Forty years after abortion was legalized throughout America, women who have been victims of the procedure are speaking out about the trauma and suffering it has caused in their lives.

"Women need better options than the death of their baby," said Olivia Gans Turner, who became the director of American Victims of Abortion after experiencing the deep emotional pain that accompanied an abortion.

Turner was one of five women who spoke about the physical and emotional suffering that comes from abortion at a Jan. 22 press conference at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The conference was co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R- NJ), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Rep.  Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who said that they hoped to show America the truth about abortion by allowing its victims to tell their stories.

Turner recalled that she had an abortion in 1981, when she was in college. She said that workers at Planned Parenthood had pressured her into the procedure, while withholding crucial information about the health risks of abortion and about the development of her unborn child.

"I was told repeatedly told that I was immature and foolish not to have an abortion," she said.

Another victim, Irene Beltran,remembered that at "the clinic, I was treated like livestock being herded from one step to the next."  

After receiving an abortion-inducing drug, Beltran was surprised when she felt her unborn daughter moving and kicking in her womb. She went to the hospital in the hopes of saving her baby, but it was too late to reverse the effects of the procedure.

Beltran gave birth to a baby girl who died in her arms shortly after being born. She named her daughter Leonor and spent the child's final moments apologizing for what she had unknowingly done. Feeling betrayed by the experience, she decided to speak up to inform other women who may be drawn to make the same choice.

Other women recounted their intense emotional struggles with the aftermath of abortion. One woman, Kellie Stauffer, said that after having an abortion at the age of 14, she suffered for more than a decade with post-traumatic stress disorder until she was able to start the process of healing and forgiveness at a Rachel's Vineyard retreat

"(L)ife sadly was never the same," Stauffer said. "I tried to numb my pain in anyway I could find: drugs, alcohol, food, meaningless relationships, but nothing took away the deep darkness that overwhelmed my soul."

Linda Shrewsbury, a  founding member of American Victims of Abortion and Black Americans for Life, said that when she had an abortion 40 years ago, she was not prepared for "the mental and emotional darkness I was about to enter."

"I couldn't have grasped the immense psychological toll abortion would take for years into the future," she said.

As an African American woman struggling to come to terms with her own abortion, Shrewsbury was shocked to discover what she called the racist roots of abortion in America and how the push for the procedure was tied to the eugenics movement.

The press conference also discussed the harm caused by regulations allowing minors to obtain abortions without parental notification or consent.

One participant, Marcia Carroll, recounted how her daughter had become pregnant at age 14 and decided, with the support of her family, to keep her baby.

However, the baby's father and his family did not support the decision and tried to pressure Carroll's daughter into changing her mind. Carroll said that this harassment concerned her and she relied upon parental consent laws in the state to keep her daughter safe.

Tragically, she said, her daughter's boyfriend and his family coerced and threatened her into getting a secret abortion, taking her across state lines to circumvent the parental consent law and berating the young girl when she started crying out of fear.

Carroll said that her daughter suffered from years of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts as a result of the experience. In addition, she later learned that the doctor who performed the abortion had "previously had his medical license revoked for unethical practices and sexual misconduct against minors."  

Calling for stricter regulations for the protection of young women, Carroll said that years later, "it is still hard for me to understand how anything about that day could be considered legal or safe."