If you’ve attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., you’ve probably seen Georgette Forney and her Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Forney’s group organizes the powerful testimonies about abortion that are delivered each year by women (and men) on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court—where the March ends. In 2001, Forney watched the post-March television coverage: 20 seconds of clips of marchers followed by two full minutes of interviews with a handful of women at the Supreme Court defending Roe as necessary for women’s health. Tired of seeing the same unbalanced and misleading story after every March, Forney decided then that she would be “Silent No More.” The following year, she voiced a solo note at the Court, holding up a sign that read: “I Regret Aborting My Baby.” Since then, the chorus of Silent No More witnesses has become a fixture of the prolife movement, and not only at the March for Life. Forney and her group have brought the Silent No More Awareness Campaign to all fifty states, countering the poisonous message of ideologues with the sobering truth of personal experience. Georgette Forney is also head of Anglicans for Life. She recently spoke to the Human Life Review about her pro-life work.
Human Life Review (HLR): After long camouflaging their advocacy in terms of a sad-but-necessary procedure that should be “safe, legal, and rare,” proponents have shifted to unapologetic promotion, calling on women to “shout your abortion.” What happens when that worldview collides with the experience your members are not shouting about, that is, the pain and suffering abortion brought into their lives?
Georgette Forney: “Shout Your Abortion” implies a sense of pride, almost a giddiness for having exercised your right to have an abortion. It is about seeking to empower and affirm yourself and your choice. The women who contact the Silent No More Awareness Campaign are not proud of their choice to abort their unborn children. Shame, grief, pain, and guilt are the most common words I hear women use to describe how they feel about their abortion experience. So, the collision is, if you will, in what motivates someone to share their abortion experience. Silent No More women share their story to help others better understand the reality of how their abortion impacted their lives. We speak of how it undermined our sense of worth, our self-esteem, how the trauma of the procedure caused us to abuse drugs and alcohol to numb the feelings and nightmares, of living with depression, in unhealthy relationships. Being able to admit that you struggle with grief and guilt is hard, but in order to find peace, being honest about the emotional fallout following an abortion is really the only way to heal from it in a healthy way.
HLR: Your organization’s name suggests that over the past half-century silence has played a major role in bringing the United States to the point where over 60 million abortions have been performed. Please talk about the multiple ways silence aids and abets abortion.
Forney: When I started to share my abortion story in 1998, I felt like a lone ranger. I had not met any women who were talking about their experiences. But once I shared my story, they would later come up to me and say, “me too.” I realized there was a real stigma about discussing abortion. I think part of why it is hard to talk about abortion from personal experience is that it is such a political issue. The personal-story side gets lost in the rhetoric. But the personal side is actually more important than the rhetoric because the real-life experience is what is at the heart of the issue—the death of the baby and the traumatic physical and emotional impact for the mother (and father). I must add that the two sides of the movement can make it hard for women to share. Prolifers affirm our guilt when they call women who have abortions murderers, while pro-abortionists undermine our feelings by saying abortion is no big deal, you can have a baby when you are better prepared. Women learn from both, in some ways, to keep our feelings, our pain, inside and stay quiet. This is not a healthy way to handle trauma, because the pain will manifest itself in our behavior, our health, and our relationships. Staying silent allows abortion to continue unchecked, because if no one talks about the negative consequences, people continue to think it is good for women. We know abortion kills the baby, but we also need to get the truth out about how it impacts the mothers and fathers. As the people who have used the product (so to speak), we must talk about the problems associated with it. Abortionists are counting on women being silent so that no one will learn how badly they treat us, and how bad the procedure is—if the truth is revealed, fewer people will want to use their product. All of this is why I knew we had to start sharing our stories. One of the key components of our testimonies is the final point we make, that is, we talk about how we found healing: grace to receive God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves. Going through a healing program is a critical step we encourage women to take before sharing their abortion stories. Healing allows our story to be rooted in grace versus pain and anger.
HLR: How many testimonies has the Silent No More Campaign gathered? Do you do any kind of verification/corroboration of them?
Forney: The Silent No More Campaign began November 11, 2002. As of December 31, 2021, it has held 2,252 gatherings (in all 50 states and 17 countries), with 6,821 women and men sharing their abortion testimonies. Testimonies have also been shared at 174 high schools and universities in the last 11 years. There are 3,012 testimonies posted on the Campaign website with 621 of them shared via video. Currently there are 20,276 people (representing 77 countries) registered with the Campaign. People who are not ready to join the Campaign are invited to “register their regret.” So far, 6,684 women and 710 men have said they regret their abortion or lost fatherhood. Also, 604 women and men have posted memorials to their children. We have an attestation field in which each person who submits a testimony must sign, confirming that this is their truthful story. Our abortion stories tell about ourselves: Why would anyone claim to have an abortion when they hadn’t!?
HLR: The circumstances of each abortion are unique because each person is unique. That said, is there a kind of “typical profile” or “profiles” that emerge from the testimonies you’ve assembled?
Forney: That is a really hard question to answer—partly because these are my personal observations versus a professional’s clinical review of the data. Women who have abortions fear other people’s opinions and therefore are more insecure by nature—but once they go through healing, it is as if they find their courage, their voice. Once we were weak and easily manipulated, and after healing, we find our spine, and the strength to be strong.
HLR: Though proponents insist abortion is a “woman’s” issue, the testimonies Silent No More gathers include those of men who regret facilitating their partner’s abortion as well as those who are denied any say in the death of their child. Can you discuss the role of men in Silent No More?
Forney: When we launched the Campaign, I didn’t even consider men’s voices. However, we quickly got calls from fathers saying “What about me?” We invited the men to speak too, but what I didn’t anticipate was how men speaking of their grief and shame would impact the women. Hearing the men say they regretted helping their girlfriend or wife have an abortion brought about forgiveness and reconciliation between the sexes! I would say the vast majority of women wished their partner in the pregnancy had been more supportive of the choice to parent. As men speak up, they encourage the next generation of fathers to take responsibility to parent. Men also benefit from going through an abortion aftercare program for men—unpacking the trauma and emotional baggage of abortion is critical for everyone involved.
HLR: From the testimonies you have gathered, what have you learned about what men can do to reduce abortions, even one at a time?
Forney: Both the opinion of the father of the baby and the attitude of the pregnant woman’s father can influence the woman’s decision to abort, parent, or place for adoption. We need to teach young men that truth. I also think we need men to encourage young men to mature and engage in responsible behavior. For too long, we have undermined young men by allowing them to stay in a perpetual state of irresponsibility.
HLR: Pro-life Americans hope that the upcoming ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will at least severely curb the unlimited abortion license invented in Roe v. Wade and send the abortion issue back to the states. If that happens, what will be the role of Silent No More and how do we bring its work to bear on the state level in 50 states?
Forney: We are only now beginning to contemplate this question. Obviously, our testimonies can be used to educate legislators about the reality of abortion versus the rhetoric of it! We also will need to ensure that more abortion aftercare programs exist so those who have suffered in silence with their abortion grief can find safe places to seek help and healing.
HLR: In addition to your work in Silent No More, you are President of Anglicans for Life. Tell us more about that organization and how it fits within the Anglican Communion in the United States, an ecclesial community whose internal divisions on sexual matters are no secret.
Forney: I am grateful that when the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was working to establish the Canons for the Province, they contacted Anglicans for Life (AFL) and asked if we had any Declaration of Life type of statement that they could consider. Fortunately, we had just adopted one, which they incorporated into the founding Canons for the ACNA. The fact that the Church has such Canons makes it easier for AFL to work with ACNA churches and bishops in developing life-affirming ministry in local parishes. As the only para-church organization that focuses on the sanctity of life, AFL is the go-to resource in the ACNA for life ministry resources. AFL publishes a lot of educational materials; we have two adult-ed curriculums, one that provides a “101”-type overview of key life topics, and the second on aging and dying to combat euthanasia. We also have a youth curriculum called Abundant Life: You Were Made for More. In addition to educational resources, we help local churches establish ministry outreach and have a strong team of Prayer Intercessors as we fully appreciate the spiritual battle of life vs. death.
HLR: Something heard from a not-insignificant number of women considering or having procured abortion is their fear that the Church will treat them with a judgmental or condemning attitude. From your experience, how real is that fear, and how can churches be more supportive of women in these circumstances?
Forney: Anglicans for Life recognizes the research done a few years back on this issue by Lifeway. It breaks my heart to think that 30 percent of women attended a church service within 30 days prior to having their abortion. AFL encourages churches to check their attitude toward women facing unplanned pregnancies—and if they can refrain from judgment, we ask them to post an announcement in their weekly bulletin that invites any woman facing a pregnancy to seek support from them and their local pregnancy center.
HLR: How can readers support Silent No More?
Forney: If someone is holding a pro-life event, invite women from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign to come and share their testimonies. Have conversations about abortion from the woman’s perspective. Know where local abortion aftercare programs are being held in your community and share that information on your social media or in your church bulletin. The more people there are who heal from their abortion pain, the more we will break the silence with friends and family. Use your smartphone to show some of our online video testimonies to women walking into the abortion clinic. We have coordinators in many states: See our “Regional Coordinators” website page.
HLR: Tell us more about Silent No More’s website.
Forney: The website SilentNoMore.com includes a big section on the Shockwaves of abortion, which refers to all the other people/family members who are impacted by the death of the child and the trauma of the mother. You can also access the testimonies at AbortionTestimony.com and find healing programs at AbortionForgiveness.com
HLR: Thank you, Ms. Forney.
The Silent No More Awareness Campaign can be reached at mail@SilentNoMore.com or 1-412-749-0455.