Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Wounds in Her Past

Dannah Gresh: As a young woman, Jeanne Pernia was unmarried and pregnant and feeling a lot of pressure to end the life of her child. What would have led her to a different choice?

Jeanne Pernia: It would have taken one person who said, “You know what, Jeanne? You can have your baby. I’m here for you, and I will walk this with you.” That’s all I needed.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for January 16, 2020.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: In January of 1973, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in a really important lawsuit. A woman under the pseudonym of Jane Roe had sued a district attorney named Henry Wade. And those two names became synonymous with abortion in the United States as the Roe vs. Wade decision effectively made abortion legal at every point in a woman’s pregnancy here in our nation. That decision has affected millions and millions of mothers, fathers, and their children . . . and each one of those stories matters.

Today we’ll hear one of those stories as we mark the upcoming anniversary of that historic Supreme Court decision.

Dannah: We are, Nancy, and it is quite a story. I’ve heard it, and it literally could be a Hollywood movie. It has so many twists and turns in it. I think in a lot of ways that Jeanne Pernia’s own story runs parallel to the story of abortion in the U.S.

As with many young women, she was very ambitious and excited about the legalization of abortion. She was on the forefront of offering abortions in Miami, as you’ll hear her share in the story. She was counseling women to get abortions. She’d even undergone abortion herself.

But as we’ve seen in the last many months, really recently, is that the nation has turned back to understanding the value of life to some degree. And Jeanne, too, has come full circle. She’s currently helping women in Miami and around the world say “yes” to life.

Nancy: Wow! Let’s hear the story.

Dannah: Around the age of fourteen, Jeanne had a strong vision for her future and a desire to help others.

Jeanne: At a very young age, I honestly felt that there was the possibility of me perhaps even becoming a medical doctor.

Dannah: By age eighteen, Jeanne was still interested in getting into the medical field. So as she moved to Miami and started college, she also applied for a job as a receptionist at a woman’s clinic.

Jeanne: To be perfectly honest, I did not associate that woman’s clinic with abortion. As far as I knew, it was for women who needed routine care for their yearly Paps, and I knew that they did give out birth control. But I was unaware of the fact that they actually did do abortions in that business.

I was working there for a very short time, just a couple of months, and stopped working due to an accident that I had. I couldn’t go back to work. Shortly after that, my mom moved back to Florida, and I told her to apply for the position because she was looking for work. And that’s exactly where our life started to get involved in the abortion industry.

Dannah: Jeanne’s mom felt like this industry offered a lot of potential and wanted to open her own clinic.

Jeanne: She scouted around and found what, until today, is one of the busiest intersections in the city that we moved to. She decided to convert a corner home into a medical business. And so that’s what she did. She took some inheritance money that she had gotten from my grandparents and decided to knock down walls and make a clinic and hire a couple of hire-rated OBGYN doctors, and to work they went.

Dannah: Jeanne’s mom moved into this building on the corner and the building will come back later in the story. Here’s some more detail.

Jeanne: It is a very visible corner on probably the busiest intersection in the city. It was about 2500 square feet with enough room to have two surgical rooms, probably three counseling rooms, a large recovery room. If I recall, they had three bathrooms and a good-sized area for the administrative office.

Dannah: In her role as greeting patients and preparing them for abortion, Jeanne tried to help women choose the right time for their procedures.

Jeanne: There was always a possibility of not being able to actually get to the fetus. So what they would tell us to do is try to get them to either come back, more like seven to eight weeks. But the doctors didn’t like to do any type of procedure on women that were less than six weeks. And if they did, there were times when they had to come back a second time because they were still pregnant.

There were girls that I actually befriended. There was this one beautiful Cuban girl, and she had come in several times. I remember that she was probably on her fourth procedure. I told her, “You’ve got to stop this. This cannot be just a normal practice for you.” I remember her name was Linda. And Linda said, “Yeah.”

I remember the first time she came and how, going through these different procedures, how she almost became like a zombie, you know? Someone who didn’t have much feelings or compared to the first time she’d come. But she was almost kind of a very blank stare, very sorrowful, but no tears. I’d say, just empty. And then said that was it, that she’d never do it again.

We had a nine-year-old little girl who had been raped by a family member. I remember this little girl coming in, and she had a teddy bear. I remember that she had come in from Georgia. I remember her parents bringing her in. What really, really drew my attention was she was little, and so her stomach was protruding. That was very, very difficult because, for her, it was her second trimester.

I remember we had to actually prepare this young girl to have the abortion the following day, and this was not something we saw very frequently, but with this little girl, it was. I don’t really think she understood what was going on.

Dannah: Jeanne and her mom were telling themselves they were helping women, but now Jeanne looks back and recognizes just how dark those times were.

Jeanne: It was just evil. I mean, what we were doing was evil. Nothing good could have come out of that.

Dannah: And at the same time, they were practicing a form of religion that mixed some elements of Christian traditions with occult practices.

Jeanne: I was looking for God in all the wrong places. I thought that was the way to God. We would go and speak to people and would advise them about fortune telling.

Dannah: Jeanne knew her mom was stressed. At the time she assumed it was just exhaustion from running a business.

Jeanne: I was worried about her health. She would oftentimes just pass out, and we didn’t really know what was causing it. It was more like an epileptic seizure, but she wasn’t epileptic. It was like the stress would hit such a high level that she would pass out.

Today I do believe that a lot of what was going on with her was spiritual, as well as with myself.

Dannah: Jeanne thought the answer to their problems meant getting rid of her mom’s business partner and finding a new investor. That’s when she met a man who seemed to be the answer they were looking for.

Jeanne: This guy was really out on the dating scene, and so when I met him and he asked me what I did, I told him about the business. He shared with me that his interest had always been to be a doctor in Cuba and he was not able to do that or ever realize that.

So he was interested in the medical field, and he owned a furniture store at the time that was going very well, and he was interested in investing. So that really caught my ear because I thought to myself, Wow! This might be the person that will really help my mom get rid of the partner that she had.

And, sure enough, I introduced them. He decided that it was a business he wanted to invest in as more of, like, a silent partner. So my mom was able to get the other guy out, and they became partners. We continued to date, and the relationship started to flourish.

I really believed in my mind, in my very naïve mind, that this gentleman and I would have a future, that he would be my knight in shining armor. I was about six or seven months in the relationship. We never talked about birth control, so I really didn’t . . . I don’t know why. How could you be sexually active and not think that you could get pregnant?

Well, I just figured that if I did, that we would have a baby. So when I did get pregnant, I was ecstatic. I was happy. I was, “Wow! I’m going to be a mom!”

I shared it with my mother, and she was also very kind of excited, but she was more concerned with the fact that she didn’t know how he was going to respond. When I did share it with him, immediately he looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

And I said, “What do you mean? What do you mean this isn’t a good idea? We’re going to have a baby.”

And he said, “Well, I don’t think this is the right time.” And immediately he said, “We have the clinic.”

I said, “Wait a minute. The clinic is there for the women who don’t want their babies. That is not my story. I want my baby.”

And he said, “Well, I don’t think is a good idea, and I don’t approve of it.”

And I said, “Well, I do approve of it, and I do want to have my baby.”

I remember that I was devastated. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. For the next couple of days, I would get up early in the morning, and I was excited about the pregnancy, and I was determined. And when nightfall came, I missed seeing him. We would always go out pretty much every night.

I remember that he would call, and he would say, “Do you want me to stop by?” 

And I would obviously say, “Yes,” thinking that I would be able to change his mind. I’m sure he was thinking the same way—of changing my mind. And by the end of the evening, I was back in my car, going back to my apartment, very upset.

After about two weeks of that I began to . . . I mean, no one around me was telling me, “You can have your baby.” On the contrary, everybody was very quiet. And the point came where I wasn’t eating, and I was not sleeping, and I could clearly say that I was starting to wonder, Maybe they were right, and maybe I was wrong.

I started to believe that the baby was not going to be okay because I wasn’t taking care of myself. And slowly I started to think that maybe this was not the right time.

Dannah: What would have helped Jeanne decide to keep her child?

Jeanne: It would have taken one person who would have said, “You know what, Jeanne? You can have your baby. I’m here for you, and I will walk this with you.” That’s all I needed. I needed to know that there was someone that was going to be there and support my decision.

Dannah: But instead of that person, Jeanne just felt pressure from her boyfriend to end the life of her child.

Jeanne: And by the second weekend, which would have put me right about seven weeks, I called the doctor on a Saturday, and I told him, “Listen. I need for you to come tomorrow because nobody will be here. I don’t want anybody else to know. We are going to do the procedure on Sunday.”

I was there. The doctor was there. The anesthesiologist was there. The baby’s father was there. They wheeled me in. I didn’t want to think. I just wanted to get in, and I wanted to get out.

Dannah: The doctor later told Jeanne that her abortion was very difficult to perform.

Jeanne: What I heard from him was that he said that my body literally was fighting it under the anesthesia. He said my body was literally coming off of the table.

Dannah: Jeanne had seen that same response in other patients, an instinct to protect their unborn child.

Jeanne: I do remember many women who unconsciously were struggling with that decision.

Dannah: After the abortion, Jeanne stayed with the boyfriend who had pressured her to have the abortion.

Jeanne: He wanted to keep dating me, and so we did. I told the doctor, “I’m not getting my period. Something must be wrong.”

And he said, “No. Just make sure you take care of yourself because sometimes it takes a little longer to get you regulated.”

And within seven weeks, I told my mom, “I think we need to do another pregnancy test.”

And sure enough, the test was positive. And I told her, “Please, I will not go through that again. You’ve got to keep my secret.”

And she said, “Yes. We will keep your secret. Don’t worry about it.”

And so for four months I continued to date him. I continued to work at the clinic. After four months, the truth had to come out.

Dannah: While she was hiding the life growing inside her, Jeanne met another woman, Evelyn, who had just found out that she was also pregnant, but this woman was excited.

Jeanne: So when I saw the joy in her, I told her what had happened to me, and that I was pregnant.

Dannah: The first time Jeanne was pregnant, she felt like no one encouraged her to have her baby. But this time things were different because God had brought Evelyn into her life.

Jeanne: She looked at me, and she was that one person that said, “Guess what? We can do this together.”

She became my friend. She came to my apartment with her husband, who was also a Christian, and she led me to the sinner’s prayer.

Dannah: As we’ll see later in the story that praying a sinner’s prayer isn’t the same as true heart change, but God had planted a seed in Jeanne’s heart. He also gave her the strength she needed to stand up to her boyfriend and keep her baby. It ended the relationship with him. 

Jeanne: But I had the most absolutely beautiful baby girl.

Dannah: Ah, Nancy, we just heard Jeanne tell us about two pregnancies—one that ended in life and in joy, and the other that ended in tragedy.

Nancy: And, as we heard, the difference was that someone had the courage to get involved.

Just think about that friend, Evelyn. She was pregnant, too. She could have been focused on her own family, getting ready for the birth of her own child. But instead, she and her husband visited Jeanne. They shared Jesus with her, and they encouraged her when she was in such a vulnerable state.

Dannah: I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but tomorrow we’ll hear how Jeanne is now providing that kind of encouragement to others where she once promoted death. Jeanne is highly involved in her pregnancy care center.

Nancy: I think that highlights, Dannah, what for many women may be an important response to what we’ve just heard.

Thankfully, in many, many communities around the United States—thousands of them—there are pregnancy care centers. In fact, there’s likely one somewhere near where you live. And if you don’t know where one is, would you take time to go online and find out?

And then would you pray about whether there’s some way the Lord might want you to get involved in that local pregnancy care center?

That will look different for different people. You may be able to get involved, hands on with helping to paint or do something with the building there or to help generate donations for the pregnancy care center. Maybe you could donate money or resources yourself.

Or perhaps, like the woman who walked alongside Jeanne, maybe the Lord would have you come alongside and befriend a woman who is struggling with something related to her pregnancy or a possible abortion.

Dannah: And you know, Nancy, I feel like it’s just burning in my soul to say this: Don’t feel like your past disqualifies you from helping other women. I think it’s just the opposite. One of the most effective volunteers at our local crisis pregnancy center has the story of having had an abortion when she was a teenager.

So even if you have had an abortion yourself, God could redeem your story and use it to help other women make a different choice.

Nancy: I pray God will use many women who are hearing this story today in that kind of way.

Now, as we mark the anniversary month of the Roe v. Wade decision, Dannah, I wonder if you would just lead us in praying for women who may be wrestling with this decision, as Jeanne was, and for the pregnancy care centers that we’ve been talking about?

Dannah: I would love to, Nancy.

Lord, even as we’ve been pondering this story, my heart has already been praying and asking that women who hear this story today, and our voice, right now, if they’re struggling with whether they keep life or not, would You help them to find a pregnancy center in their area where they can get loving advice and the support they need to keep their child? It might not feel like anyone around them supports that decision, but those people do exist, and they will run to her heart and her life and they will help.

And, God, I think, too, of women who do have an abortion in their past. Lord, I pray that the enemy wouldn’t be allowed to beat them up with that story anymore, but that they would run to their local crisis pregnancy center and get maybe a Bible study or a prayer or counseling so that they can heal from that pain in their life and move forward to be used mightily in this area.

I pray that in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

Nancy: Amen.

Well, we broke in part way through Jeanne’s dramatic story, but there’s a lot more to come. There’s an abortion that didn’t end the way it was expected, a mother in jail, a husband on drugs, and, thankfully, a God who can redeem the broken pieces of our lives.

Dannah: That’s all coming tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth celebrates life. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.