Faces of Choice shocked the pro-life community in early January of 2020 when Fox Sports Network all-but refused to air a 30-second advertisement during its Super Bowl LIV broadcast. Pro-life news sources were calling it “stonewalling” and “censorship.” A petition was even started to put public pressure on Fox Sports to air the commercial, but without success. The commercial was not aired, and what has been more important to Lyric Gillett, the founder of Faces of Choice, is that the message of abortion survivors did not get out to those who need to hear it: the general public — those who are pro-choice by default or personally-pro-life.
“I don’t want to preach to the choir,” Gillett says. “If the average American understands that ‘choice’ is not merely a word, but ‘choice’ is a person. If the average American can no longer say ‘choice’ without seeing a human face, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.”
Undeterred, Faces of Choice launched on January 22, 2020, 47 years after the US Supreme Court decided the case which gave us legalized abortion nationwide, its YouTube channel featuring the stories of abortion survivors. The channel’s description reads:
“#FacesofChoice was birthed to bring awareness to a demographic of survivors that has gone largely unnoticed: those who were aborted, but survived. Learn their stories, and #FacetheChoice.”
Ms. Gillett told Human Defense Initiative that one evening God woke her in the middle of the night with the concept for Faces of Choice — sharing the stories of abortion survivors through media. She wrote down the idea and went back to sleep. But what began simply as a concept has grown. At the publishing of this article (as of 2:21 PM April 21, 2020), Faces of Choice’s YouTube channel’s 14 videos have received a total of 696,124 views and the channel has at least 2,860 subscribers.
When asked what inspired her to start Faces of Choice, Ms. Gillett said:
“I don’t know if there was a catalyst. Perhaps it was that I was thinking about these issues and how survivors have given face to human rights issues. When Rosa Parks did what she did; when MLK said what he said, people got the idea. It was no longer a nebulous idea. There is a voice and a face that wakes you up and forces you to face the humanity and the reality.
“The concept is that every humanitarian movement has had a survivor attached to it. It turns it into a human issue that we can all identify with. Survivors gave face to the inhumanity that was happening.”
She is right, of course. It is reminiscent of a scene in “Amazing Grace” where William Wilberforce is sitting around his dining table with a group of people he has just met but who are soon to become dear friends and comrades in the struggle to end the legal African slave trade in England. Wilberforce, like so many of us, is at first reluctant to do anything. He does not want to enter Parliament and push a bill to outlaw the slave trade; he wants to focus on his private devotion to God. How do his friends convince him? By introducing him to an actual survivor of the slave trade named Olaudah Equiano — a former slave now freeman. Equiano shows Wilberforce the scar on his chest where he was branded like cattle. Wilberforce is shown how the slaves were chained in iron. He’s taken aboard an actual slave ship and shown the conditions actual human beings were forced to endure at the hands of those who considered them less human than themselves.
After witnessing what he had, Wilberforce could no longer ignore the sufferings of Africans at the hands of his people. He had seen the reality of slavery in the face of a survivor and it profoundly changed him.
The faces of abortion survivors have the ability to change us, too.
Ms. Gillett says, “We call abortion a silent holocaust, but it is really not.” That is, it is not silent. Ms. Gillett adds that she knows of a statistician who looked at the rates of abortion survival now and applied it into the past, taking into account the fact we are getting better at killing preborn children than we were in 1973. The statistician conservatively estimates that there are at least 40,000 survivors of abortion attempts currently living in America right now.
“There are many incredible voices in the pro-life movement doing great things but the one voice that should take primacy is the voice of survivors.”
Faces of Choice exists to do just that — to give voice to survivors of abortion.
“Pro-choice voices claim what I call the ‘hierarchy of the right to speak.’ They say men don’t have a right to speak because they can’t get pregnant, so they’re at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Then women who can get pregnant but have never had an abortion have some right to speak but not much so they’re the next level in the hierarchy. Then women who have had an abortion are at the top and have a right to speak.
“Well, they’re wrong, because the morality of an issue does not depend on your experience. Your experiential relationship to an issue does not determine whether it is objectively moral. It’s like saying that because we were never slaves, we cannot tell a slave owner that owning a slave is wrong.
“But, okay, if pro-choice people want it that way, I’ll play their game. But the top of the hierarchy is not women who have had abortions, it’s the child who was aborted and lived to tell about it.
“The people at the top are those who were aborted and survived. Survivors of abortion change everything.”
Faces of Choice exists to tell their stories — stories of abortion survivors like Claire Culwell, a twin survivor. Her twin was aborted, but Ms. Culwell survived with a dislocated hip and clubbed feet. In her testimony video, Ms. Culwell states:
“My chronic hip and foot problems are daily reminders that I am a twin-less twin and someone who was meant to be aborted, but miraculously survived. I believe I survived so that I could show you what choice looks like—what babies who are aborted grow up to be. I survived an abortion, but my twin didn’t. When you look at my face, I want you to think about my twin who was aborted. Abortion survivors aren’t imaginary. We have names. We have stories. Our lives matter just as much as yours. I have forgiven my birth mother and I share my story today because she deserved better than abortion, too.”
Every video testimony speaks in some way to the power of love, forgiveness, and redemption. Ms. Gillett explained, “Our intent is not to bring shame or guilt on women who have had abortions. The survivors talk about redemption and hope. We are not trying to condemn anyone. There is hope.”
When asked what she would want to say to a pregnant woman considering abortion, Ms. Gillett said:
“There is hope. There are resources. There are resources for adoption. More than half these individuals were adopted. They love their lives. They are so grateful to their mothers for putting them up for adoption. Their lives are not worse off; they are better, and they emphasize themes of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation with their biological families. Most of those who were adopted now have healthy and vibrant relationships with their birth-mothers.”
Melissa Ohden, a saline abortion survivor, states,
“I have continued to live and I have been loved. I was loved mightily by my adoptive parents no matter what they were told about what my life was going to look like. And now I am loved by my biological mother and members of her family who now stand by my side.”
Hope Hoffman, a dilation and curettage abortion survivor, says,
“I first met my birth mom when I was twelve years old. My adoptive mom agreed–arranged a meeting. I saw my birth mom and I knew she loved me and I loved her like I had always knew [sic] her. I knew my birth mom made a wrong choice but I forgave her and will always love her. I thank God. He sees me. I know He has a plan for both of our lives.”
Terri, Hope’s mom, was also interviewed and at the end of her video she says,
“Hope’s birth mother came and stayed with us recently and we all share a special bond and a love for each other. She’s a part of our family.”
“Additionally,” Ms. Gillett says, “many of these survivors stayed with their biological families, and they also emphasize themes of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation! Zecharaiah Hagan, a six-year-old who was one of the first abortion pill survivors, has an incredible story that is actually shared by his birthmother, Rebekah Hagan. Her love for him overflows in every word she says.”
Denisha Workizer, a dilation and curettage abortion survivor, shares, “A strong, determined, single mom raised me.” She adds,
“My mom passed away decades ago and I wish she were here with me now because if she were I would tell her that I love her and I forgive her and I understand that she made a decision that was hard at the time. But you know you can’t give away what you don’t have. And I have experienced the love and forgiveness of Jesus in my life and I would want her to experience that same kind of love. So I am sharing my story now to encourage other women who have had an abortion that there is forgiveness, that there is healing, and there is hope. You can reclaim your story through Jesus.”
Ms. Gillett encourages those who read this article to watch Miriam “Penny” Hopper’s story, an induction abortion survivor:
“[Penny’s] father made it clear that he did not value her life and that he did not want to have another child. He was adamantly opposed to her survival. Yet, at the end of his life, he said, ‘Penny, I don’t know what I would have done without you.’ It is my hope and prayer that individuals in crisis pregnancies who hear her story will realize that difficult situations will change, and the associated negative emotions will change, and that you will never ultimately regret allowing your own flesh and blood to live. Penny, and those like her, even when born into great adversity, are still blessings to their parents and families, so please, don’t give up hope or take your child’s life because of the darkness of your current circumstances. Light and life walk hand-in-hand.
“You can go to our website and find resources if you are facing a crisis pregnancy. A crisis pregnancy is hard and terrifying. There are negative voices. But the crisis is a very short time compared to the full life of the child—the decades of life you are giving your child. Things get darker before they get brighter. Do not let the darkness overwhelm you. Give life a chance.”
Faces of Choice has plans for the future. They are already reaching out to CBS to run an ad in next year’s Super Bowl. Ms. Gillett says she thought she would give CBS an additional several months to decide whether to accept their advertisement. Before the COVID-19 crisis, there were also plans to possibly run an ad during the 2020 Olympics. Ms. Gillett wants to reach average Americans who do not know there even are survivors of abortion, and the Super Bowl and the Olympics have some of the largest audiences in television.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, on the April 7, 2020, Faces of Choice launched a new campaign in conjunction with My Faith Votes (the organization that created the email campaign for Faces of Choice in February that resulted in over 156,000 emails being sent to FOX Sports Network within a matter of days).
The new campaign is #NotADisease. In it, Faces of Choice asks pro-life activists across the nation to contact their governors and urge them to ban elective abortions during the COVID-19 crisis. In the words of Ms. Gillett, “All PPE [personal protection equipment] should be directed to the healthcare professionals who are actually trying to save lives, not to abortion mills.”
The face of the #NotADisease campaign is abortion survivor, Jennifer Milbourn, who survived a vacuum aspiration abortion. In her personal video for Faces of Choice, she looks into the camera and says, “Abortion is not healthcare; I’m not a disease that must be taken care of.” This idea, along with the personalization of the child in the womb through the voice of a survivor, is why Ms. Gillett chose the slogan #NotADisease.
“I remain convinced,” Ms. Gillett says, “that survivors need to be leading these types of conversations, but of course the mainstream media has and continues to do everything within its power to stifle and silence these survivors. I believe that giving Jennifer the ability to serve as a prominent, national face in the COVID-19 dialogue has the potential to gain some serious traction and change the conversation entirely; we could all use a little controversy in having a survivor of abortion publicly calling out our media and government officials, to reinforce in the public square that ‘abortion isn’t healthcare.’ This issue needs to blow up everywhere.
“What a miracle it would be if mothers around the country caught in the midst of crisis pregnancies – the stress of which is absolutely exacerbated by COVID-19 — were able to hear about hope in Christ, forgiveness, and redemption through Jennifer’s testimony, and could come to see the value of the precious lives within their wombs, as so many people are dying all around us. I think the possibilities for impact are endless.”
Access and participate in the #NotADisease campaign here. You can also visit Faces of Choice online at their website, www.facesofchoice.org. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Also be sure to visit their YouTube channel, Faces of Choice, and watch and share their videos. Like and subscribe to help them grow their platform and get the message out to as many people as possible that choice is not a word; he or she is a person.
These are the faces of choice.
Thank you to Ms. Gillet for the use of the cover photo for this article.
Sadie-Megin is an attorney. She earned her JD from Trinity Law School in May 2019 and was admitted to the State Bar of California in January 2020.