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The Woman Who Started it All

ve8QAd   |   August 01, 2009

I recently got an unexpected phone call from a pro-life voice of the past. It was Nancyjo Mann. For those who’ve been in the pro-life movement for decades, like Dr. Willke and me, her name alone conjures up memories. If you don’t know who Nancyjo is, you should.

If you’re a woman who’s experienced abortion and sought counsel or spoken out against its harmful effects, your ability to do so was in part made possible by Nancyjo. Let me explain.

Nearly 10 years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion, women who had experienced the horrors of abortion still only spoke out if their identities were protected. They feared a negative reaction from society. Nancyjo was the first mother of an aborted child to publicly take the national stage in the abortion debate.

In 1982, Dr. Willke was speaking in Iowa Falls, Iowa. It was a particularly cold winter night, but there had been a good turnout in the gymnasium. The crowd had dispersed and Dr. Willke had packed up his books and literature, looking forward to laying his weary head on a warm, soft pillow. But Bob Dopf, a local pro-life leader, excitedly came up to him and said, “You’ve got to hear what this young lady has to say!” Dr. Willke politely declined, saying his early flight out of Cincinnati and the long day of lecturing and media interviews had left him exhausted. But Bob insisted and he reluctantly agreed. In walked a young twenty-something woman. She certainly didn’t fit the typical description of a pro-lifer in the early eighties. She had hair dyed in a purple punk look and her attire was anything but conventional.

Nancyjo Mann quietly began her story of having a late-term saline or salt-poison abortion. This is the process of using a very long needle to draw out amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, and replacing it with a strong, burning salt solution. This gruesome procedure isn’t used very much now because of a dreaded complication for the abortionists-about once a day somewhere in the United States a baby was being born alive-maimed but alive. Gianna Jesson is a well-known pro-life speaker who survived such an abortion procedure.

In Nancyjo’s case her little girl, whom she had to deliver herself, was stillborn, but she felt her violently thrash in the womb for an hour-and-a-half before succumbing to a horrible death. Nancyjo not only suffered unfathomable psychological damage, the so-called safe and legal abortion left her butchered. The abortionist had amputated her cervix and left part of the placenta in her womb. It resulted in a complete hysterectomy and several follow-up surgeries to reconstruct her ravaged body.

In the early eighties, Nancyjo didn’t even know there was a pro-life movement. She only knew that she wanted to speak to other women about her experience. She wanted to warn them of the emotional and physical cost of abortion.

When she finished her story in the quiet gymnasium on that cold winter night, those who listened were crying. Dr. Willke gently asked, “Nancyjo, what can we do to help you?” She responded that she wanted to reach other women before it was too late for them. The National Right to Life annual convention was soon coming up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and, as the organization’s president, he asked if she would be comfortable telling her story to an audience of over 1,000 pro-life advocates. She said yes, and the rest is history.
The response of those at the convention was an outpouring of love and acceptance. It began an earnest national awakening to the plight of aborted women.

I remember seeing her in the halls of the convention facility, decked out in her purple hair, long-feather earrings and provocative dress. Nancyjo was just being Nancyjo, the lead vocalist of Barnabas, a Christian metal rock band, which enjoyed a high level of success.

Immediately after the convention, Dr. Willke took her to Washington, DC to meet Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois. Soon thereafter, she founded Women Exploited by Abortion (WEBA). Her story not only captivated members of congress and pro-life leaders, it drew the attention of the media. In part it was her unconventional appearance and style. In part it was her heart wrenching story.

Now at 56, Nancyjo again feels led to offer herself in the effort to help women and end abortion. During our recent phone conversation, she filled me in on her life to date. She has overcome some enormous challenges that would have stopped most individuals in their tracks.

So I invited her to Cincinnati to be a guest on my weekly TV program, Facing Life Head-On. Nancyjo’s life is a fitting description of the program’s title. My producers and I hope to capture on camera some powerful moments as she and Dr. Willke get reacquainted. It’s a program you won’t want to miss.

Hopefully, a new generation of pro-lifers will get to know a woman whose life didn’t end after being brutalized by the abortion industry. Nancyjo paved the way for millions of other women-also victims of abortion-to be silent no more.

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