Tens of thousands of pro-life Americans from across the country recently attended the 2022 March for Life in Washington, D.C. As they flooded past the Supreme Court — the end point of the march — they were greeted by more than a half dozen women personally haunted by abortion.
Each held up a sign, reading: “I Regret My Abortion.”
“That's why I speak out, in hopes that other people that are suffering in silence break that silence,” Leslie Blackwell from Richmond, Virginia, told CNA during the nation’s largest annual pro-life event on Jan. 21.
Braving the harsh winter weather, Blackwell and her companions came to the march with Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which educates the public about the pain of abortion and provides healing for those impacted by it.
Online, the group shares thousands of testimonies from those harmed by abortion. At the march, the women shared their abortion stories in person, including three who spoke with CNA.
One recalled wanting to hide her “sexual sin.” Another recounted being the victim of a date rape while in the military. And Blackwell, 63, explained how she chose abortion for the sake of her career.
“Today, you hear a lot of, ‘I don't want to have a baby, I want a career,’” she told CNA. “Well, it's interesting. I said I gave up my two babies early on for a career, and then I was so depressed and the impact it had on my life, I couldn't do my career.”
Blackwell first found out she was pregnant during her senior year of college.
“I was studying TV, got my dream job hosting a morning talk show. But a little bit before then, I'd learned I was pregnant and I just knew there was no way that I could do a TV show,” she remembered. “My job would be gone if they found out I was pregnant.”
So, she continued, “I went and got rid of that ‘inconvenience’ and went on and did this show and everything was fine.”
Or so she thought. About a year and a half later, she discovered she was pregnant again — and got a second abortion.
“After that I was pretty much done,” she recalled. “I was hollowed out, but I didn't understand why.”
“I bought into a lot of the lies back in the ’70s and a lot of that radical feminism,” she told CNA. “It was all about me and my career!” According to her online testimony, she identified as a feminist and almost joined the board of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood.
After the abortions, Blackwell became depressed and turned to drinking and drugs. She ended up quitting her prized job and returned home to her parents.
It took her 30 years to realize the impact of her abortion. She later found healing at a retreat by Rachel’s Vineyard, a post-abortion healing ministry.
“I started understanding: ‘Oh, that's why I was self-sabotaging. That’s why I was drinking and drugging and feeling awful and depressed,’” Blackwell remembered. “It was gradual healing that led me to Christ and back to being able to move forward with my life.”
She offered her advice to young women considering abortion.
“To always choose life, because you will be rewarded,” Blackwell said. She also stressed that, today, there are “wonderful programs” to help pregnant women in need. In Richmond, she works with a group that just started a new pregnancy center.
“It’s unnatural for a woman to take the life of her child,” she concluded. “Our wombs are sacred, and it will haunt you.”
For her part, Blackwell is still counting the years.
“Forty-two years ago,” she said, “I found out I was pregnant in January.” Online, she writes of her babies: “Mary D and Timmy are my little angels waiting for me when I meet them in Heaven one day!”
‘You’re not alone’
(Story continues below)
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Another woman, 53-year-old Shelley, who declined to give her last name, came from the Detroit area. Her abortion, she said, “was the most regretful decision of my life.”
“There's nothing you can do to go back and change it, but there is something that I can do in memory of my child to help educate, not only just people that are lost but even faithful people that don't really know about abortion,” she stressed.
Shelley, who is from the Detroit area, did not know what abortion was until she turned 18, she said. Then, right before her 20th birthday, she found out she was pregnant.
“I was devastated, I didn't really have a very good relationship with the father,” she said. “He wanted to get married. I said I didn't want to get married and I wanted to hide it.”
“He suggested that I have an abortion because his sister was pregnant — went through a pregnancy on her own — and he said she suffered a lot and he doesn't want to see me suffer.”
Shelley added, “That was the lie that started the beginning of the thought of having an abortion.”
“It was very devastating for me for a very long time,” she said. “When I started having my own children, I had to have a reckoning with God.”
Shelley said her healing process is ongoing.
“Let me tell you, there is hope for your future,” she added. “You're not alone and we have a loving Lord who died for those sins. So come home and be forgiven.”
Helping military women
Jody Duffy told CNA that her story and ministry are “a little bit different.” An Army veteran, she got an abortion at just 21 years old after a date rape.
“I felt like I had no choice but to have an abortion because of being in the military,” the 63-year-old Atlanta resident said. “It took about 20 years before I realized that I needed healing.”
Like Blackwell, she found healing through Rachel's Vineyard. She later joined Silent No More. Today, she helps others heal after abortion, particularly those in the military.
Partnering with Rachel's Vineyard, Duffy ministers to military, veterans, and their families. A Catholic, Duffy organized the group’s first retreat solely for the military last year where Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for the Military Services celebrated the opening Mass, she said.
Her advice to young women considering an abortion is to “sit down.”
“Take a deep breath first,” she said. “Don't react, that's what you're doing. You're reacting.”
Duffy directed readers to visit supportafterabortion.com to read more about her and learn how military and veterans impacted by abortion can seek healing.
Both Duffy and the website cite numbers from a 2013 CNN story about a study published by the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. It found that nearly 11% of more than 7,000 active-duty women surveyed by the Department of Defense in 2008 reported an unplanned pregnancy during the previous year. According to the study authors, that’s 50% higher than the average U.S. rate.
“We have a plethora of women in the military and veterans who are hurting from abortion,” Duffy emphasized. “They don't know where to go with it, and so often they feel like they have to have an abortion because of being in the military.”
She shared stories of veterans she knew who were harmed by abortion. One married woman, she said, became pregnant in flight school “back in the early days of women becoming pilots.”
At the time, she felt like abortion was her only option.
“It destroyed her,” Duffy recalled. “She said that there was a point when she was actually flying solo, but she wanted to commit suicide and crash that airplane because the pain of having that abortion — and that decision to have an abortion was so great.”
Katie Yoder is a correspondent in CNA's Washington, D.C. bureau. She covers pro-life issues, the U.S. Catholic bishops, public policy, and Congress. She previously worked for Townhall.com, National Review, and the Media Research Center.
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