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Virginia woman conceived from rape shares story after abortion ruling: 'I was meant to be born'

Virginia woman conceived from rape shares story after abortion ruling: 'I was meant to be born'
Posted at 4:45 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 18:21:14-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- The Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe V. Wade has led to Virginians speaking out from every side of the abortion debate.

With many differing viewpoints comes a personal life story filled with challenges and triumphs and a Chesapeake woman hoped hers could spark more compassion and understanding.

Inside the office of a non-profit in Hampton Roads, several photos of mothers and their children hang from the walls.

“This mother right over here, she was homeless," said Patti Johnson as the pointed to a picture. “This mother here, she was running away from the father. He was abusive.”

Behind every family's frame lies a painful back story that led them to Johnson. She founded the organization Shining Light Homes.

“I know somebody's needing help somewhere. They're just everywhere," Johnson said.

Her non-profit helps secure basic necessities like transitional housing, food, and baby products for young Virginia mothers with children between zero and two years old.

Johnson said most of them don't have a home or a support system.

"There are four things you need as a mother," she said. “You need a car, you need a place to live, you need a job, and you need childcare.”

The needs are so great, Johnson said her phone constantly rings off the hook with calls for help. In fact, she answered one during an interview with CBS 6.

“That’s another mom who is pregnant and homeless," Johnson said after writing down a name and number during a phone call.

Johnson's passion to give back stems from her own personal struggles with motherhood. She became pregnant at 16 years old, which was a disappointment to her parents.

"They gave me three options. Have an abortion, have the baby and go live in an unwed home or get married," Johnson said. "I could've aborted her, but I didn't."

Johnson said she got married and moved out. Though shortly after, she ended up in foster care, then bounced from home to home.

Johnson eventually found her footing and took care of the one child she'd ever have.

"I would never change one thing about my life raising her," Johnson said.

Johnson's decision to keep her baby was largely influenced by her own mother's challenges.

It was around the time Johnson discovered she was pregnant when she learned the truth of how she was conceived.

“My mother let me know that the father that I had known to be my father was not my father," Johnson said. "And then she proceeded to tell me, you know, that she had been raped.”

Virginia woman conceived from rape shares story after abortion ruling: 'I was meant to be born'

The emotions Johnson felt back then came flooding back following the overturn of Roe V. Wade. The ruling gives states the authority to ban abortions for the first time since 1973. That's how it was when Johnson's mother was pregnant from rape, although women still sought illegal procedures.

“I view my mother as a hero," Johnson said.

She said she commended her mom for bringing her into the world despite the circumstances.

"Everybody uses the term rape like, 'Who's going to want to keep the baby? Who's going to want to keep the baby from a rape?' You know? Thank you, mom, I think to myself right now."

According to the CDC, three million women in the U.S. experienced rape-related pregnancy in their lifetime, but statistics on how many seek abortions are limited.

In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin supports an abortion ban at 15 weeks with some exceptions including rape. However, Democratic lawmakers strongly oppose it.

"I have fought these proposals in the past, and I will keep fighting these proposals, and we're going to make sure they don't pass," said State Senator Jennifer McClellan shortly after the ruling.

Johnson said her views on abortion lean pro-life and were shaped by real, tragic human life experiences. Amid charged emotions in the political sphere, she called for more listening and understanding.

"I was meant to be born," Johnson said. "No matter how it happened, I was meant to be born."

Virginia woman conceived from rape shares story after abortion ruling: 'I was meant to be born'

Johnson said she'll continue to help other moms because it's a pledge she made to her own mother shortly before she passed.

“Because she didn't feel like she had the support in her time, and I wanted to show her and let her know I was going to help her," Johnson said. "That's how it happened. I told her that I was going to do it.”

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