that is a graphic statement. And tragically, most people are totally unaware of the pain, grief and suffering that many post-abortive women, like Pat, have experienced. Now we’re not trying to shame anyone, or heap on the guilt for women and men who are suffering in this way. It’s not our intent at all. But here’s the heart of what we’ve been trying to say - both last time and today - abortion hurts people. It takes the life of a child. And it leaves lifelong scars on women and many men who have gone through it. Abortion is a terrible, tragic act, and it’s not God’s best for our lives. Admittedly, this is a difficult message to hear. And that’s why many pastors avoid it, frankly. We do want to be compassionate for those who are hurting. But as we heard last time, there is nothing good that comes from keeping your pain a secret, and pretending that nothing is wrong.
If you or someone you know has experienced an abortion, we want to help. Contact us here at Focus on the Family. We have the resources you need, and our counseling team is available for you. Don’t suffer alone in your shame and your guilt. We’re all sinners, saved by grace. And God’s love and forgiveness is here for you - all you need to do is reach out and accept it.
John: Our phone number is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or you can find help at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
As we mentioned, Pat Layton is a return guest. For more than 25 years, she’s helped women who experienced a past abortion. She’s also served women who were facing an unplanned pregnancy. And Pat has written a great Bible study about post-abortion recovery called,. We’ve got details on the website.
Here is how we began part 2 of our discussion with Pat Layton on Focus on the Family.
Jim: So many women, as we talked about last time, feel like this can be the unpardonable sin - taking of another human life. Mostly, as we talked about last time, because we don’t think we can afford the child, we don’t think we can - we’re at a life stage where we can be the best mom for that child. We’re getting pressure from our boyfriend, from our husband, whatever it might be. It’s a small percentage of women who actually have medical issues, one percent, or rape and incest, one percent. The large majority do it for reasons of their current life stage and the inconvenience, as we talked about last time. Speak once again, to that guilt that so many women feel. Maybe they weren’t able to hear last time, but let’s start there. What is it rooted in, that sense of guilt and what does a woman feel?
Patricia: Well, we have - at Surrendering the Secret - we have thousands and thousands of women who contact us on a yearly basis, you know, hundreds by the month. And the things that they’re reporting is just that they’re stuck in the choice for an abortion. They have parenting struggles. They feel guilty having children, having been blessed with future children, like they don’t deserve them. They’re overprotective, afraid. Those who are involved in the relationship for an abortion like I was with my husband, often there are marriage struggles with shame and guilt between the...
Jim: Did your...
Patricia: ...husband and wife.
Jim: Yeah, did you and your husband struggle?
Patricia: Tremendous, tremendous guilt.
Jim: What did that feel like? What did it sound like?
Patricia: Well, the thing for us was I was very convinced in college, as I shared earlier, that this was the thing for me to do. I had been involved in a teenage marriage and my first husband left me with a tiny baby. He left a note on the kitchen table that said, “I don’t want to be a parent. I don’t want to be a husband or a father.” So, I had a newborn son, went back to college. My parents helped me recover my life and that’s where I met my husband.
So, when I discovered I was pregnant, I decided I was gonna have an abortion, because I was very much in love, but I was not in trust. I didn’t think that being married meant the man stays, you know?
Jim: And you thought the pregnancy could scare him away?
Patricia: Yes, well, not so much that. I wish I could say, because that would almost be better. Really for me, it was a matter of control. It was more that I’m not gonna let a man have the final say in my life. And so, I had been left abandoned before, so I didn’t want to be in that position again. I was going to college for a career, to be able to take care of myself and a pregnancy would put me back in a vulnerable position.
So I decided to have the abortion and he really just kind of just backed off, knowing my past and did not step up to the plate. So he really didn’t have a voice and so, as the years went on, as a man, a Marine no less, that became a point of trouble for him and shame and guilt for him, that he never stood up for his own child. He never stood up and said, “I won’t leave you.” So, that was his guilt and trouble.
Jim: Would that have made a difference for you if he had?
Patricia: Honestly, that’s so hard to say obviously, but now I think it would have, you know. But who knows? You know, when you’re a young adult that has been through those kinds of things that we had both been through, different things, I don’t know if it would’ve or not. You know, our marriage is so amazing and so strong and we surrendered our lives to the Lord together and God redeemed our marriage and healed us from our abortion. So, we both identified the loss of that abortion and the loss of our unborn child.
John: So was some of the struggle then, as I hear you, Pat, some of the struggle was, you wanted the abortion? He backed off and then he started to feel guilt?
John: And you described last time seven years of some really difficult...
John: ...marriage goin’ on?
Patricia: Our marriage was a hot mess.
John: And that you trace it all back to that guilt he had and the lack of unity in that decision?
Patricia: Well, I think he had guilt and anger because as the marriage went on, I think he was angry about my independence and my, you know, not being the submitted wife, which he wasn’t that familiar with that, at that point, but you know, he had some anger about it as things went on, that I did make that decision without bringing him in on it. And it was just confusing. And most relationships who have an abortion together - I don’t know the exact statistics, but it’s somewhere in the 90s percents - that the relationship does not make it. So it was by the grace of God that we both surrendered our lives to the Lord and went through Christian counseling and ministry for our marriage and about our abortion that we - our marriage was saved.
Jim: Hm. Pat, let me ask you about that with respect to men, particularly, because again, if you look at the mantra of the abortion industry, it’s about a woman’s right to choose. They pound htat into the culture. They take advertisements out to let you know, “Guys, you have nothing to do with this.” And I think, unfortunately, men - both Christian as well as non-Christian men - are kid of, you know, like men do. We don’t know what to do. We just kind of back up and go into neutral.
Jim: And I think we have uh, in many ways, lost our masculinity when it comes to what should we do to defend that child? It’s our child, too. And speak to that for a moment in terms of what - what men can do and should do when they feel they need to be put into neutral - fight that.
Patricia: Okay, I have so much to say about that. I’ve gotta capture my thoughts for this show. But as in this new book, in, we added a whole segment, a chapter in this on men and abortion and couples and abortion. And I think it’s - there’s a lot of good information in there for those out there, those listeners, who are involved either in - one of those scenarios. But I think a lot, fortunately, has changed as a result of more women like me and a lot more sharing about abortion trauma, men are more aware of standing up. I think men are being fought for. We have had in our pregnancy center many men who came to our center whose girlfriends were gonna have an abortion and they needed our counsel.
Patricia: So, we counseled those men on how to speak to that woman and how to help her make the right decision.
Jim: What’s an example of what you might say?
Patricia: Things like what my husband and I went through, really assuring that woman, “I am going to be here for you and I am going to stand by you through this, whether it results in a marriage or not.” That’s a separate decision that that couples needs to make through the counseling process. So they may or may not end up getting married. So, both the man and the woman need to understand, this does not necessarily mean we have to spend our life together. But we have a decision to make here for the life of a child that’s going to save the life of that child and save our future lives, however they go.
Jim: Yeah, what I appreciate about what you’re saying is, the folks that I have talked to that have gone through that and particularly the women, when they get that assurance from the man, it is the stiffening of the spine...
Patricia: Yeah. Right.
Jim: ...that they need. It gives them the willpower to move ahead and give life to that baby. And that’s almost 100 percent of the examples I’m thinking through in my own mind, where I’ve talked to a woman who has said that. So, that’s the beauty of how you complement each other, how that man can give the courage to that woman to say, “Let’s move forward. I’m here with you.” And frankly, speaking as a man, we need more of that manliness to come through.
Patricia: You do and I do think that from what I’ve witnessed in the Christian community since I have been doing this ministry, there is a strengthening of that and men, as we know through men’s ministries and the different movements of men as believers, they are getting stronger about their beliefs and their positions and so I think it’s so important that men understand the importance of the role they play in this, one way or the other. We know many women go to abortion clinics because of the voice of the man.
Jim: Yeah, don’t go into neutral.
Patricia: Right, right.
Jim: Don’t let the enemy rob you of your...
Patricia: Speak up...
Patricia: ...and stand up for your unborn child and for that woman...
Patricia: ...who obviously has had some emotional connection in your life.
Jim: Pat, let me ask you, you talk about I think almost like the need for a woman to share this secret. You know, it’s obviously a contradiction because it’s a secret this woman has, yet this compelling desire to let somebody know so she doesn’t feel trapped with the secret.
Patricia: Right and that’s great. That opens kind of what I was thinking a minute ago when you asked me the question about the men. I think God’s Word is very clear that we overcome the enemy. We were talking about the enemy and his influence on our thoughts and our shame, that the enemy, the devil, is the one who causes us to feel ashamed and grief and no hope, okay? So, the Bible says that we overcome the enemy through the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony, those two simple ways - through the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony.
Jim: What does that mean for the person that doesn’t understand what you just said, the blood of Jesus?
Patricia: Okay, well...
Jim: What does that mean?
Patricia: ...the surrender of Christ on the cross for our sins, Jesus going to the cross for our sins.
Jim: His authority, His power.
Patricia: Right, shedding His blood for our hope and our, like you quoted John 10:10, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came to give us abundant life.
Patricia: And abundant life means freedom from our sin, from our past, from our mistakes. So, we’re meant to live on that side of freedom. And I believe that the way that we find that freedom is through the word of our testimony. So, I believe that women, by coming out and sharing their testimony, finding those places like the Focus on the Family avenue that you’ve just shared, finding those places to talk to someone about their past abortion, work through the healing process of their abortion, and then tell somebody. Tell their church. Tell their pastor. Tell their Bible study sisters.
And then I think that same thing applies to men, because as women are sharing and men are sharing, men get stronger. So those young men, like my sons have been raised with the truth about abortion. And there’s no way they would let a woman, one of their women go to an abortion, because they know the truth about abortion.
Jim: Well, that’s interesting. I think of that in the context of having “the talk” with your teenager, maybe preteen hopefully, son and daughter. But with the son, to emphasize...
Jim: ...because it’s so prevalent in the culture, you need to talk to them...
Patricia: That’s right.
Jim: ...about abortion and what happens there and what it truly is and the damage it can cause. That’s a good reminder ‘cause I think a lot of us as parents, don’t go that far. We don’t talk about that issue ‘cause we don’t think our son or daughter will ever be in that circumstance. But you’re saying, probably about half of ours will be.
Patricia: That’s right.
Jim: And that’s a...
Patricia: And we had...
Jim: ...that’s a startling statistic.
Patricia: ...we had such a precious and poignant moment in our marriage about that, because God brought us through that healing. We opened a pregnancy center. We’ve obviously, my husband and I have been very vocal about our past abortion and about our healing. And we’ve shared at pregnancy center banquets. We’ve shared all over the country with our daughter. And he - one day I walked out into our garage, right before we were about to have a banquet and my son, our son who was then in his late teens, was sitting on the garage floor in a heap of tears with my husband. So, my son started asking my husband questions about our abortion. And even though he had been raised in that environment, he got that personal connection. “This was my sister.”
Jim: And it had just hit him?
Patricia: It just hit him as an older teen. So, we had been sharing that truth with him all along, but there was some point where he connected with that abortion as a loss in his life.
Patricia: Because that is the truth. Grandparents are losing grandchildren and siblings are losing brothers and sisters, and you know, cousins are losing cousins. This affects everyone in our nation. So, our son just had that moment of revelation, which - so, that’s why I believe so strongly in sharing with our children and grandchildren the truth about our past.
John: That’s Pat Layton, describing her own post-abortive journey on today’s Focus on the Family. And if this conversation is bringing up some past wounds or concerns for you, I’ll encourage you to call us. We have Christian counselors who are available to speak with you. We also have a wonderful resource from Pat - it’s a Bible study called,. And you can get in touch when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Alright. Let’s return now to this important conversation with Pat Layton on Focus on the Family.
Jim: Pat, let me ask you this. We’ve talked last time and today about the emotions that a woman will feel and how to corral those and get a perspective on reality that hopefully, will lead her in a better way - if she’s post-abortive, in a way toward forgiveness and healing, if she’s contemplating an abortion, toward life for that child, a decision that she will never regret, I don’t think. I mean I haven’t met a mom yet who said, “I really am bummed out that I...”
Jim: “...gave my child life.” Isn’t that interesting?
Patricia: Neither have I all these years.
Jim: You never hear that. You know hear, yeah, it was a struggle. There were hard times. Some days I didn’t know if we were gonna have three meals. But you know what? Somehow it tends to work out and all the fear that a mom has about not being able to afford that child or all the heartache that child may cause, those moms who stick with it, the amazing testimony is they find a way. That’s a mom’s heart.
Jim: And abortion is almost antithetical to a mom’s heart and I think that’s why there’s so much grief, ‘cause it cuts right at their core of being a woman. This isn’t right and they know it.
Patricia: Right, we know it automatically.
Jim: Speak to that woman who has listened for part of this conversation or maybe the whole thing and she cannot get past forgiving herself. She cannot find a way to say “I know God can forgive me.” She doesn’t believe it.
Patricia: Well, that Scripture I think of is where Jesus says, “Come to -” you know, “My burden is light. Come to Me and I’ll give you rest.” You know, turn to Focus on the Family. Turn to someone to share your story and walk the healing journey. Don’t worry about forgiving yourself yet, because the steps that we use - we use eight steps to healing in. We walk through first, starting off with telling the story. The second step is sharing the truth. We walk through grief and loss and forgiveness. So, we help those women understand they did not make this decision in a vacuum. There probably were other people involved in this, some influences that they have a right to be angry about. We talk about how Jesus shows us there are times to be angry. So the Bible says, “Be angry, but sin not.” So, we share with them how to manage the anger that they’re feeling. So we have very specific steps to lead you, listener, woman like me who’s listening to a radio show - we have steps to lead you through the healing process. We have ways to show you how to forgive yourself. So there is hope here on the other side of this. You will learn how to forgive yourself. We’re gonna show you what that looks like in God’s Word, that really in fact, Jesus forgives you and that’s all that really matters. His forgiveness is enough and we’re gonna show you how to find that.
John: And what did that moment look like for you?
Patricia: Oh, it was amazing. I had - well I had the healing process. After my husband and I got saved, we went through some very precious spiritual counseling from within the body of Christ that God put us into. So we went through a healing journey that was very, you know, these steps of healing that are practical and spiritual and biblical. But then as if God hadn’t done enough, we found ourselves the parents of a beautiful adopted baby girl, who had been born to a 16-year-old birth mother. She was born at 22 weeks gestation. She only weighed a pound and a half at birth. She had actually been born in the emergency room when this teenage mom went to the hospital, not knowing she was pregnant. So, through a long sequence of events that I share in the book - I know we don’t have time to talk about today - my husband and I walked into the emergency room of the very hospital where we had out abortion together and this tiny, 10-inch, 1 pound baby girl was laying on a table. And we just - I heard the voice of God say, “This is what I’ve called you to save. This is what I knit together in a mother’s womb.”
So, we took this little 10-inch baby girl home with us and she is now a beautiful 25-year-old senior in college. So, that moment of seeing that baby and hearing God’s voice, I knew that we were forgiven and that God had called us to fight for the rights of unborn children, as well as the rights of their moms and dads, rights that we didn’t understand when we chose abortion.
Jim: Pat, it’s beautiful and I that’s - that’s the thing that people, every person should think about when you look at the big debate and what happens around this very personal, very critical issue of abortion or life. To hurl insults at people without knowing motivation, I mean, you look at the pro-life community, what’s our motivation? For the most part, these aren’t our children.
Jim: We’re doing this out of the compulsion of our faith, that we believe we’re all made in the image of God, that life is sacred and that it should not be discarded the way that this culture is discarding life. That’s what motivates us. It’s not money. It’s not power. It’s none of that.
Jim: It’s simply...
Patricia: Well, a discarded...
Jim: ...that life.
Patricia: ...baby - a discarded child results in a discarded mom and dad, as well.
Jim: Yeah, think of that, which I would suggest ends up in a discarded culture, which is what we’re experiencing today.
Pat, I do want to touch on grief, because that’s so critical to many aspects of life, to be able to go through a grieving process. Jean lost her mom a while back and I watched her close up. I lost my parents a long time ago, so I don’t feel that grief like I did when I was a child, but to see my wife suffer through that and to see her tears.
Jim: It’s important that human beings grieve. Talk about it.
Patricia: Yes. There’s a testimony that’s shared in our Bible study where a woman had a stillborn child. And the doctor brought that baby to her and at first, she said, “No, I don’t want to hold the baby. I just can’t do it.” And the doctor just said, “Okay, we’ll just give you some time.” So, a few minutes later she said, “Yes, I want to hold my baby.” So, the doctor brings the baby back, the stillborn child and explains to her, “Before you can grieve their loss, you have to celebrate their life.” And so, that doctor in his wisdom helped that mom realize, you have to celebrate the life of this daughter that you’ve lost before you can really process the grief.
So, that process that we help those couples walk through or women walk through, is that process of grieving that life that they’ve lost. That child that would be in the middle of those two children or at the beginning of those four children, that somewhere in there is a missing son or daughter. So, that grief process is very important for them to get through, you know, the healing process of a past abortion.
Jim: Pat, that is so true and so good what you’re describing there and what great wisdom from that physician. That’s a wise doctor. We have talked a lot about the impact of abortion and I have attempted to show some of that contradiction in my comments, but the bottom line is, if you are suffering in that silence, that secret that Pat has talked about and you want to find healing and hope, which I think all of us at this table would encourage you to do, don’t suffer in that silence. Let that secret out. Let it be known in a safe, appropriate way, which I would recommend calling us here at Focus on the Family. Let another person grieve with you. Let another person help you think through next steps of how to bring that healing and hope to your heart.
Pat, let me say thank you so much again, for that vulnerability, your willingness, that pastor, as you described last time saying, you know, someday the Lord’s gonna use this and man, is He using it. So, thank you for your faithfulness.
Patricia: Thanks for having me. It’s a great pleasure.
Jim: And your husband, too.
Patricia: Yes, he’s my Marine.
John: As Jim said, Focus on the Family is here to help. You can call and set up an initial consult with one of our caring, Christian counselors when you call 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or find the help you need at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: John, it’s amazing to see how God has used Pat’s story to impact people in powerful ways. When we first aired this program a few years ago, we heard from several women and men who had experienced the heartbreak of a past abortion. One older gentleman, Mr. Smith, we’ll call him that, called to let us know that he had pressured his girlfriend to get an abortion more than 50 years ago. The end result was devastating for the baby, the mother, and for her family. At 78-years-old now, Mr. Smith still thinks about that baby every week. And he grieves about what he did. Thankfully, he’s become a Christian and the Focus staff member who took the call was able to pray with him and they wept together. Mr. Smith went on to urge Focus on the Family to continue helping families who have gone through this, and to remind everyone about the tragic consequences that abortion brings to families.
So folks, that’s why we’ve done this program today, and why we need your help to get this pro-life message out to as many as possible. Become an advocate for life today, and partner with us, financially, so that Focus on the Family can continue to be a witness of God’s love and forgiveness for hurting women, men, and their families.
John: Join our team when you donate today at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or by calling 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And when you make a financial gift of any amount today, to the ministry, we’ll respond by sending a complimentary copy of Pat Layton’s Bible study,. We’d love to say thank you for partnering with us by sending that out to you.
Coming up next time, Josh McDowell describes some great things that dads can do to prepare your children for life.
Josh McDowell: One of the things we have to do is model in a love for our children’s mother - that kind of love that is accepting, unconditional love based upon God’s grace and forgiveness, where our children feel free to come us. Especially if they - in the area of pornography - they feel free to come to us with any, any question.
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Patricia LaytonView Bio
Patricia Layton is a prolific speaker, an author and a life coach. She is also the founder of one of the nation's largest pregnancy resource centers and has spearheaded the leadership of an international post-abortion recovery ministry, an adoption agency and a professional client-coaching program. Pat has written six books including A Surrendered Life and Life Unstuck. She and her husband, Mike, have been married over 40 years and have three children and several grandchildren. Learn more about Pat by visiting her website, www.patlayton.net.