Virginia woman conceived by rape shares story after abortion decision

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has Virginians speaking out on all sides of the abortion debate.

With many different perspectives comes a personal life story filled with challenges and triumphs, and one Chesapeake woman hoped hers could spark more compassion and understanding.

Inside the nonprofit’s Hampton Roads office, several photos of mothers and their children hang from the walls.

“This mother here, she was homeless,” said Patti Johnson, pointing to a photo. “This mother here, she was running from the father. He was an abuser.”

Behind each family’s frame lies a painful story that brought them to Johnson. She founded the organization Shining bright homes.

“I know someone, somewhere, needs help. They’re just everywhere,” Johnson said.

Her non-profit organization helps provide basic needs such as transitional housing, food and baby products to young Virginia mothers with children between the ages of zero and two.

Johnson said most of them have no home or 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 that Johnson said her phone is constantly ringing with calls for help. In fact, she answered one during an interview with CBS 6.

“This is another mother who is pregnant and homeless,” Johnson said after taking down a name and number during a phone call.

Johnson’s passion to give back stems from her personal struggles with motherhood. She became pregnant at the age of 16, which was a disappointment to her parents.

“They gave me three options. Have an abortion, have the baby and live in a home without women or get married,” Johnson said. “I could have aborted her, but I didn’t.”

Johnson said she got married and moved away. Although shortly after that she ended up in foster care, after which she bounced from home to home.

Johnson eventually found her footing and took care of the only child she ever had.

“I would never change a thing in my life raising her,” Johnson said.

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

It was sometime around the time Johnson found out she was pregnant that she learned the truth about how she was conceived.

“My mother told me that the father I knew was my father was not my father,” Johnson said. “And then she proceeded to tell me, you know, that she was raped.”

Raped Virginia woman shares story after abortion decision: 'I was meant to be born'

Photo shared with WTVR

The emotions Johnson felt then returned after Roe v. Wade was overturned. The decision gave states the right to ban abortions for the first time since 1973. That was the case when Johnson’s mother was pregnant by rape, although women still sought illegal procedures.

“I see my mom as a hero,” Johnson said.

She said she congratulates her mother for bringing her into the world despite the circumstances.

“Everybody uses the term rape like, ‘Who’s going to want to babysit?’ Who would want to protect a baby from rape?” You know? Thank you mom, I’m thinking right now.”

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

In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin supports a 15-week abortion ban with some exceptions, including rape. Democrats, however, are adamantly against it.

“I have fought these proposals in the past and I will continue to fight these proposals and we will make sure they do not pass,” state Sen. Jennifer McClellan said shortly after the decision.

Johnson said her views on abortion are pro-life and shaped by real, tragic human life experiences. Amid heightened 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 had to be born.”

Raped Virginia woman shares story after abortion decision: 'I was meant to be born'

Photo shared with WTVR

Johnson said she will continue to help other mothers because it’s a promise she made to her own mother shortly before she died.

“Because she didn’t feel supported at the time and I wanted to show her and tell her that I’m going to help her,” Johnson said. “That’s how it happened. I told her I would.”

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