Tori Shaw was just 16 years old when she learned she was pregnant. She, like so many young girls facing an unplanned pregnancy, was in shock and naive about her options and what abortion actually does. The decision was made in minutes with very little discussion. She would have an abortion the very next day. It was a decision that would haunt Tori for years.
“I had been really sick,” she told Live Action News. “I was throwing up. I couldn’t keep anything down for days. My mom took me to the doctor. While I was in the room alone and my mom was in the waiting room, a doctor came and told me I was pregnant. She was nine months pregnant herself. When she told me I was pregnant, I cried and screamed and my mom heard me in the waiting room.”
Tori was shocked because at 16 years old, it simply didn’t cross her mind that she could be pregnant. She called her boyfriend Bryan, whom she would later marry, to tell him — but he didn’t have much of a chance to think it over either. Right then and there, the very pregnant doctor made the appointment for the following day at an abortion facility in Winston Salem.
Tori spent the night in the hospital due to dehydration, and the next morning she was taken to the abortion facility.
“I don’t remember going in. I pushed the memories so far away,” she said. “Little memories come back here and there. I remember when they called my name and I went back into this separate part of the clinic. My mom stayed in the waiting room.”
When she was taken into the procedure room, an ultrasound was performed and Tori asked about it, but no one would give her information or let her see the screen. The abortionist used the ultrasound to commit a vacuum aspiration abortion, which is explained in the video below by former abortionist, Dr. Anthony Levatino:
“I remember going into the recovery room with black recliners and everybody was just laying in there and not talking to each other,” explained Tori. “There was some relief that it was over, honestly, at that point, but also I already felt shame. I so desperately didn’t want anyone to find out.”
Tori never spoke about the abortion again except to tell one friend who had admitted to her own abortion. She wanted to pretend it never happened. But when she Bryan were married and she was in labor with their now 11-year-old son, the medical team asked her how many pregnancies and live births she had. Telling them about the abortion was the first time she had said it out loud. She went on to have three more children after her son was born.
“I felt flawed,” said Tori. “Yes, I was Christian and growing in a lot of ways. But I felt like a fraud. When I look back there were so many emotions — depression, anxiety — that were stemming from the abortion. I had all of these feelings and all of these fears and shame that completely covered me. They were eating me up inside. In college, Bryan and I were drunk all the time. We did drugs. We self-medicated is the best way to put it. When I look back at that time, I really just feel like God carried us because I don’t know how we made it.”
About eight years ago, one of Tori’s friends posted a blog on Facebook sharing her own abortion story and Tori immediately sent her a message asking if they could talk.
“Just seeing that someone else had been where I’d been, I knew I need to talk to her,” said Tori.
Together, the two women began a Bible study and when it concluded, Tori felt forgiven by God, but she was determined to continue her overall silence regarding the abortion.
“Then three years ago, I was at church and the pastor was talking about how some of us feel like we’re stuck with God and we want to go further but feel as though we can’t, and it’s because we aren’t willing to go beyond these walls we’ve built up. And I knew he was talking to me,” said Tori. She approached her pastor that day and told him what she had been through and the shame she felt. He encouraged her to share the story because he felt there were people who could benefit from hearing it. That night, Tori sat down and wrote a blog post about the secret she had held inside for 17 years.
Her church also filmed her sharing her story, and when it was shown at church the week before pro-life film Unplanned was released, Tori immediately had women coming up to her saying it was good to know they were not alone. She started a Bible study at the church because it had become obvious to her that it was needed by so many women. Post-abortive women from across the country have reached out to her because they have felt that they didn’t have anyone to talk to.
Now, Tori runs two post-abortive Bible studies: Forgiven and Free, and Save One. They meet once a week for eight to ten weeks. She also founded Not Forgotten Ministries, located about a block from Planned Parenthood. The organization includes sidewalk advocacy on the days Planned Parenthood commits abortions, and mentors mothers who chose life. They have helped saved nine babies since they first began their mission in August and are currently raising money to buy an ultrasound machine. The organization also provides a place for preborn babies to be remembered.
Recently, Tori participated in a photoshoot with photographer Angela Forker for her series After the Abortion at the former facility where her abortion was committed. She said it “was a really hard experience, just being there. It made it very real but it was also really very healing – acknowledging that my baby was real and honoring that child.”
Tori hopes that more post-abortive women will come forward with the truth about what abortion really is and the pain it has caused them. She believes that it’s their stories that will help change the culture and the attitudes about abortion.
As for the young girls out there currently considering abortion or being pressured into it, Tori wants them to know that she understands what they are going through. She said she would tell them: “I know it’s scary and I know you feel completely alone, but this is not the easy way out. You’ll carry a baby for nine months, but you’ll carry an abortion for the rest of your life.”
Editor’s Note: See more photos at photographer Angela Forker’s Facebook page, featuring her “After the Abortion” series.
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