In an act of great courage, Rikka K. Woods is sharing her story. Her hope is that other women in similar circumstances will learn from her words and example. After conceiving a child in date rape and then in the darkness of a severely abusive relationship, Rikka had three abortions.
At the time, Rikka believed that God supported and understood her decisions to have abortions, because she was in such difficult circumstances and did not have any help to whom she could turn. The abortions took place at Planned Parenthood facilities in three different states. Each time, no one asked if Rikka was coerced in her decision, if she had a safe place to go, or if she needed financial or emotional help. She was simply another woman who paid, had an abortion, and was sent on her way. After suffering severe complications following her second abortion, the abortionist refused to see her for a follow up visit. She was told she would have to pay to have any kind of additional visit, even though she didn’t have any money (she had spent all her savings on the abortion) and she clearly had complications from the abortion.
With the surgical abortions, Rikka says, “I didn’t see anything; I didn’t see the fetus. I was detached from it.” With the third abortion, however, Rikka was given the abortion pill and sent home to have the actual abortion alone. She saw her child. At only six and a half weeks, the fetus was already a fully formed, recognizable baby with discernable features. Rikka was crushed. She says she slipped into a deep depression. “As I watched my daughter, Hope, grow up, I began to wonder about the other babies. What would they have been like? Would I have made better decisions if I had other children to take care of?”
Coming face to face with the reality of her preborn child led Rikka to the conviction that she could not have another abortion. Even though circumstances were devastatingly difficult, Rikka chose life for her next daughter, Amara, and had the strength to leave the abusive relationship. Her children gave her the strength to leave.
Rikka no longer believed that she was the only one suffering from the abuse. She had already learned that although Hope did not suffer abuse directly, seeing her mother being physically assaulted caused Hope physical and mental pain. After hearing this in a class for victims of domestic violence and witnessing the effects on Hope, Rikka took the first steps to reclaiming her life and protecting her daughter. She filed an injunction, and the physical abuse stopped. When she was pregnant with Amara, she realized that she could not allow her preborn daughter to suffer from the extreme stress and mental anxiety she was under in the abusive relationship. Because of her preborn daughter, Rikka had the courage to leave.
Her journey was not easy, as her home had just burned to the ground and she was extremely ill during pregnancy with no one to help her. Nonetheless, Rikka knew that she had made the right decision. When faced with another difficult pregnancy after Amara, Rikka again chose Life. To women in similar circumstances, Rikka says that she firmly believes that “no matter how difficult the situation seems, there is nothing that can’t be done.” She recognizes now that although she had reasons to choose abortion in the past and she was in extremely difficult circumstances, they were ultimately selfish decisions. Her children were a gift that bring so much to her life, and she did not have the right to choose which ones were born. To women who have had abortions, Rikka says, “It was the best decision that you knew at the time, and God forgives you. You have to forgive yourself.”
-Some names have been changed for privacy reasons.