Actress, model and cover girl Jennifer O’Neill readily admits that the images of her that graced magazine covers throughout the 1970s and CoverGirl cosmetics’ television and magazine ads for 30 years showed a life that looked good on the outside. Inside was another story.
“I had a life full of trauma,” admits O’Neill. “I don’t know how I survived it. God had a plan for my life; he was waiting for me to turn to him. It’s been a journey of repair, renewal and revival.”
O’Neill, an evangelical Christian, recently spoke with Register writer Tim Drake from her home in Nashville, Tenn., about her pro-life work and her involvement with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and the West Coast Walk for Life, which takes place in San Francisco on Saturday.
Your life has been marred by tremendous tragedy and trauma — depression, a suicide attempt, several divorces, a horseback-riding accident and abortion. Your 1999 autobiography is titled Surviving Myself. How is it that you survived?
By the grace of God. When I came to my faith at the age of 38 and looked at my life, I had to take an honest look. That was a very scary notion. I didn’t think I was interesting at all. I was so in love with the Lord, I wanted to tell the story of how a life that looked so good on the outside wasn’t on the inside. I share that story at Glitter Girls conferences, telling people that all that glitters is not gold. I had a life full of trauma. I don’t know how I survived it. God had a plan for my life. He was waiting for me to turn to him. It’s been a journey of repair, renewal and revival.
You had an abortion at the age of 19 and have publicly spoken about the later trauma that it caused for you. Post-abortion trauma is real, isn’t it?
Post-abortive women are prone to depression, suicide, alcohol and drug problems and problems having relationships with later children. That is the truth that has to be told. When you receive grace from Christ, you can heal and become whole again. That’s when you become a billboard for truth. Forty-three percent of women who reach age 55 have had an abortion. That means if a woman hasn’t had an abortion, she knows someone who has.
Seventy-five percent of our youth are pro-life. I believe that’s because they are coming from a culture of death. One-third of their generation is missing.
Tell me about your participation in this year’s West Coast Walk for Life.
I’ve always been in Washington with Silent No More for the March for Life but have never been to the West Coast Walk for Life. Georgette Forney and Father Frank Pavone have asked me to join them in San Francisco for several years. I’m excited and looking forward to it. Last year, the West Coast Walk for Life had 50,000. I want to see it grow.
There has never been a more critical time to support the pro-life movement, protect the rights of the unborn and make known the truth about the devastating aftermath of abortion, not only for the babies, but for women and families affected by such unimaginable loss. I would implore readers to come hear the truth of people who have been there and had abortions. Even if they are on the fence, they can consider the truth about life.
What advice would you offer for a young woman in need of pregnancy help?
No. 1: I would tell them: Whatever stage of gestation they’re carrying their baby, there are people, organizations and crisis-pregnancy centers all over the place that provide support, care and ultrasounds. My biggest heroes are those who decide to give the gift of life to families waiting to adopt children. Please know this is a life, and there are those who can care for you and your child. Schedule an ultrasound, and make loving choices for yourself and your child. One step at a time, there is help for you.
Even among those who become pregnant through rape or incest, only 1% choose abortion. Most feel that violence was perpetrated against them, and they don’t want to perpetrate violence against their child.
Tim Drake is director of news operations and senior editor at the Cardinal Newman Society.