A community of abortion survivors chooses forgiveness
Despite a pervasive pro-abortion culture and disappointing election losses, a growing community of now-adult people who survived abortions reject the victimhood narrative
For Coloradan Lisa Lowe, it will be easy to remember the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. June 24, 2022, the day the court released the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, was her 33rd wedding anniversary. “That just felt like the most beautiful gift that we could have received,” Lowe said.
Lowe survived multiple abortion attempts as an unborn baby in 1967 and lived with that knowledge since she was a young girl. For decades, she didn’t tell anyone except for her husband and kids.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade changed that. Lowe knew it would bring abortion to the cultural forefront, and she wanted to get involved. Within a few weeks of the Dobbs decision, she found an organization online called the Abortion Survivors Network.
“It said ‘abortion survivors,’ and that just really stuck out to me because I didn’t realize that there was a term for that,” Lowe said. “And I thought … ‘I wonder if that is really what I am, what I’m called.’” She contacted the network and eventually had her first conversation with another abortion survivor over Zoom. That conversation helped her realize that her mother’s attempted abortion was really “a part of who I am.”
Lowe is one of about 213 survivors of attempted abortions who have connected with the Abortion Survivors Network in 2022 alone. Before this year, the network had contact with just over 400 survivors in the United States and internationally. Now, it has a tally of 620, which includes adoptive parents whose children survived abortion attempts and even pregnant mothers whose abortions failed. Despite persistent pro-abortion cultural influences, members of the growing community espouse a heart of forgiveness and perseverance, rather than calling themselves victims.
Lowe remembers being around 8 or 10 years old when her mom told her about her attempted abortion. She had done something that upset her mom, who then said in a rage that she didn’t want her anyway and had tried to abort her three times. At the time, Lowe didn’t know what an abortion was, but it helped her understand why her mom was often angry at her.
Sole Wright, who also connected with the Abortion Survivors Network this summer, said she was in about the fourth grade when her stepfather told her of her own mother’s abortion attempt: “I remember the words clearly: ‘You weren’t wanted. Your mom tried to abort you.’” This year, she finally connected the abortion attempt in 1969 to the feeling she had until this year of being "dead inside."
Robin Sertell, the education coordinator for Abortion Survivors Network, said she struggled with “this deep pervasive sense that I don’t belong.” She also has health problems that stemmed from the abortion attempt. Born in 1974, Sertell was in and out of hospitals as a child. She experienced frequent hair loss, had digestive tract issues, and suffered from grand mal seizures. She said she found out she was an abortion survivor at age 9, when she was in a hospital, near death, with a high fever. Her grandmother told her she was so sick because her mom attempted a saline infusion abortion three times. In that procedure, the abortionist injects a salt solution into the amniotic sac intended to dehydrate and burn the unborn baby before inducing labor.
Sertell said she’s observed that abortion survivors often share similar physical ailments: childhood seizures, autoimmune issues, hair loss, skin problems, and brittle teeth and bones. “When a mom is pregnant, normally, she does her best to eat right and take care of herself, not lift anything heavy, don’t drink alcohol … really nurture yourself,” said Sertell. “So when you have the opposite happening, there are effects.”
Sertell has observed another shared trait among abortion survivors: “There’s a strong thread of forgiveness toward our own birth mothers, as well as other moms.” She said she called up her own mom when she was in her early 20s, while pregnant with her oldest daughter, and told her, “I forgive you.” She said that coincided with the time she came to know Jesus—yet another trait that many abortion survivors, including Lowe and Wright, share.
Jennifer Milbourn, the community engagement coordinator for Abortion Survivors Network, was born in 1978 after a failed vacuum aspiration abortion and found out about it as a 19-year-old. She said she first felt the Lord convict her to express forgiveness for her mother less than a decade ago while scrubbing her master bathroom floor. She remembers she didn’t want to at first, but eventually said out loud, “I forgive you.”
Milbourn continued saying the phrase daily for two months. Finally, one day while brushing her teeth, she realized she no longer had bitterness in her heart toward her mother. But she still tears up when talking about it. “She tried to take my life,” Milbourn said. “And no matter how much time goes on, and how much healing I have done, it’s hard to say even that.”
Wright felt so much sympathy for her mother that she was personally on the fence about abortion until recently. She became a Christian at 17. While she thought she would never have an abortion herself, she felt like she couldn’t tell someone else not to. Wright said her mom tried to abort her soon after finding out her husband had an affair with another woman. “She was in such a tough situation that she felt getting rid of me was the only way out of it,” said Wright. “I’ve always had a sense of loyalty for women who have been in those shoes.”
But this summer, she recognized during a counseling session that God was the one who, in his love and care, protected her from the attempted abortion. God also used a retreat with other abortion survivors in July to show her that she was wrong not to speak out against abortion. “It never occurred to me, until I saw all the people at the retreat, that these are all lives,” she said.
The weekend before the midterm election, she said she put a sign in her yard: “Babies survive abortions, and I am one of them.” Wright lives in Michigan, where voters in November approved a constitutional amendment that declares a right to abortion.
The outcome of that election and the other similar ballot measures saddened Wright and other abortion survivors. Milbourn in California fought the pro-abortion Proposition 1 and cried when it passed. “For me, it wasn’t just about me, it was about all those that I love that … have become a part of my survivor family,” said Milbourn. “The reason we’re doing what we’re doing is because, granted, it happened to us, but now we’re here standing for the rights of others too, for our brothers and sisters and all those little babies to come as well.”
Sertell lives in Montana, where she worked to support a legislative referendum that would have required doctors to provide life-saving care to babies born alive during abortions. From her home in Colorado, Lowe described the outcome of Montana’s referendum as “a gut punch.” Sertell said she saw it as a reminder that “I have a lot of work to do” to continue giving a face to babies targeted by abortion.
Wright, Lowe, Sertell, and Milbourn all said they don’t see themselves as victims,but instead recognize how God has sovereignly used their stories to allow them to minister to others.
For Priscilla Hurley, a community support specialist at the Abortion Survivors Network, her identity in Jesus Christ has protected her from that victim mindset. She said her mother traveled to Mexico in 1949 for an abortion. Hurley found out as a teenager, after having an abortion herself. She said she had another abortion and then worked in the abortion industry before becoming a Christian in her 30s. “I’m so thankful He saved me in the womb, and then He saved me again,” Hurley said.
She said she refuses to call herself a victim because of the freedom she has in Christ. Although her mother’s abortion attempt was not Hurley’s fault, she acknowledged she is still responsible for how she responds—for pursuing healing, for forgiving her mom. “God wants us to be victorious in life and not let these things define us,” Hurley said. “I’m not defined by my abortion experiences, you know? It’s part of my story. But my identity is in Christ.”
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