“Because of what I had done,” Ms. Schwan, 63, said matter-of-factly in the church studio. “Because of having had an abortion.”
Asked how old she was when she had the procedure, she simply said, “younger,” and declined to give specifics. They were irrelevant to the real truth of the matter, she said.
“I am not a victim,” she said. “I was a sinner. I was a complete sinner.”
Ms. Schwan is now an assistant to Mr. Durbin and the other pastors, all men. When Mr. Durbin suggested she share her story, she agreed. She had grown up Catholic but said she was not truly saved until several years ago when she abandoned teaching yoga and “new age” ideas.
“What upsets me most is when the pro-life industry says that women are victims,” she said. “That means I don’t have to take responsibility for myself.”
She started to cry and took her head in her hands. “I’m so sorry,” she said.
She opened her laptop and read aloud from the Old Testament. The passage was about King Belshazzar of ancient Babylon, who was feasting when mysterious fingers of a hand wrote on the wall of his imminent destruction.
“They thought they were impregnable,” she said. Her voice grew shaky.
“Do you know what I did? I killed a baby. It doesn’t get any worse than that,” she said. “Because that is what we were created for. God created us to bear children. To carry them. That is a gift, that is not a curse. That is a gift. And we are special.”
She believed what her pastors taught, even if it meant she would face severe consequences.
“I took a life, I should give my life,” she said. If authorities were to come for her, “I would right now, I would absolutely go to court and say, ‘Yeah, I am a sinner, I did it.’ And if that was my punishment, I would take it.”