Priscilla Hurley was first exposed to abortion while she was still in her mother’s womb. She survived an abortion when her mother was four months pregnant. As a young woman, Hurley had two abortions herself before she began working at an abortion clinic.
“[I]n a really twisted way, I was trying to help women,” Hurley says of her time working at the clinic.
Hurley’s journey to the pro-life movement began after a near-death experience in a car crash and coming to faith in Christ.
Today, she is a pro-life speaker and community support specialist for the Abortion Survivors Network. Hurley joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to share her personal story and explain how she is helping fellow abortion survivors work through their own trauma.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure to welcome to the show pro-life speaker Priscilla Hurley, a community support specialist for the Abortion Survivors Network. Priscilla, thank you so much for being here today.
Priscilla Hurley: Thank you so much for having me, Virginia.
Allen: So, you have a story unlike, honestly, anyone I have ever heard. You have been exposed to abortion really in every way, and it began for you before you were even born. Begin there, tell us a little bit about what happened to you when you were still in your mom’s womb.
Hurley: Yes, well, my mother had four children already, and my father, my biological father, was suddenly deceased from a plane crash. His job was very risky. He was an experimental test pilot in Southern California, so the plane that he took up for the last flight actually fell apart in the sky, and that was part of the risk that he took being in that profession.
So, she was left with four children as a widow, and pregnant with me, and I think, like so many women that are caught in a situation like this, she probably just was full of fear and dread. This was, I’m 72, so this was in 1949.
Hurley: Of course, it was illegal in California, of course, and most everywhere, but she had friends that I think she went [to]. I pieced it together through my grandmother’s diary, and also from talk, the verbal history I have from my mother after I became a Christian in 1981, and I started asking her more questions. But at that time, she was probably very scared and decided that the best thing to do would be to go across the border to Mexico and allow an abortionist to end my life.
They did a “successful” D&C procedure, which is dilation and curettage, and she went back home. Apparently, she had symptoms of success. She went home, probably, let’s see, the diary said she left on the 18th of February. She returned on the 1st of March, so she was gone for several days.
My grandmother and grandfather were staying with the other children in Torrance [California], where I was born. But she went to the doctor on March 14th and the doctor said, “You’re four months pregnant.” So, the abortion wasn’t successful, at least as far as my life [was concerned], but I guess the doctor and her both concluded that it seemed to have been successful, and so they thought there was probably a twin involved.
So, I don’t have any medical records to support that, but this is all based on verbal history and accounts that I’ve been told by my mother.
So I, as a child, like many abortion survivors, we struggle with feeling like we belong, and it’s, I don’t know if it’s just the darkness of the attempt on the abortion, or if it’s the way that we’re treated by people that know, in this case my mother, because she didn’t tell anybody at all.
Allen: Oh, really?
Hurley: She remarried a year after I was born, and our adoptive father provided us with a really wonderful childhood. But the emotional needs that we had, I think, regarding my older siblings, regarding the loss of their father, and then me kind of coming into this world not really being wanted, you know, and so there was a lot of needs that remained unmet.
Allen: Did you know as a child that your mother had tried to abort you?
Hurley: I didn’t know.
No, I did not know, and the story is that when I was 19 I was sexualizing my needs for love and attachment when I went to college. So, I was so needy that, at any rate, you know when you have sex you risk getting pregnant. That’s part of how God created us, was to create life. And I was very ignorant. I had no instruction at all.
I mean, it was just that era where nobody talked about anything, let alone, and I didn’t have a moral teaching about it. So, anyway, that’s the background, because that’s part of my story, too, is discovering all of this in time. But at 19, I got pregnant, and I was in love. I mean, it was not a one-night stand, or anything. It was a pretty stable relationship, as much as it can be at the age of 19.
But my mom, when I told her, because I was fearful of that, and she came up to the college and took me home. And this is the sorry part, I think, is there was no conversation. There was no dialogue on options, there was no making me take responsibility for it.
It was all just managed. My parents took charge. And an abortion was arranged at the hospital. It was legal in California to have it in a hospital at that time, and I just went along with that. So, again, at the age of 19, I was in the hospital, and I had the exact same abortion procedure done on me that time that my mother had done against me 19 years earlier.
Now, I found out a couple months, probably three or four months after that, where I was walking alone with my mother to the airport to pick my sister up, and she turned to me and said, “Oh, by the way, I tried to have you aborted.”
And it was one of those moments where you stop in time because I just was shocked at that, and it took me awhile. I mean, we didn’t talk about it at all then. It was just kind of stuffed down, but what it did help me, at that time, realize was that it gave me a real deeper understanding as to why she never really loved me the way she should have, or why I was always feeling so alone and depressed and unwanted, especially by her, because she was my mom, and I think my dad loved me as much as he could, and of course my sisters, my siblings, we played well together, and all that, but it was just that lack of nurturing love that I had. So, it explained that to me.
And I think, too, that’s one thing that I like to talk about, is the generational aspect of abortion, and how, unless there’s a cycle-breaker in there, it’s going to probably continue.
Yeah, so that tells you that incident of when I first found out.
Allen: So, your journey continued. I mean, it’s so much already for a young person to have gone through at the age of 19, their own abortion, then to find out that your mother had tried to abort you, and be trying to make sense of that, and feeling this isolation and this depression, but you continued on and ultimately you wound up working for an abortion clinic. How did that happen?
Hurley: Well, yes, I just want to emphasize the fact of how traumatic and how damaging abortion is, because I still carried on after I was 19. I went through all that. It was very sad because my boyfriend broke up. I mean, it just destroys things in its wake. And so, I went on to another relationship later and ended up getting pregnant again, at the age of 25 this time.
And I wouldn’t have chosen abortion myself, but because I was, again, traumatized through these incidents, through these things that happened to me, I didn’t have the power to know what my own mind thought, basically, and so I allowed my boyfriend at that time to be the authority in that decision, and so I went along with it.
It was after Roe v. Wade. It was a vacuum aspiration procedure. It was horrifying, and I knew something horrible was wrong there. Again, this is God working in me. I had not become a Christian yet, but He was giving me these experiences, allowing these experiences. And I was so indignant about that, so upset about that experience.
My boyfriend knew a couple women who worked in an abortion clinic in San Francisco, and this was two years after Roe [v.] Wade. I was going to school, getting my college degree in San Francisco, so it was during this time, and he introduced me to them.
It wasn’t really a Planned Parenthood, per se, clinic, but that’s exactly the model. It was exactly the same model. It was just a private operation. And we got a lot of referrals from Planned Parenthood when they filled up their schedule.
So, I interviewed with them. I am a health educator, so health is my field, and I was interested in how they managed it, and I was so isolated and alone in that experience the second time, I just thought, why didn’t anybody tell me anything about what to expect?
So, this clinic did that. They had group sessions where they go through the procedure, what’s going to happen, and it was more of an informed experience, although when the vacuum aspiration is actually on and you’re getting that experience, there is nothing that can prepare you for that. Nothing.
But we were there. We were in the rooms with them, holding their hands and supporting them. So, in a really twisted way I was trying to help women, and that’s, I have found, a big reason why a lot of women get into this industry, is because they have that opportunity from having their own abortions, sometimes, and then going in to try to help women.
So, I did that for three years, and I can tell you stories. It’s a very dark, deceptive place. And if you have seen Abby Johnson’s “Unplanned” movie, that tells a story, I mean, it’s just exactly as it was presented, a lot of deception. It’s a very controlled environment on what you can say and how you can answer questions.
There was one young lady who at just point blank asked if it was killing, and I didn’t know how to answer that, personally. I just deferred it to the woman that was there with me in the room, and she just minimized her question, didn’t really think about, or cared about the fact that this woman was obviously struggling and was trying to fight for her baby. She just minimized it and said, “Well, it’s like killing a fly.”
So, those are the kinds of lies that go on in an abortion clinic is just, oh, it has nothing to do with humanity or killing a human child. I mean, it’s just a very sick and twisted place, and I’m so glad that I finally got taken out of there, and it was really God-orchestrated.
I almost died in a car accident, and I think at that point in time everything pivoted to me. I started questioning everything. And I hadn’t come to God yet. I hadn’t found faith, but I was on that path, and God delivered me out of that horrible situation and placed me in rural Alaska … as a work assignment, and finishing my master’s degree in health program development.
And, so, anyway, it’s kind of a long story, but that summarizes my journey.
And the third time I got pregnant, I still was not married. I hadn’t changed my behaviors, really, of sexualizing my needs, but I did say, “No more.” Nobody’s going to tell me what to do with this child. So, my son is 41, and I did end up marrying the father, and I have two beautiful daughters.
I have 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, and when you think about that, if I wasn’t here, those generations represented by my children and my grandchildren would also not be here. So, it’s really profound when you think about what abortion is through the life of somebody who was actually saved in the womb to tell a story someday about that evil, and how valuable and purposeful life is for everyone.
So, that’s really the summary of my journey, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share it. And I’ve got the other chapter. There’s several other chapters in my journey, and one of them is learning about abstinence as a choice, and … God called me to an organization … back down in Southern California, where I taught and ran an abstinence program for nine years.
And that was so rewarding, I can’t tell you how much, Virginia, that young people seemed to just be hungry for somebody to tell them some truth about this very, very important decision in their life, and it’s so rewarding to do that, because, I don’t know if I would’ve made different decisions, I’ll never know that, but I never knew any, I had no wisdom presented to me in regards to sexual integrity, being wise about your decision-making and just dealing with the emotional needs so you don’t go out and sexualize those needs, because it’s going to end up badly no matter. It’s going to be a struggle and a challenge no matter how you shake it down. So, that was the full circle for me.
Allen: Yeah, wow, what a journey.
Hurley: So, now I like to share anything that I can regarding my journey, because it’s been quite a journey. But the trauma is very real. I think being an abortion survivor, first [of all], and then the trauma of, again, repeated abortions, working in the industry. It’s a lot to deal with, and thankfully, I’ve gotten a lot of healing through ASN. The Abortion Survivors Network is so great, and through other ministries like Abby Johnson’s ministry, And Then There Were None, offers a healing program for women that have, women and men that have worked in the abortion industry that are out, so it’s helpful, very helpful.
Allen: What, for you, was, or was there one thing, a straw that really broke that said, “OK, I have to get out of this industry now”?
Hurley: Yeah, so, I think, honestly, a couple things. One is, I really did almost die in a car accident, and during that time where I was unconscious in the floor of my little VW Bug, and I don’t remember anything other than waking up in the hospital hours later. They had to do the Jaws of Life to get me out of the car. But a man, and I believe it to this day that it was an angel messenger … and I was unconscious, but I remember seeing him outside the window of my car saying, “You’re going to be all right.”
And I think God had a plan for me, but it just, it shows you what He will do to get our attention, what He has to do sometimes; in this case, release me from the car that was, my mom showed me pictures of it later, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, what a miracle I even survived.”
And after that, I mean, I was unconscious for I don’t know how long, and I started, I went back to work, I had a neck brace. I had broken my neck, I had a neck brace on for 24 hours for three months. So, that’s one thing, and I think that visit from that angel was, I think, was just a spiritual reset for me, and just pivoted, put me on a track of questioning everything.
And then I started grad school, and then I had this opportunity to go to Alaska, and I took it. I still hadn’t come to faith, but I think I needed to get out of San Francisco and that darkness, into beautiful, rural Alaska, working with the Alaskan native Yupik culture, and the people are beautiful, gracious.
I had Christian friends up there for the first time, even though I wasn’t a believer yet, and so, I think there was just an opportunity there to help me get out of these really dark circumstances. And yes, I got pregnant again, but again, nobody was going to tell me what to do. I wasn’t going to submit to anybody.
And it’s almost like that was one of the big things. So, I think that was probably the real pivotal moment for me.
Allen: That’s amazing. In so many ways, it’s at that moment where your life was saved, and you realized the value of your own life, that increases the value for all life around you.
Allen: That’s really, really beautiful.
Hurley: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it, Virginia, yeah.
Allen: What do you think are maybe some of the most common misconceptions that people have about abortion right now? Because I think so many people that advocate for abortion are doing so essentially for the reasons why you said; they think they’re really helping women.
Hurley: Right, yeah. Well, I think there’s probably a lot of, there is confusion among people. I was thinking about this before we came on because right now with Roe v. Wade possibly, we’re hoping is going to be overturned, with the technology, with the doctors that have come out to speak truth to this, because they were there. They have those experiences. We have sonograms; we have 3D sonograms, imaging of babies in the womb.
I think the more that this messaging gets out, the more people are going to struggle with the fact that no, this really is a human being, and we’re killing human beings, and there’s nothing right about that, especially the voiceless and the helpless dependent children in the womb. There is nothing right about it, and I think people are, they’re just hanging on to …
It’s the same reason I went into the industry, because I had an abortion, and I wanted to help women. But that was a long time ago. We didn’t have all the imaging. I mean, I think when they see sonograms, they just go, “Oh, my gosh.” You just are hanging on to that blind, you just have blinders on, and you’re deceived about the truth of really what is happening. And it’s just a messaging … you have to continue to get the message of life out there. And I know also women that have had abortions are needing to talk about it, because it’s a shameful thing to live with, Virginia, to have an abortion, and to have a hand in actually killing your own child. It’s horrifying.
How else could you deal with that except for by the forgiveness we have in faith in Christ? It would be impossible for me to even talk about this.
And so, there’s so much shame padded around these women, and this is my true sense of it, and in order to protect their pain, just how do they deal with the trauma? Well, they just get angry.
And I think that there’s been so many cultural and sociological consequences from the prolific legalization of abortion, and what that’s done to women, what that’s done to our society and our families and our communities. I think it’s just horrifying.
So, I think everything that we can do to try to continue to speak the truth out to people about it, and also to point them to the forgiveness that we have in the Lord, Jesus Christ in my life, that’s how I was able to find a freedom, and that’s the opportunity that we have.
And I will share my story with anyone, but part of that story is coming to faith in Christ and being set free from a curse that was on me for 31 years. And I’m so thankful for that, because I broke that cycle of abortion. And not to disclose names, but I have, you know, siblings that have also had abortion, and so you see that generational. We’ve got to be the cycle breakers.
And that requires courage, and it requires speaking out.
Allen: And Priscilla, I’m so glad that you so boldly do speak out, that you’re so willing to share your story, and you do speak all over. You tell your story. If anyone listening is thinking, maybe they work at a pregnancy center, or they’re thinking we would love to have Priscilla come to our church and speak, how could they find out more information about you and invite you to come be a speaker?
Hurley: There’s a couple ways, of course, going through the Abortion Survivors Network is one way, I have an email there, and then also I am on the Ambassadors Speaker website, and have a place there that I just recently have been added to. So, either one of those places. And then I can always be reached myself. I do have my own website for my abstinence training, which I will be presenting a breakout session at the Care Net Conference in August, called “The Choice to Choose.”
Part of it is going to be, of course, talking about [the Abortion Survivors Network] because that’s really a big reason why I can talk about all of my stories, is being able to reconcile that some of the things that I made, the decisions that I made as a young woman, were because of the trauma I received in the womb, because my life was, I was violated so powerfully in the womb, yeah, by an abortionist. So the seriousness of that can’t be understated.
So, yeah, Abortion Survivors Network has, I don’t know if you want emails, for me to share emails, or you could just go on the website and leave a note or contact me at; I think it’s email@example.com, that’s my ASN web email address.
Allen: Excellent. Great.
Hurley: Yeah, so, thank you for that, Virginia.
Allen: Yeah, of course. Well, we want even more people to hear your story, because it is so powerful. But Priscilla, we are just so thankful for your time today, and your willingness to share in the work that you are doing to stand up for women, and to stand up for the unborn.
Hurley: Yes, yes.
Allen: Just thank you, really appreciate. This has been just such a pleasure.
Hurley: Thank you, Virginia, I appreciate the opportunity. Bless you in your work.
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