DES MOINES, Iowa-Justine Kyker traveled from Nebraska Thursday to be at the site of an unwelcome memory: The last time she had passed through the doors of the unassuming, low brick building behind her was Sept. 1, 1988, and she was 19 years old.
Pregnant and unmarried, Kyker had gone to a family doctor, talked at length, and looked at photos of couples hoping to adopt. "That was my plan: to place the baby for adoption," she said. At the advice of one friend, she decided to call this Planned Parenthood clinic first.
On the phone, a Planned Parenthood staff member asked Kyker how far along she was. She didn't know, but guessed three months, and said so. Kyker said she was told to come in right away and bring $200 cash.
She then disregarded her previous plan to give up her baby for adoption, going against the prior discussions with her family and her doctor. "I didn't think about the humanity of the baby," Kyker said. Unwilling to go to a family member for the money she needed, she took back her college textbooks for the upcoming semester to raise the $200.
The next day, although she had been told not to eat, Kyker gave in to her hunger craving and stopped at a nearby corner store for chocolate milk and mozzarella sticks. Once she arrived at Planned Parenthood, "I paid my $200 to the cashier and sat in the waiting room for a long time," she said. There, she recalls an employee stopped by: "She said, 'You seem sad,' and I started to cry," Kyker said.
She was offered a little white pill "to make you feel better," accepted it, and became sleepy until she was on the surgical table. The abortion proved unexpectedly painful, and Kyker's cries caused more people to enter the room. "Physically, I felt they ripped my internal organs out," she said. "I was screaming."
Afterward, Kyker was seated in a room with several other young women, with an employee at one end of the room. "I was sick, vomiting, and I was afraid I would get in trouble for eating," she said. "The only sympathy I got was from the other girls who had just aborted their babies while the employee just sat there."
A friend had planned to drive Kyker home but did not know how to operate a manual-shift car, so she drove herself home and tried to forget the experience. She dropped her semester of studies, faced her "devastated" family, and went on.
At night, Kyker began to dream the same dream over and over, in which she sees a little girl of about 5 years old whom she believes to be a representation of her daughter. "Your conscience is going to catch up to you," she said.
Kyker does not know if her abortion was "botched," she said, but she does worry her medical problems with each of her pregnancies since-including a placental abruption, an ectopic pregnancy, and a premature labor-are potentially after-effects of her teenaged decision. "You just can never escape it," she said.
Kyker said she does not recall any counseling that warned her of potential side effects or regrets. "I knew they were going to get rid of my problem," she said.
Now married and a mother, Kyker said she has found forgiveness. She has not been active in the pro-life effort for some years, concentrating on her family, but thought it was important to tell her story.
"You will never regret giving birth to your child," Kyker insisted. "You will always regret an abortion."