CareNet volunteer Karen Colageo was the featured speaker at the closing gathering for Manchester, New Hampshire’s 40 Days for Life winter campaign. She’s been a post-abortion counselor for more than a decade. “I’m here to speak about abortions, not ‘abortion.’ Specific events. Private, emotionally wrenching experiences. The stories you need to hear are the individual testimonies.” The abortions she experienced herself were an important factor in her eventual work. “My heart is with the woman who has had an abortion.”
Colageo is married to a local Lutheran pastor, and her post-abortion-counseling work includes use of a Bible study called “Forgiven and Set Free.” Does that put off some of the women she tries to reach? “It grieves me, really, when nonbelievers avoid the program because it’s a Bible study.” She described one such woman who gave the program a second look after she was unsatisfied with other attempts at post-abortion counseling. “She came back to me and said ‘I’ve tried everything else; what have I got to lose?'”
Several years after having her abortions, she bore a child whose arrival nudged open a spiritual door. “I had a beautiful baby girl. Despite what I had done, God had entrusted me with a beautiful child, an unmerited gift.” Coming to terms with her earlier abortions was a gradual and difficult process, and Colageo is frank about the religious dimension to her healing as she realized she had taken the lives of her other children. Through her involvement in a church community, she learned about CareNet and sought counseling there, her first encounter with the “Forgiven and Set Free” program. “Finally, someone allowed me to grieve, and applied the healing words of the Gospel to my open wounds. We learned to pray with David [Psalm 51]: ‘a broken, contrite heart, O Lord, you will not despise.'”
She fully accepts the estimate that one in three women will have an abortion by age 45. “Be careful what you say. There are a lot of broken women out there. Condemnation does no good. Women must be saved as well as children. We cannot forget that.” She says about her work, “Women need to know their abortions can be forgiven. They can turn death into life. I’ve seen truly broken women come alive.”
The evening’s gathering also served as a baby shower for four area agencies serving pregnant women and young parents: Birthright, CareNet, the Pennacook Pregnancy Center, and Our Place.
The next 40 Days for Life campaign is scheduled to begin September 23.