Denisha Workizer was in her 40s when she learned her mother had tried to abort her not once, but twice.
With the Supreme Court apparently set to overturn its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, Workizer says, she wants pro-abortion activists to consider that we “empower women by empowering life.”
“It’s not empowering for a woman to kill her child,” she adds.
Today, Workizer works with The Abortion Survivors Network, an organization that helps other survivors find hope and peace in their own stories.
She joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” today to share her personal story of survival as well her message to both pro-choice and pro-life Americans.
Also on today’s show, we cover these stories:
- The Biden administration is trying to weed out “disinformation,” but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., says he doesn’t trust the government to determine what is and isn’t disinformation.
- In a speech on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announces that Democrats will force a vote on legislation to codify Americans’ access to abortion.
- Pro-abortion activists plan protests outside the homes of the Supreme Court’s six conservative justices.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: Americans are all processing the apparent reversal of Roe v. Wade in their own way. But for men and women who have survived abortions, the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is personal. Joining us today is Denisha Workizer, an abortion survivor and member of the Abortion Survivors Network. Denisha, thank you so much for being here with us today.
Denisha Workizer: Virginia, thank you for having me.
Allen: Before we dive too deep into your story, would you just take a minute and tell us what is the Abortion Survivors Network?
Workizer: The Abortion Survivors Network is actually the only organization that serves survivors and their families. By survivors of abortion, we mean the babies who are actually aborted, who are attempted to be aborted, but the abortion procedure failed. So we serve survivors, we serve their families. We have survivors from infants all the way up into their 80s. So it’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot of us out there.
Allen: Wow. That is amazing. When I first heard your story, I was really amazed because you survived multiple abortion attempts, which I didn’t even know was possible. So let’s start at the beginning of your story. Why did your mom decide that she wanted an abortion?
Workizer: I found out at 42 years old that my mom had had these two procedures that I’ll tell you about. My mom passed away when I was 23. So everything I have heard has come from my dad and my sister and other family members.
But basically, my mom was not married when she found out she was pregnant. She was a little bit older for that time period in the ’70s and she had an 18-year-old daughter, no kids in between. She was in some trouble with the law at the time.
Allen: So really she felt like she didn’t have a choice maybe?
Workizer: Yeah. It was just a couple years after Roe v. Wade was turned. So it was legal and yeah, she didn’t feel like she had another choice. I think she felt a little bit alone. There were a lot of voices speaking into her during that season as well.
Allen: OK, OK. So she decides, “I’m going to have an abortion.” What happens?
Workizer: So in October of 1975, she found out that she was pregnant and in November she had—it wasn’t on the market at the time, but she had access to what we now know as the abortion pills.
So she took in November, she took four white pills. The first two were to stop my heart from beating and then the second two essentially were to have her body expel the baby—me. So she did that in November and that is what is now available, even by telemed in today’s world. Back then … you had to have connections to get it.
So that was in November. To her surprise, in December, she found out she was still pregnant with me. So then she went into the hospital and she had a D&C abortion procedure.
Allen: What is a D&C, if you don’t mind just explaining that for a minute?
Workizer: Absolutely. A D&C is where the doctor goes in and basically scrapes the mother’s uterus and removes any tissue, removes the baby from her uterus.
Allen: So your mom goes in, she has that procedure, then what happens?
Workizer: … Now, at this point in November when she took the pills, her body reacted as if it was successful. As far as she had bleeding, she reacted as if it was successful, but December found out it wasn’t. In February, to her big time shock, she found out she was four to five months pregnant in February. So neither one of those procedures worked and I was born full term in July of 1976.
Allen: Wow, wow. OK. So your mom tries to have an abortion twice, neither successful, you’re born and like you say, you were in your 40s when you found out that this had happened. Wow. So as you started to learn your story, what did you uncover about kind of your mom’s reaction at that time when she had you and realized, “OK, this is another child that is coming into the world”?
Workizer: Yeah. At the time, being four to five months pregnant when she had the pregnancy confirmed after both attempts, at that point it was illegal for her to pursue another abortion procedure. Today in many states, it would not be that case, and today, it could have been a successful procedure in the end.
So yeah, I was born in July and my biological mom raised me. Many of us as survivors are placed for adoption and some of us are raised by our biological parents. So my mom was basically a single mom and raised me until 23 and she passed away with that information.
From what I hear, it was a lot of guilt and a lot of things that she was carrying emotionally around because of those attempts. But she woke up every day and raised me. So I will tell you, it’s a shock to find out at 42 that that’s part of your story.
Allen: How did you find out?
Workizer: I found out through my dad and through my biological sister.
Allen: OK. Did they just decide, “Hey, it’s time for her to know, we need to tell her”?
Workizer: It was actually, I started asking questions and probing and just asking a lot of questions in that. I actually asked my dad, “Did my mom consider having an abortion with me?” Because the New York law had passed. I found out in 2019 my story and so the New York law had just passed allowing abortion up to birth.
To me, having not a foot in the pro-life world at all, I was taken back by that. That really shocked me. So when that came out, I was talking to my husband. I said, “I wonder if my mom ever considered having an abortion with me.” I just really felt prompt to ask my dad.
Then a whole other story came out that not only did she consider it, but she actually attempted it. So yeah, that was a big shock. I found out that in the same year, in 1975, when she had the two procedures, I was one of 165,550 legal abortions in the state of California but I survived them.
Allen: What were those thoughts that were running through your head as you’re sitting there with your dad and he’s telling you, “Yeah, your mom did try to have an abortion, not once, but twice”?
Workizer: Yeah. I think you begin to question everything. For me, I began to question everything in my life. What else was a lie? The feelings of rejection, of abandonment, of not being worthy. All of those things really came to surface in a pretty big way for me.
Allen: How then did you kind of begin to try and tackle those? Because I think that’s so normal and, of course, you would’ve been feeling those feelings and probably in that moment you felt a lot of things in some ways made sense. So you kind of understood the root of maybe where some of those feelings had been coming from, but then it’s an entirely other thing to begin to kind of tackle those things in your own life and figure out how you actually overcome those.
Workizer: I remember walking by my computer—Google can tell us, all right? I remember thinking, “Is this a thing? Is this a thing? Do babies survive abortion?” It took me a while. I went to counseling right away. I knew that that was something I needed to tackle.
One day I Googled—it was like my computer called me, almost like warm chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen. It was like you don’t want to, but you kind of do. So then one day I finally sat down and Googled, “Do babies survive abortion?” What I found was the Abortion Survivors Network. So I found other people.
There’s a big thing, I think, that takes place when you believe that you’re the only one that’s ever happened to. So I think that made a big difference, was to find other people who’d experienced the same emotions, the same effects, all of the things. We had a lot more in common than I could have imagined. So that was my next step, was finding other people that I could heal with and that’s where I found the Abortion Survivors Network.
Allen: Do we know about how many babies have survived abortion? Do we have any sense of those numbers?
Workizer: We have a little bit of a sense. In the United States alone, we’re estimating approximately 17,000 babies who have survived and that’s based on survivals that get reported. We know that there’s some that do not, but just doing the math on that, we’re estimating in the U.S. about 17,000 survivors.
So far we have found a little over 600 survivors, or just at 600 survivors worldwide now. So we have many survivors in other countries as well, and what that world number would be is unknown because the amount of abortions in the U.S. is around 62 million since Roe v. Wade. Now, in the world though, it is an unfathomable number.
So worldwide, who knows, but in the U.S., we know that there’s about 17,000 survivors and we’re here to support them.
Allen: Wow. Do you have any long-term health repercussions from those attempted abortions? I know that that can be common among abortion survivors.
Workizer: Absolutely. No, I do not. I have nothing that I can directly put back to those attempts.
Allen: That’s wonderful. That’s really good to hear. For you personally, were you pro-life before you found out your own story?
Workizer: I was. We support our local pregnancy center and we had done that for years, but if you would’ve told me—I was a pastor for 10 years. So if you would’ve told me that I would be stepping out and this is where you’re going to jump into, I would’ve thought, “No way. I know nothing about that.” Then I realized I knew a lot more about it than I knew. So, yeah.
Yes, we were pro-life. My family is pro-life and then we found ourselves in this situation. So we found a whole lot more family that we didn’t even know we had in survivors. So now we definitely, we are active and you know, very, very vocal about our thoughts.
Allen: Yeah. So at this time in history and in the news cycle, we are seeing that the justices at the Supreme Court look poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. When you learned that, when you heard that, OK, this law that has been in place for nearly 50 years is going to be overturned at the federal level, that there will no longer be this right to abortion, what were some of the thoughts that immediately popped into your head?
Workizer: I think anytime we hear about abortion in the news in any way for survivors it feels very personal. So for me personally, I know that I felt very hopeful to hear that this is kind of where we were leaning.
So, yeah, I think very hopeful in believing that this will go back to the states. I mean, to be honest, I wish that this did change abortion for the U.S. as a whole, but I know that this will then turn it back to the states for them to decide what’s going to happen within their area.
Allen: Yeah, yeah. The journey’s really just beginning for the pro-life movement in so, so many ways. For other survivors, and I know as you are having conversations with other abortion survivors, what is it going to mean to you? What is it going to mean to them if Roe v. Wade is overturned?
Workizer: I think we’re going to have a lot of work to do. I think that our voices to sort of be that voice of choice, that face that says, “I am that choice that we’re deciding and we’re talking about.” I think we’re going to have a lot of work ahead of us, but I think that it is also very empowering. We definitely believe that life empowers and that empowering women involves life. So I think that we have a lot of work cut out for us in that, but it is very hopeful for us as well.
Allen: Yeah. We don’t often hear the stories of survivors. I think that’s changing slowly. We’re starting to hear those stories more and more thanks to people like yourself and the Abortion Survivors Network. What do you think is needed for survivors to be comfortable sharing their stories?
Workizer: I think, first, healing. I’m the healing program coordinator for the Abortion Survivors Network so I have the privilege of walking along survivors, walking alongside them as they either discover their story or begin to heal from their story.
It is really a beautiful process and we’ve had people step into—Melissa Ohden has written amazing healing curriculum for us that’s just for us, because again, there’s nothing out there for abortion survivors besides the survivor network. As we walk through that, there’s something that happens as we heal and we find community and connection.
That sort of leads to a sense of belonging that when I stand on a platform, I speak nationwide, I’m on behalf of the survivors network and sharing my own story. When I stand up on a platform, I know that I’m not standing there alone. I know that I really have arms linked with all of the other amazing survivors.
So there’s a healing process that we definitely have to go through first and there’s somewhat of an empowerment that comes out of that. I think once healing happens, people can argue with our opinion, but they can’t argue with our experience.
Allen: What’s your message to the pro-abortionists right now? The people who are protesting and shouting that Roe v. Wade is a right and abortion is a right? What would you want to tell those folks?
Workizer: I would say that we empower women by empowering life. That it’s not empowering for a woman to kill her child.
I know that there’s a lot of different opinions out there. There’s a lot of different stories out there. And boy, if we had an hour, we could tackle every situation that people really hone in on. But I believe that abortion is a trauma and that that is putting another trauma on a woman who is already experiencing a hardship.
So I think there are a lot of opportunities out there for just different organizations to be able to serve the women who find themselves in those places. So I would ask people who are pro-abortion, I would ask them to do their research and to … open their minds a little bit and not to lock in so tight on an opinion, but to understand what they’re standing for.
Allen: Yeah. What about to the pro-life movement? Because at this moment in history, everything is changing and it’s changing rapidly.
So many people in the pro-life movement, we’ve obviously been using our voices for so long and many have put action behind those words. But now’s the time where we have to put action behind our words, where there’s going to be moms facing unplanned pregnancies who need our support.
What are some of the ways that you think people can get involved and take action, no matter what phase of life they’re in or the resources that they do or don’t have?
Workizer: Absolutely. I would say, first and foremost, we need to be supporting our local pregnancy centers. You can go online to even Care Net and look at different pregnancy centers that are local to you that give women different options and support them.
So whether it’s volunteering, whether it’s donating your time, your treasure, however, I think that is going to be a really important thing because those centers are going to become overwhelmed really quick or at least very busy. I think they’re all prepping and gearing up for that.
The second thing I would say is, as it comes time when this happens, if this happens—I hope this happens, that Roe v. Wade gets overturned and it goes back to the state—do your research on who you’re voting for. Because that is going to matter locally on what your state carries forward as far as their abortion policy. So I would say, if you are pro-life, do your research on each candidate and what their stance is on abortion.
Allen: For all of our listeners, if you want to learn more about the Abortion Survivors Network, how you can get involved, maybe you know someone or you yourself are a survivor of abortion, you can learn more about them and find all their resources at abortionsurvivors.org.
But Denisha, we just really appreciate your willingness to come on and share your story. It’s so powerful and I think right now, more than ever, stories from people like you are so critical. We’re just really honored that you were willing to join us today. So thank you.
Workizer: Thank you for having me.
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