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Abortion's effects on women kindles seminarian's compassion
January 22, 2003
By Jeff Robinson
Southern Seminary student Tammy Tillman has seen the needs of women physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually as a result of volunteering in a pro-life pregnancy center. Photo by David Merrifield
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Tammy Tillman's desire to see women counseled through the gospel of Christ dates back to her teenage years.
She was a rising high school junior in Tallahassee, Fla., where she had lived all her life. Thanks to her father's job promotion, Tillman's family abruptly moved to Lake City, about an hour east of Tallahassee. Though the miles from her hometown were few, to the 16-year-old Tillman it felt at first as if her family were moving to Mars.
Though blindsided by the move, God opened Tillman's eyes to both her spiritual darkness and the need for Christian counseling.
Although she had grown up in a warm Christian home, Tillman was not converted to Christ until her senior year while in Lake City. God also began another good work in her through a set of circumstances that bordered on tragic.
"One of my close friends tried to commit suicide," she said. "That had a huge impact on me, and while I was in college God began to use that to open my eyes to the need for Christian counseling. God used me to help her through it."
The Tillman family spent only a year in Lake City before returning to Tallahassee, but it was a year that transformed Tillman's life. Today she is earning a master of divinity degree in pastoral counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Tillman's passion is to offer biblical counsel to other women, which she hopes to do fulltime upon graduation from Southern Seminary.
Last summer she gained profound insight into counseling by working as a post-abortion counselor at A Woman's Choice Resource Center, a ministry of Southeast Christian Church in downtown Louisville. Southern Seminary professor William Cutrer also ministers at the center.
The desecration left in the wake of abortion was part of the insight Tillman gained.
"There are so many issues and so many problems that arise in the woman's life following abortion," she said. "Abortion affects them in mental, physical, emotional and spiritual ways. Some women are made sterile by this because it is a medical procedure.
"There are a lot of things that women don't know until they [have been] through the abortion because they aren't told these things.
"Some women suffer from a 'sleeper' effect in that they have dreams about killing babies and can't get it out of their mind, [sometimes for] 25 or 30 years after the abortion. This could be triggered by a sound or a smell that reminds them of it. A lot of women go into promiscuity. Sometimes there is a lot of anger and guilt. There are just dozens of problems caused by abortion."
Tillman said the greatest delight she and other counselors at the center find is offering the only counsel which will truly heal their souls -- telling them about a better way, of life in Christ.
The gospel provides a healing balm for women who see God as ready to punish their transgressions but not ready to extend forgiveness.
"So many of the women would ask us, 'How could God forgive me after I have killed my own child?'" Tillman said. "Many of them see God only as one who punishes and not as one who is also full of grace and truth. It is hard for them to accept the fact that there is forgiveness for sinners through the cross."
Prior to beginning at the counseling center, Tillman said she was concerned that women who were hurting after having fallen into the trap of abortion might be reticent to discuss it with one who has never been through such an experience.
"I would tell them, 'Maybe I haven't walked in your shoes, but I have been in your shoes because I am a sinner,'" she said. "But God has had mercy upon me. It was an incredible opportunity to shine light in darkness and expose some of the false beliefs these women had, false beliefs about God, sin and grace.
"I am humbled that God would choose me to work with these precious women, who so need the healing that only the gospel can bring. Watching God work in the lives of these women was an incredible experience."
The center is located across the street from an abortion clinic. Often women who intended to seek an abortion would stop in at the center thinking it was the clinic, Tillman said. Many times this would be frustrating because the woman would leave and go across the street, she said.
Tillman remembers one 18-year-old girl who was pregnant and came to the center, thinking she was entering the abortion clinic. The girl came with her mother in tow. Both mother and daughter were determined to have the teen's pregnancy aborted.
"We talked to them about the different stages and all that a woman goes through even after an abortion," Tillman said. "But the girl didn't care and her mother felt having an abortion was a good choice. It is not at all rare for mothers to bring their daughters in for an abortion because they think it is the best way.
"We had another girl who said she [wished she] had had somebody like us to counsel with her beforehand because she wouldn't have gone through with it. When we would hear that, it would make us that much more determined to minister to the needs of these women. A lot of them come back and trust Christ and then live lives that are obviously transformed. God is doing a great work at the women's center."
Tillman, who received a bachelor's degree in human science from Florida State University in 1998, hopes to continue ministering to women after seminary. She is attending Southern Seminary with the goal of becoming a staff counselor for women within a local church.
She sees this as a glaring need within evangelical churches and hopes to see the seed God planted in her as a result of that tenuous high school year grow into a ministry that helps heal hurting women.
"We have a lot of women who are hurting in our churches," she said. "We have to meet their needs and above all bring those to Christ who do not know him. We have a lot of felt needs, but that is their deepest need.
"Then they will realize that God fixes people who are wounded and hurting. There are women who have had abortions who are within our churches but are ashamed for anybody to know. There are a lot of needs, and my passion is to minister to them."