By Rusty Wright
When I met her at a media convention, she seemed so vibrant and alive, full of zest and eager to interact, an attractive woman with a bright smile and sparkling eyes. I would not have guessed the emotional anguish and physical torment that lay in her past. Gut wrenching stuff.
As Luana Stoltenberg told me her story, I learned she’s been haunted by some choices she made earlier in life. Like many women, she had found herself with an unwanted pregnancy and confronting difficult decisions.
It’s a dilemma millions of women around the globe face each year. If you’re in this situation, how will you support a baby? Will the father be responsible and help? What will your parents say? How might a child affect your career? Your social life? Your marriage plans? Ending the pregnancy might eliminate these complexities, or make them more manageable.
Luana faced that decision three times, the first at age seventeen. Each time she made the same choice, to terminate her pregnancy. She says she remembers the experiences vividly.
“I lay on the cold table with no anesthetic for the pain,” she recalls, “staring at the ceiling, wishing I were someplace else. It seemed to last forever, and the pain was unbearable. No amount of anesthetic could dull the pain in my heart and mind.”
“The types of abortions I had were the vacuum aspirator method. I could hear—by the increased labor of the suction machine—when a part or limb of my baby was being extracted. Each time I tried to look at the jar with my [baby’s] remains they would push me back down. To this day I still hear that haunting suction sound.”
“When it was finished I was sent to a waiting room with the other girls. I was given a cup of juice and told I could leave in 20 minutes if I felt alright. I told them I felt fine, when in fact I had never felt worse. I just wanted out of there. On the drive home I was in extreme pain and bleeding profusely. I called them for help, but was told it wasn’t their problem, to call my doctor.”
“My life was a mess”
Luana says that later, the reality that she would never see or hold those three children weighed heavily. Anger and depression set in. Alcohol abuse and drugs led to three suicide attempts. “My life was a mess,” she admits, “and it was because of the choices I had made.”
After some years, she made a different choice that turned her life around: She discovered a forgiving God and placed her faith in Him. She married and sought to start a family, but learned the abortions had rendered her infertile. “The suction from the vacuum aspirator destroyed my tubes and ovaries.” She says the suction damage led her to have a hysterectomy.
Her belief system and its certainty of forgiveness have helped her through her nightmare. She points to a statement by an early follower of Jesus that encapsulates her life: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Abortion, of course, is extremely controversial. Amid the heated political, legal, medical, social, and philosophical debates, real human experience can lend valuable perspective. How do you react to her story?
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.
Copyright © Rusty Wright 2008