In February 2009, 19-year-old Hannah Rose Allen sat alone in her bathroom, staring at a pregnancy test displaying a big blue plus sign. She was a single Christian who’d always planned on remaining a virgin until she got married. But she’d walked away from that conviction years before, and now she had to face a new challenge to her buried beliefs.
Although raised in a Christian home, Allen slowly let go of her faith during high school, then fell into a lifestyle of partying, drinking, and promiscuity as a college freshman. In the summer of 2008, after her relationship with her parents deteriorated, she dropped out of college and moved to another state, eventually becoming involved with a man from work.
Then she got pregnant.
“What turned my stomach the most, besides the nausea I was experiencing night and day, was wondering how everyone would react,” Allen said. “I grew up knowing abortion was wrong. As part of a Christian family, it was easy to agree with those beliefs, never thinking I would be personally tested by them.”
At six weeks gestation, it wasn’t really a baby, she told herself then, fearing that going through with the pregnancy would permanently “tie” her to the baby’s father. Soon she found herself in the waiting room at Planned Parenthood, choking back tears. After multiple pills and a long night of severe headache, nausea, cramping, and bleeding, the nightmare seemed over.
But “shame and darkness” filled her next few months. Wracked with guilt, convinced she’d committed an unforgivable sin, Allen continued drinking and began dating a new guy. July came, then new nausea—she was pregnant again. Ready to terminate another unplanned pregnancy, she scheduled an appointment at Planned Parenthood.
But something else equally unplanned—a perspective change she described as “miraculous”—kept her from walking through the abortion center’s doors on the day of her appointment. While researching abortion methods online, struggling to justify her decision yet again, Allen realized the preciousness of human life. The pro-life convictions of her former faith suddenly became undeniable.
“It was as if the reasoning for abortion fell away when I knew God would be with me,” she said. “I realized just how ignorant I had been.”
Still, Allen feared how others might react to her pregnancy. So at first, she wanted to commit one last sin by aborting her second baby, too, and then return to God.
“But God made it abundantly clear that I had come to a fork in the road in my life and I had a very big choice to make,” Allen said. ”I had to obey Him and choose life.”
She met with the director of her local pregnancy resource center, Anna Burt, and after prayer and consultation, Allen decided she would raise her baby. While her family accepted the news of her pregnancy (and previous abortion) graciously, welcoming her back home, the reaction of others in the months to come was not always so kind.
“I did feel judgment from some significant people when they learned of my pregnancy,” Allen said. “I felt ashamed at times for others to notice my growing belly. … People were looking for a wedding ring on my finger.”
But the real heartbreak came on March 16, 2010. After a healthy pregnancy, Allen went to the hospital to deliver her baby daughter. The nurse placed a small monitor against her swollen belly and nothing happened.
“I’m so sorry,” the nurse said. “Her heart is no longer beating.”
During that long night, Allen remembers lying on the hospital bed with the body of her stillborn child beside her, “giving her hugs and kisses that would have to last a lifetime.” She named her daughter Lily Katherine, which means purity and innocence, as “a symbol of my renewed purity and redemption in Jesus Christ.” The child of her first pregnancy and abortion she had named Luke Shiloh, meaning light and peace, “because God has brought light in the midst of deepest darkness and peace to my wounded, aching heart.”
Today, four years after her abortion and three years after losing her daughter, Allen is at peace with the knowledge that Lily’s life and death was in God’s hands, not her own. Embracing the reality of forgiveness and the support of fellow believers has enabled her to work through the grief and shame caused by her past experiences. Sharing her story publicly—through writing on her website (roseandherlily.com) and speaking at churches, colleges, and pro-life campaign events like the March for Life—has been healing as well.
Burt, who first met Allen through her work at The Pregnancy Centers of Central Virginia, has ministered to abortion-minded women for more than seven years. She said Allen’s willingness to talk about abortion could have a “profound” influence on others.
“There are two kinds of voiceless—the unborn, and those who are silently suffering with abortion and are in bondage,” Burt said. “Hearing another’s testimony helps set people free.”
Today, Allen is a pro-life advocate passionate about ministering to women affected by abortion, unplanned pregnancies, or the loss of a child. She lives with her family in Raleigh, N.C., where she works as a nanny and volunteers at her local pregnancy resource center.
“God has given me beauty for ashes and restored my soul completely,” said Allen, who believes the two babies she lost have a legacy—a message of grace, forgiveness, and the value of human life—worth sharing. “When you choose life, you will have no regrets.”