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Victims of their own choice

"Victims of their own choice" Continued...

Issue: "Terri Schiavo: In memoriam," April 9, 2005

That angered Ms. Forney, who had spent heart-wrenching days helping women who wrote in with stories and letters like these:

· "My husband didn't want me to have an abortion. I was stubborn and thought it would make life easier on everyone . . . I knew as soon as my uterus was violated I had participated in a murder . . . I cried every day for a year or more. Every time the vacuum [cleaner] was used, I thought about how my baby died."

· "I remember sitting on the toilet crying nonstop, bleeding and in terrible pain . . . [Seven years later] I have a lot of grief, remorse, and guilt deep in my heart. I wonder what the baby felt while it was being murdered with its mother's consent."

"Women were writing letters that were tearing me up inside," Ms. Forney said. "I knew it was time to do something to represent those women who were out there hurting."

That's how the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMA) was born. The group, co-founded by Priests for Life associate director Janet Morana, holds nationwide gatherings similar to the one in Washington, D.C., where Leslie Graves spoke. In addition, SNMA offers to women healing resources such as retreats and memorial services, and publishes articles and op-eds to draw attention to an overlooked contingent in the abortion debate: women who've had them.

Attention multiplied rapidly after Ms. Forney met Jennifer O'Neill. The actress/model was a Hollywood force during the '70s, '80s, and early '90s, starring with John Wayne and Dustin Hoffman and working with prestigious directors like Otto Preminger. But in the early 1970s, at the top of her game, she fell in love with a wealthy New York businessman named "Craig." That relationship led to an unintended pregnancy. Already the mother of a 3-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Ms. O'Neill was happy about the new baby. But when she told Craig about it, he responded slowly and concisely, "If you insist on having my baby, I promise, the moment it is born, I will take it away from you. . . . I will prove you unfit, emotionally unstable, and I will bury you."

Though they now wish they hadn't, Ms. O'Neill's parents also counseled her at the time to have the abortion Craig ordered, as did her doctor, who told her the baby was a blob of tissue. "I buckled under fear," she writes in her autobiography, Surviving Myself. "Deep down I knew it was wrong when everyone was saying it was alright. I hated myself, no question about it."

Ms. O'Neill's self-loathing ate at her soul for 18 years, until she committed her life to Christ in 1987, when "I saw real hope for my hurting soul for the first time." Still, 10 more years passed before she felt completely healed from the pain of her abortion. Then, in 2003, she became the international spokeswoman for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Since then she has written two books on post-abortion healing: You're Not Alone: Healing Through God's Grace After Abortion and Life After Abortion, a workbook and video set.

Now Ms. O'Neill travels constantly, speaking at pregnancy centers, women's conferences, and schools. She feels it's especially important to let kids know that there are options besides abortion in an unintended pregnancy, and that "esteem comes from God and how He sees them. . . . Kids who've made mistakes need to know they can start again with the God who gives second, third, millionth chances."

Like SNMA, other post-abortion groups-Operation Outcry, the Elliot Institute, and Priests for Life-are helping women speak out about the negative impact of their abortions.

"In a sense, it's kind of weird," said Ms. Forney. "How can you stand up and talk about your abortion? But the other side of that is when people break their silence, they're freed from being controlled by the shame of their abortions. They're able to open up to God's healing and forgiveness."

No second thoughts

Reacting to the stories of women who suffered after having abortions, a mini-movement of women who are unashamed, even proud, of their abortions has emerged. The "no regrets" movement includes the "I had an abortion" T-shirts that popped up at pro-abortion rallies last summer and abortion-story websites like the Abortion Conversation Project and I'mNotSorry.net. At I'mNotSorry, women have posted about 300 stories like these:

· "I am a mom of three wonderful children. I love being a mom. However, I had two abortions before I actually was ready for this job. I am not sorry that I chose to end two pregnancies. I am sorry that I became pregnant . . . I do not lie awake at night second guessing my decisions . . . I rarely think about it . . ."

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