Regrets — everyone has them and one of the true indicators of a person’s character is how well he or she can learn from his or her mistakes, failures and errors and move forward to a productive and meaningful life.
A person may be defined by his or her regrets, being ever-crushed under the magnitude of those errors, or one can, with God’s grace, use those experiences to be a blessing to others. One lady who has done just that is Georgette Forney.
Finding herself pregnant as a 16-year-old high-school junior in Michigan, Mrs. Forney made an all-too common decision — she had an abortion and afterwards went to her sister’s house to spend the night so that her mother wouldn’t know what she’d done. She woke up the next day and said, “Yesterday never happened.” For 19 years she continued that denial until randomly looking through the high school yearbook that she’d come across while cleaning house.
“Instead of the book, I literally felt my child in my arms, I could feel her shoulders and her little bum, and I had never in 19 years acknowledged that she existed,” Mrs. Forney related. “It was in meeting her that I realized that I’d missed out on being the parent to a really great kid. I had missed out on so much and I had denied the truth of it. That experience began a three-year period of healing and reappraisal of her life view that turned her into a reluctant but enthusiastic advocate for the sanctity of human life.
In 1998 she was appointed as the fifth executive director of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life Research and Education Foundation (NOEL), which was founded in 1966 as Episcopalians for Life by the Rt. Rev. Joseph M. Harte, then bishop of Arizona, to educate Episcopalians on the sanctity of life. NOEL had sought to educate the church through publications, ministry to women in unplanned pregnancies and the introduction of pro-life resolutions at General Conventions of The Episcopal Church. Largely through the efforts of NOEL, the 69th General Convention in 1988 passed a resolution declaring, “All human life is sacred. Hence it is sacred from its inception until death,” and calling for church programs to assist women with problem pregnancies and to emphasize the seriousness of the abortion decision.
Just six years later, however, that course was reversed and The Episcopal Church became the first member of the worldwide Anglican Communion fully to support legal abortion when it approved a resolution at its 71st General Convention expressing its unequivocal opposition to any action that would “abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of her pregnancy, or that would limit the access of a woman to a safe means of acting upon her decision”; and in 1997 a resolution that, while expressing grave concerns about partial-birth abortion “except in extreme situations,” did not condemn the practice.
This was the milieu in which Georgette Forney took over the reigns of NOEL, and since that time she has worked tirelessly in keeping the sacredness of human life before the church at large through speaking, writing, producing educational resources and relating her message across the country and around the world. In light of the realignment taking place in American Anglicanism, NOEL expanded its reach beyond the boundaries of The Episcopal Church and recognized that reality in 2007 when it changed its name to Anglicans for Life. When the Anglican Church in North America was formed in 2009, the sanctity of human life was literally written into the canons of the new church (the Reformed Episcopal Church, the oldest of the bodies forming the ACNA, had been pro-life since 1990).
At its 222nd Annual Convention in March, the first since the events that led to its departure from The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of South Carolina unanimously approved Anglicans for Life’s Declaration of Life Statement. Anglicans for Life has also continued to witness to the sanctity of human life among those remaining in The Episcopal Church; in addition, and in keeping with the organization’s commitment to the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, they are developing resources dealing with decisions related to end-of-life issues.
Mrs. Forney’s work has been ecumenical as well. In 2003 she, along with Janet Morana, the executive director of Priests for Life, founded the Silent No More Awareness Campaign as a women’s response to abortion. Since that time more than 5,500 women have shared their testimonies of how abortion affected their lives; among the women who have joined them are actress and former model Jennifer O’Neill and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. A number of men have also stepped forward to express their regret at lost fatherhood.
By God’s grace Georgette Forney found forgiveness, healing and restoration through her work with Anglicans for Life and Silent No More, and that healing has borne much fruit.