This blog below by my colleague, Kevin Burke, LSW, reminds me of the need to refocus the exception clause in the abortion debate.
As the controversy over the “rape and incest” exceptions continues to rage on, we must keep in mind that just as rape and incest are devastating traumatic events in a girl’s/woman’s life, abortion, too, is a devastating traumatic event that only compounds the rape or incest trauma.
In an effort to comfort rape and incest victims, many err by offering abortion as a way to eliminate some of the pain victims experience. Yet, abortion doesn’t heal anyone; it brings pain, suffering and death to babies and many of their mothers. Abortion also doesn’t solve problems. Rather, abortion creates new problems for women, men, families and society.
– Alveda King
Onawu Pickett is an ordained Christian minister. She feels a special calling by God to reach out to African Americans who are being ravaged by the Shockwaves of Abortion through public speaking and personal ministry.
In the following interview, Onawu tells her own story and shared some very important insights on how to better reach the millions of black families wounded by abortion loss:
Kevin: Onawu can you share with us some of your family background?
Onawu: My mother and father were migrant farm workers. She married my father when she was only 16, still very much a child herself. They met in a work camp in the season of chopping cotton in the central valley of California. Mama only went to school up to the sixth grade which led to a very limited education.
I was molested at age four by a neighbor’s son who is in prison to this day for armed robbery and rape. The boy that molested me was older…not sure how much older. His mother was my baby sitter and his parents were my parent’s good friends. I never shared this with my parents. The lie told by the molester was that I would be in trouble if I did would stick with me for the rest of my life.
My father was very abusive to my mother. He was very good looking and a drifter as well as a con artist. He was also educated and up on world events. His grandmother was a slave.
My grandmother struggled with mental health issues. My grandfather was a very humble man who very seldom lost his temper. He was murdered in 1963 by one of his seven daughter’s husband in a very small farming community of Fairmead, CA.
Kevin: What impact did those early experiences of violence, molestation have on you?
Onawu: As I reflect back on my life it started out in a pretty violent and twisted environment. With the challenges I faced in my family, I struggled with a sense of shame, not really understanding this…but also a fear of being rejected. Always looking for acceptance; yet always wanting to run away.
I use to fantasize about being adopted. I wanted a different family. My father was affectionate to me and my two sisters and brothers…but I couldn’t grasp why my mother did not say she loved us and did not show affection to us. I did not want to be punished so I will do what was asked of me, whether it was right or wrong.
The impact caused me to be a companion to intimidation, depression, a lack of self esteem and being the victim of others that had issues to want to control others. Oh yes, rejection and bitterness kept me in bondage. All I wanted was love and security. Because of my mother’s lack of education and her youth; and my father unwilling to be a Godly man (he was atheist) I felt a deep sense of insecurity.
Kevin: When we spoke earlier by phone, you shared that you were a victim of rape.
Onawu: Yes I was raped in 1972 when I was a senior in high school. I never did report the incident to the police or my parents. I knew the identity of my rapist. He was someone that I used to date. He raped me six months after we broke-up. I did not report the incident because I was afraid no one would believe me. My father wanted me to have an abortion, but I was too far along. He had a social worker come to talk to me about adoption. My mother convinced me to keep the baby and she would help me to raise him while I went to school. I graduated from high school in June of 1973. I am glad I did not abort. My son is a wonderful man who is serving in the army. He has done two tours in Iraq.
Kevin: Your first abortion occurred when you were a college student, correct?
Onawu: My first abortion in 1974, I was 20 years old and shortly after the Roe vs. Wade decision…and yes I was attending junior college at the time. When I learned I was pregnant the young man did not want the responsibility and he was already seeing someone else as well. I was referred to Planned Parenthood by a friend. I got involved again a year later with another man who was in the military was the same scenario, resulting in another abortion. I was caught up in the confusing moral climate of the time, you know, love the one you’re with. Searching for security and love in ALL the wrong places.
Like many others of my generation. It is amazing how easy it was for me to accept the pro abortion Planned Parenthood counseling back then. I was convinced that I was not carrying a human being. I was able to believe that abortion was the answer because I needed a quick fix and a cover up for a repeated act of not being a nice girl.
I met someone and married him after my second abortion. It was a stormy relationship with infidelity on his part. We had two children. He abandoned us and got involved with another woman and we divorced after seven years together.
I met a wonderful man a couple of years later. We have been together 28 years with two children together. I thank God that I had a change of heart and HE erased my shame.
Kevin: It was many years later that you decided that you needed to reach out for help from your abortion pain. What led you to take that step?
Onawu: I need to share with you some symptoms I was experiencing after my 2nd abortion. It was sometime after that I would go over overpasses or bodies of water that I actually felt that I would throw an infant over the railings into the water or over into a canyon. If I was holding a child in my lap I would hold the baby tighter. Sometime I would fight tears.
I had this fear for years up until I went to a PACE bible study program at the local Pregnancy Resource Center. I was in my fifties when the Lord brought it to my attention that constant fear and anxiety was connected to my abortions.
I faced what I had done and repented. God willingly forgave me and helped me to forgive myself. After I went through the process I wanted to share my story and tell others, especially women about God’s forgiveness and love. I gave my testimony at a local prayer group called Aglow International. It was confirmed by God that this is one major thing HE wanted me to do tell others you can be set free of your past with a major emphasis on my fellow Afro Americans.
I began to research and through this research I contacted Priest for Life. I was directed to Rachel’s Vineyard for further healing and education. I contacted the nearest retreat which would be held in Santa Rosa, CA. I was blessed to been able to attend the retreat. I did receive further healing. They were so loving, patient and more than willing to be at your side thru every step.
Kevin: Can you share about your Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat Experience?
Onawu: It was an intense three days. The men in attendance were surprisingly open to the sessions as they began to take responsibility for there part in forcing in some instances there partners’ decision to have the abortion. Tears began to flow, stony hearts were turned to flesh. In some instances the men had no say so in the woman’s decision and mourned the loss of his child. Some of the men came without a partner.
It was obviously difficult going thru the process but we all made it thru. . .individuals, couples and some grandparents were there as well. I heard testimonies how thru the retreat lives were being changed, knowing that they were on the road to healing.
Kevin: Onawu, we know that minority women face higher rates of sexual abuse, violence and rape. Do you see these things as making African American women more vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy and also seeing abortion as the best option?
Onawu: Yes. When the slaves were taken from our homeland, many women who were pregnant with child would throw themselves overboard and drown so as not to bring their children into slavery. Some women would drown themselves and their live children. I know that abortion is a form of bondage as well.
I believe that we have been conditioned to believe giving up life will make it all better for mother and child. For the child it would not have to face a cruel world and not wanted by its parents or society. Being a single mother would keep us down, and from pursuing an education and no one would want you or your kid. In other words a child out of wed lock will keep us from the pursuit of happiness…so the lie says. The woman could not carry a baby for nine months and give it up to adoption; this would be an added burden psychologically. Another mind set is why bring a child in the world and suffer the same tragedies as the mother.
Kevin: What are some of the obstacles you see in getting a message of awareness and healing to our African American Christian churches? How can we open doors to healing our families and communities?
Onawu: Some of the obstacles are trying to convey awareness to our church leaders to convince them that some of our women and men are tragic victims of abortion. Some of our leaders don’t understand the mental anguish of the consequences of abortions for mothers and fathers. Lack of knowledge is damaging, the truth shall make us free.
Some of our politicians and Christian ministers and leaders need healing as well…of their own participation in abortion and by encouraging others to abort. I believe lack of education and perhaps the ability to face their own past lead them to put up defensive walls. Maybe our church leaders would consider part of the confession of St. Augustine, “For thou has made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” Let us love what God love and hate what God hates.
I believe more of us need to share our testimonies not only in our churches but in government halls. Unfortunately we do a lot of sweeping hurtful issues under the rug and throw accountability out the window. Healing comes with love, compassion and forgiveness at least in my case God’s love swept away my shame.
God also helped me to forgive myself. I would love to see some celebrities hearts be touched to share their testimony I pray someone brave in the entertainment industry would stand up and come along side those who have testified about the hurt of abortion in their life. I am talking about those who our young folk took to.
We must be examples of hope and life for generations to come. My prayer is that we no longer be enslaved to poverty and violence; especially in the womb; not only for African Americans but for human beings as a whole.
Kevin: Please touch on what we discussed about abortion being a trap, exploiting women. Touch on the importance of healing in the black family.
Onawu: We need to regain our dignity. The fact of the matter is we have lost self respect. We have been conditioned to believe that we have no future unless we remain dependent of the county and state. We have patterned ourselves by allowing The Margret Sangers of the world to cheat us of our dignity and the right to life and family.
The Proclamation of Emancipation was signed into affect January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln…but we are still in bondage to think we will never be any better. We must know that the abortion industry was designed to eradicate black people as a race. Without our children we have no future. We are erasing our scientist, doctors, teachers, leaders and so forth. Healing brings on the continuing of love, hope and success in our communities to share with other races as well.
We need very much to return to respecting the wisdom of our elders and embrace them with respect; for they were our guides that kept us on track with prayer and experience. We can have laws changed but without a change of heart the laws will be hard to enforce. Some one must lay their lives down as Dr. King did for human rights, whether they are still in the matrix or born into this world. A quote from the bible says it best: “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9) NKJ bible.