Akech Aimba is twice post-abortive, went full circle of the physical, emotional and psychological trauma of abortion, was counseled and got healed. Resolute that everyone has a voice including babies, her passion is to help post-abortive women and girls overcome the trauma and live again. She is convinced that no one owns the life of another hence ‘Let babies live’ is the core of her message. She spoke to MWAURA MUIGANA about her noble work.
Akech Aimba had just completed forth form and was awaiting the KCSE results when she conceived. Having been raised in a strict Christian background, she knew sex before marriage was out of question. So she got into heavy petting with her boyfriend oblivious of the consequences. It took her long to know she was pregnant but a pregnancy test confirmed it. She couldn’t understand how, until the nurse explained to her that pregnancy could occur without penetration.
An older friend whom she looked up to dissuaded her from telling her mum, saying it would break her mother’s heart. Instead she offered to help her sort it through an abortion. Akech had no idea that abortions even happened in Kenya but the lady took her to hospital and covered the cost. She aborted through a procedure called dilation and evacuation where the baby is cut into pieces and then scrapped from the womb. The doctor showed her the pieces. Although it was traumatising, at first like all post-abortive women, Akech went through the relief phase because the problem was superficially over.
“At around that time I was set to enroll at the Kenya School of Mass Communication (KMC) and was very excited. But my guilt conscience was eating into me. I also reckoned that no man was ever going to marry a girl who had gone through an abortion and thought I would never get into a relationship,” she recalls.
And so when she joined KMC in 1999 to study radio and TV production, she buried herself in books, using her studies as a coping mechanism. Later she met a man who professed his love for her. She kept the relationship because inwardly, she was seeking love, acceptance and affirmation, especially after the abortion. The relationship quickly turned sexual when she offered him sex to keep him around. He was filling a void of emptiness and a pain in her heart.
“I didn’t know I had a higher risk of getting pregnant, and sure enough I did get pregnant in this relationship. I was afraid to approach my boyfriend because I was saved and held a senior position in the church ministry. Recalling that the first abortion solved the problem, I decided to quickly secure the second one and keep quiet about it. The problem is, once you open the door to abortion, later abortions become very easy. You don’t even think twice. That’s why it’s easy for someone to secure as many as twelve or more abortions,” she explains.
However as a Christian, her conscience kept prodding her incessantly until she had to voluntarily confess to her pastors. She broke their hearts but they walked with her. Akech says a post-abortive woman needs someone to understand and help her fight the guilt. “I started going through post abortion distress. I was an angry person, hated myself and couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, and cried all the time and didn’t understand why. I lived in a world of pain, felt people didn’t understand me and thought of myself as inhuman, and an object. Depression set in and twice I attempted suicide,” she recounts of her painful past.
She only got to understand why she cried much later. “When someone dies, for instance, one cries to release the pain. However, a post-abortive woman doesn’t have that privilege. It would be awkward to cry when you have willingly killed your baby, so they often don’t grieve. They are also not allowed to bury their baby and have some closure. Instead, they bottle up emotions and cry inwardly and grieve for a lifetime. That’s why I cried without any reason,” She says adding that some women become hardened and emotionally numb by going through all the emotional and psychological trauma of having killed their babies but will never show it outwardly.
Akech says she became obsessed with babies and later learnt it was because babies filled a void in her heart. She hated ladies who seemed to have their act together because inwardly she envied and wanted to be like them, but her life was in a total mess. In search for answers she decided to work in the area of abstinence, sexuality and post-abortive women. She volunteered in several places before joining the Crisis Pregnancy Ministries, a faith-based organisation under the Kenya Youth for Christ in 2003.
The organisation counsels post-abortive women among others. Unaware of it, Akech was displaying all the symptoms of post-abortion. She was emotionally volatile and even the counselors at the organisation couldn’t handle her. The then director, Grace Ojiambo, took Akech through training based on a post-abortion bible study for women. The book – Forgiven and Set Free – by Linda Cochrane helped to free her from the bondage of guilt and grief that follows an abortion. That’s when she realised she was going through the full circle of the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of abortion. Coupled with a lot of prayer and counseling, she slowly began the healing process.
Akech realised that life begins and ends with God and if you touch creation, you have touched the core of God. For the next one year at the Crisis Pregnancy Ministries she reached out to high school students with abstinence awareness education through a curriculum called Worth the Wait. She went on to become the coordinator of an abstinence programme, Creative Positive Relationship, for an organisation called Tannery Trust.
Armed with all the knowledge, she decided to go it alone, visiting schools and teaching students on sexuality and abstinence. Alongside, she started teaching women and girls on sexuality and taking post-abortive women through a healing programme. Her past experience with two abortions came in handy.
“Whenever I spoke of my experience with abortion, some women would come out and confess of the abortions they have had. I felt they needed someone to talk to and I was better placed to do it. Other than the training I had received at Life Ministry, I had also volunteered for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN’s) 700 Club doing phone counseling for those who called in with various problems. I also gained useful experience in both correspondence counseling and one-on-one counseling. I felt God had fully prepared me to help post-abortive women,” she says.
Birth of Pearls and Treasures…
Akech brought together a group of counselors and together they sensitised people in different forums about sexuality and abortion. In 2005, she was invited by the Christian radio station Hope FM to talk about abortion. After sharing her experience many women and girls called in live with their own confessions and requesting to link up with her.
It was then that she began to take the post-abortive women through a healing programme. This led to the birth of Pearls and Treasures in 2009. The organisation provides abortion support and counseling, crisis pregnancy intervention, sexuality awareness and healing programme, post-abortion support group, abortion awareness campaigns and a mentorship programme for ladies.
Akech recruited the first group of four post-abortive girls and started walking with them for the next twelve weeks before they graduated. After healing, they were ready and willing to talk about their experience. Through their testimony shared on various media platforms many others called in to join the programme. Today more than a hundred post-abortive women and girls have gone through the programme and are completely healed.
“When a post abortive woman or girl walks into the quiet and welcoming atmosphere of Pearls and Treasures she is first re-evaluated on her status psychologically and emotionally, then taken through the training using the book Forgiven and Set Free, as a training guide. We help the women understand the need for healing since some of them are unaware of the psychological and emotional effects of abortion. They also need to recognise that their behaviour was altered by abortion and some of their coping mechanisms, such as use alcohol and sex, is harmful.
The women are confronted with questions that enable them to recall all the experiences they had during and after abortion. This is because when a woman aborts, she gets into a relief mode because she wanted to solve a pregnancy crisis and after aborting, she feels relieved that it’s over. The woman then tends to go on with her life without seeing the need to give anyone an explanation. However, this relief is short-lived because the effects of abortion catch up with them later with feelings of guilt and regret which, if suppressed and not dealt with, can haunt one for a long time.
Because man is created in God’s image, when you take away that life, you touch God and need to reconcile with Him. But a woman who aborts is so afraid of God that you need to teach her who God is. “Through the training in the organisation, we take women through the character of God so as to understand that God is forgiving hence the need to confess one’s sins in order to become comfortable with God,” explains Akech.
“Most of the women and girls we encounter are usually in denial and have a myriad of reasons why they killed their baby or babies. Our role is to break that denial because they sinned by killing a child. To do this they are taken through the baby’s development in the womb from conception, so as to understand that life begins at conception and it is a human life whether at one day or nine months old. The women then understand that they actually killed another human being and this confronts their denial,” she says.
Since post-abortive women are often very angry at themselves for making a wrong choice, at their boyfriends for abandoning them or giving them money to procure an abortion, at their parents, especially mothers, for giving them money to procure an abortion, at the nurse in the abortion clinic, at the society for making abortion available to them among others, the organisation trains them to deal with anger and overcome depression, suicidal feelings, addictions to alcohol and other drugs to cure the pain and feel good about themselves.
“About 92 per cent of the women and girls who have walked into Pearls and Treasures have told us that they can never forgive themselves for what they did. We therefore need to show them how they can first forgive themselves before they seek forgiveness from God. After dealing with that, they start accepting themselves and walk in freedom having begun a new chapter of their life,” she says.
Somehow the devil can make you feel the worst about yourself even when you have changed your ways. Thus a support group helps to share experiences and know you are not alone in the journey. It helps to encourage you to face your predicament. Pearls therefore runs support groups that deal with healing from abortion. If a woman can’t join a support group due to work schedules, she is provided with one-on-one counseling.
After the post-abortion support group the women and girls join a mentorship programme that deals with their sexuality because it is sex that caused them to get pregnant then have an abortion. The organisation trains them to return to walking in sexual purity because most of them often deal with many issues including use of masturbation as a coping mechanism. However, the mentorship programme is not exclusive to post-abortive women and incorporates anyone who has issues with their sexuality.
Pregnancy crisis intervention…
The organisation also does pregnancy crisis intervention for girls who get pregnant and are thrown out by their parents, guardians or boyfriends, and don’t know what to do with the pregnancy. They can easily resort to abortion. Pearls and Treasures invites and walks with them and when they give birth they can opt to parent the baby or are assisted to give it up for adoption.
“We partner with Protecting Life Movement who have rescue homes for such girls where we refer them to. Since it is vital to educate the public on what abortion is, how it affects a woman physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, we do so through workshops and speaking engagements in various institutions and also teach sexual purity to prevent abortion,” explains Akech.
“We should all say NO to abortion. Although it may be a woman’s choice to abort, it isn’t the baby’s choice. Everyone has a voice, even babies. Therefore the government should not legalise abortion, instead it should facilitate teaching people how to make responsible decisions with their sexuality,” she says in conclusion.
Published in December 2013