CHESAPEAKE, Va. — The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade has led Virginians to speak out on all sides of the abortion debate.
With many different points of view comes a personal life story filled with challenges and triumphs and one Chesapeake woman hoped hers might spark more compassion and understanding.
Inside the office of a non-profit organization in Hampton Roads, several photos of mothers and their children hang on the walls.
“This mother right here, she was homeless,” Patti Johnson said, pointing to a photo. “This mother here, she was running away from the father. He was violent.”
Behind each family’s frame is a painful story that led them to Johnson. She founded the Shining Light Homes organization.
“I know someone needs help somewhere. They’re just everywhere,” Johnson said.
Her nonprofit organization helps secure basic needs such as transitional housing, food, and baby products for young mothers in Virginia with children between the ages of zero and two.
Johnson said most of them had no homes or support systems.
“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 daycare.”
The needs are so great that Johnson said his phone was constantly ringing with cries for help. Indeed, she answered one during an interview with CBS 6.
“She’s another mom who’s pregnant and homeless,” Johnson said after writing down a name and number in a phone call.
Johnson’s passion for giving back stems from her own personal struggles with motherhood. She became pregnant at 16, which disappointed her parents.
“They gave me three options. Get an abortion, have the baby, and go live in a bachelor home or get married,” Johnson said. “I could have aborted it, but I didn’t.”
Johnson said she got married and moved on. Soon after, she found herself in foster care, then bounced from house to house.
Johnson finally found her place and took care of the only child she would ever have.
“I would never change a thing in my life by raising him,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s decision to keep her baby was largely influenced by her own mother’s challenges.
It was around the time Johnson found out she was pregnant that she learned the truth about how she was conceived.
“My mom let me know that the dad I knew to be my dad was not my dad,” Johnson said. “And then she started telling me, you know, she was raped.”
The emotions Johnson felt at the time returned after Roe V. Wade was knocked down. The ruling gives states the power to ban abortions for the first time since 1973. It was like that when Johnson’s mother was pregnant with rape, even though women still sought out illegal procedures.
“I consider my mother a hero,” Johnson said.
She said she praised her mother for bringing her into the world despite the circumstances.
“Everyone uses the term rape like, ‘Who’s going to want to keep the baby? Who’s going to want to keep the baby from being raped?’ You know? Thanks, Mom, I’m thinking to myself right now.”
According to the CDC, three million women in the United States have experienced a rape-related pregnancy in their lifetime, but statistics on the number of women who seek abortions are limited.
In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin supports a 15-week abortion ban with a few exceptions including rape. However, Democratic lawmakers strongly oppose it.
“I have fought these proposals in the past, and I will continue to fight these proposals, and we’re going to make sure they don’t pass,” State Sen. Jennifer McClellan said shortly after the ruling.
Johnson said her views on abortion were pro-life and shaped by real, tragic human experiences. Amid charged 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 was meant to be born.”
Johnson said she would continue to help other mums as it was a promise she made to her own mother shortly before she passed away.
“Because she didn’t feel supported in her time, and I wanted to show her and let her know that I was going to help her,” Johnson said. “That’s how it went. I told him I was going to do it.