I recently had the honor of hearing a very brave woman speak to a room full of almost one hundred women about her experience with abortion. As she told her story, I was struck by much of what she had to share.

She said her sister was the only one who told her she was strong enough to be a mother and she encouraged her not to have the abortion. She shared of a relationship that ended after so much had been poured into it, and her decision to have a second abortion, to name a few.

But there was one realization she shared with us that day, something that has impacted her very deeply as a result of her abortions, that has stuck with me —Anytime she gathers with her husband and step-children, she is keenly aware that there are two children not present.

And not only them, but the spouses they would have been married to, the children they would have had who would be her own grandchildren, they are also missing.

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Their presence at the table, their laughter as they run around the room, the joy they would have brought to her life, it’s all missing.

My heart broke for her and for all the women who have abortion in their past, as she described how devastating it is to realize your children are not there because of a decision made years ago. And her story reminded me that abortion doesn’t just affect a mother and her child. It impacts entire families and entire generations.

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As Thanksgiving fast approaches, I can’t help but be reminded of this woman’s story and so many others like it. We will gather together as family or friends or both all across this country, and a tragic reality will gather with us: family members and friends will be missing from our tables.

Children, their spouses, and their children won’t be there. Cousins and nieces and nephews, absent. There may not be actual empty seats, but there will undoubtedly be empty hearts.

Because of abortion, our tables will not be full and our families will be incomplete.

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In January of 1984, President Reagan declared January 22 to be Sanctity of Human Life Sunday as it was the 11th anniversary of Roe. In his proclamation, Reagan gave us a solemn reminder of all that has been lost because so many children have not had the chance to live.

He said, “These children will never laugh, never sing, never experience the joy of human love; nor will they strive to heal the sick, or feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss.”

They lost their lives and we have lost something too. It isn’t just a mother and her child who are impacted by an abortion. Abortion changes entire families, communities, and our nation as a whole. We have lost all of the things those children had to offer us and that is something to grieve over.

As we gather with our families and friends this month, I’m not necessarily suggesting we grieve this reality, though we should absolutely be aware of the loss that has occurred. As a result of that loss, we need to remember that there are hearts all around us that ache, especially during the holidays.

We are gathering to give thanks. I want to encourage us all to do what Reagan suggested in that proclamation—to give thanks for the gift of life. Because without life, no other gifts can be experienced and enjoyed.

Jessi Bridges

Jessi is a writer, homesteader, homeschool mother, and director of the non-profit organization, Nevadans for Life. She loves to browse bookshelves in the thrift store and create in the kitchen, but you will usually find her on the floor reading to her children. She and her bearded husband live in Las Vegas with their 4 children, a handful of chickens, and their plump gray cat. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram.