NRL News

Reflections on the 30th anniversary of American Victims of Abortion

by | Jul 12, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

Lynda Bell, chair of the NRLC board of directors, introduces a panel who discussed, "Sharing our Stories: How Abortion Affects Women’s Lives.”

Lynda Bell, chair of the NRLC board of directors, introduces a panel which discussed, “Sharing our Stories: How Abortion Affects Women’s Lives.” Photo credit: Karen Cross

Last week during the conclusion of the first day of NRLC’s three-day national convention, I wrote a post about an extraordinary general session, “Sharing our Stories: How Abortion Affects Women’s Lives.” The presenters were Melissa Ohden, Sarah Zagorski, Jewels Green, and Catherine Adair. The first two women had miraculously survived abortions while the latter two women had undergone abortions and then lost themselves for a while working in the abortion industry before coming out of the darkness and into the light.

Olivia Gans Turner moderated the session. Mrs. Turner founded American Victims of Abortion. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of A.V.A. so it was perfect timing for the convention to hear about the toil abortion exacts from women but also about the importance of family reconciliation.

What follows are some of Olivia’s powerful remark during a general session that one presenter aptly described as “historic.”


Melissa Ohden [Photo Credit: Karen Cross]

Melissa Ohden [Photo Credit: Karen Cross]

Thank you everyone for sharing with us this anniversary evening. It’s an interesting thing to call it an “anniversary” because obviously the existence of this outreach program at the National Right to Life Committee is predicated on serious grief and a lot of loss.

But at the same time it is a statement to the hopefulness and promise of healing and mercy, and the possibility of love redeeming love that the pro-life movement alone is capable of bringing to this culture. And all of us in this room are those who have lived through one level or other of the abortion experience, either as the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, best friends of, or in any other way the children of abortion. [All] know that it is the pro-life movement that has always been the source of that love that compassion, and the opportunity for hope in the darkness.

I am here this evening to acknowledge the 30 years of work that National Right to Life allowed the development of A.V.A., American Victims of Abortion, out of the earliest stages of the post-abortion experience in the Pro-Life Movement. And it really was thanks to National Right to Life’s respect for the message that many of us in the early days wanted to bring to the Movement that allowed this part of the Movement to find its way into the larger fabric of the work that we do.

And we believe that our presence in the Movement has actually expanded the ability of the larger Pro-Life Movement to do even more work to pass protective legislation, to work to develop information and research.

(Left to Right) Dr. Wanda Franz, Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Dr. Donna Harrison, and Dr. Angela Lanfranchi Photo credit: Karen Cross

(Left to Right) Dr. Wanda Franz, Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Dr. Donna Harrison, and Dr. Angela Lanfranchi
Photo credit: Karen Cross

It’s been a privilege all these years, along with National Right to Life, to work with other programs established at the same time, to work with the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies and Research in Values and Social Change, which has been led by Dr. Wanda Franz all these years. And so many of the doctors we heard the other night [at the annual meeting of the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change] – some of you heard Dr. Lanfranchi today, some of you heard Dr. Coleman, you’ve heard Dr. Donna Harrison. These are all the people who because we found the ability and the support to share our stories in the early days of the post-abortion part of the Movement, we now know what we know.

…Thirty years ago the movement had never heard our voices. I knew when I attended my first National Right to Life convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 1982, one year after my own abortion, that I had never been heard by the pro-abortion people. I was told I was stupid, selfish, childish, immature and irrational to consider doing anything other than having an abortion as an unwed college student. And I knew what they had said to me in those places. And I wondered what the pro-life people would say.

And at that first convention that I attended, Dr. Vincent Rue, along with Dr. Franz and others, spoke for the first time at a National Right to Life event and actually delineated what we now commonly refer to as post-abortion syndrome. It was the first time that language had been used.

And five of us, five women from around the country were in that room; none of us had ever met before. We had no idea that we had a common experience and shared stories. And from that – from Dr. Rue’s delineation of where we were, we sat in the hotel room and we started to talk to each other out loud. And then we started to talk to you. And you heard us and you listened.

Listening tonight to these women, who I consider my sisters, as well as considering them my children, I feel like you are hearing what we hoped for when we started to speak. First it was the mothers; slowly it became the fathers, grandparents, now sometimes siblings, our children. This is our common voice in America. This is what has happened to us since 1973.

Olivia Gans Turner Photo credit: Karen Cross

Olivia Gans Turner
Photo credit: Karen Cross

And long after we see the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the passage of the most powerful protective laws we’re capable of ever getting passed, the damage that’s been done is going to mean we need to be able to embrace each other, to understand each other, to listen to each other, to require nothing from each other in this room, and to allow the healing to really begin.

And from that, the fruit that I think we saw tonight comes to bear. So I’m just grateful to be included. Anybody in this room who’s known me for a long time knows that I don’t cry. They made me cry tonight!

We love you, we appreciate what you’ve given us at National Right to Life, to do things, amazing things like television specials, media, the testimony that so many women I’ve worked with have done. Sadly, it has to continue because there’s so much yet to know and understand of where we are and how we got here and what are we going to do about it.

Categories: NRLC