Missing Millions: Millennials and Gen Z Recognize Peers Died Due to Abortion’s Staggering Toll

Young people grapple with Roe’s negative effects and ‘unseen wound,’ as pro-lifers look toward a brighter future of greater respect for the dignity of women and babies.

Students from Harvard University's pro life group, Harvard Right to Life, gathered in Harvard Yard March 4 in order to show the university that there are pro-life voices on campus.
Students from Harvard University's pro life group, Harvard Right to Life, gathered in Harvard Yard March 4 in order to show the university that there are pro-life voices on campus. (photo: Joe Bukuras / CNA)

Norvilia Etienne didn’t think much about abortion until she learned at age 16 that she was nearly aborted.

When Etienne’s father revealed that he had refused to give her mother funds for an abortion, she had to face the reality of abortion — and as time went on, she began considering its moral implication. 

Now 26 and a passionate defender of the unborn, Etienne is still thinking about those issues while she trains other young pro-life leaders for Students for Life, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pro-life youth organization.

“There was definitely a process of becoming aware of [abortion] and then becoming aware of the fact that it’s wrong,” said Etienne, who lives in Fredericksburg. “And if it was wrong for me to be killed in the womb, then it’s wrong for any other human being to be killed in the womb.”

Norvilia Etienne and her fiancé Timothy Cain, both age 26
Norvilia Etienne and her fiancé, Timothy Cain, both 26, are part of the pro-life generation. | Courtesy of Norvilia Etienne

Millennials such as Etienne are becoming aware of abortion’s effects — past and present — while many in the younger Generation Z are still waking up to the staggering impact. Whether they’re aware of it or not, both generations have lost the most members to abortion since its legalization in 1973. With the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Roe v. Wade is now overturned, and abortion regulation has returned to the states. 

Of the estimated 63 million babies lost to abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, 24.5 million were millennials, and 26 million belonged to Gen Z, according to recent data reported by the pro-life group Live Action. Between 1973 and 1980, Generation X lost more than 8.7 million lives, the findings state. 

Gen X as a group is defined as those born between 1965 and 1980, with millennials born between 1981 and 1996, and Gen Zers born between 1997 and 2012.

Other consequences of legalized abortion during the Roe era may be still unknown, but the younger generations are also dealing with abortion in their family history along with changes in society and technology that are affecting them now in their own childbearing years. 

“We’re just beginning to see all that Roe has wrought these past 50 years,” said Catherine Hadro, EWTN news contributor and Catholic speaker and writer, who is founding host of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. “We have a lot of work to be done when it comes to undoing that damage and undoing the lies that women have been told.”

As some millennials and Gen Zers such as Etienne discover they might have been aborted, others are discovering that one or more of their siblings or relatives were lost to abortion. 

“All we can see is what’s seen, but we can’t see that unseen damage that is done by so many of our peers being lost, so many potential spouses, doctors, saints, but even just friends,” Hadro said. “That is the unseen wound.” 

The idea of lost cohort members is hitting millennials right now more than Gen Z, but eventually the younger generation will become aware of it, said Carole Novielli, research fellow and contributor to Live Action News.

“I think that reality is going to hit the next generation, as well. The media drowns it out. It drowns out the whole volume of loss that’s happening.”

The lives lost to abortion are a contributing factor in the U.S.’s low fertility rate, which is especially a problem in the Black community, said Rev. Walter Hoye II, founder and president of the Union City, California-based Issues4Life Foundation. 

“The impact of abortion has been so great, whether you’re white, Black — wherever you come from, it has been so great that in some countries they can no longer come back, and in Black America we are knocking on the door” of the aftermath of such dire consequences.

While Blacks comprise about 14% of the U.S. population, they account for more than 38% of total U.S. abortions in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Black birth rate is below the point where the population replaces itself, Hoye said, adding, “It’s going to take us a while to get back up to being above the replacement level.”  

The availability of abortion has meant that having one isn’t viewed as that unusual for some Black young people, although many suffer afterward, Hoye said. Sometimes when young women receive little support for having their baby from the baby’s father or their friends, they don’t feel they have a choice, Hoye said, adding that getting the abortion changes them — for the worse.

The strongest voice in Black America, that of the Black Church represented by the Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC), overall does not oppose abortion, though some individual churches do, he said. The CNBC represents more than 80% of African American Christians in the U.S.

Younger generations have grown up with the idea that abortion is constitutionally protected, said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life. “For many people, what is legal is seen as ethical,” she said.  

In addition to the devastating loss of life, the disinformation and confusion caused by promoting both abortion and the right to an abortion as positives for women have had a damaging impact on society, she said. 

Societal acceptance of abortion and contraception mean women’s bodies are expected to operate like men’s, Hadro said.

“My generation of millennials and those younger than us, we live in a society that largely does not support women’s health and fertility,” said Hadro, 31. “So many women are not fluent with their own bodies and knowing the signs of their fertility health because we long have treated our fertility and our body like a burden.”  

Positively, Hadro said she has noticed that as millennials start to have children and see images of their unborn children through advances in ultrasound technology, some are having a change of heart.  

Ultrasound technology is especially impacting millennials now, Novielli agreed. “I definitely think that the technology and the reinforcement that this is a child, whether it impacts a woman immediately after an abortion or sometime in the future, she’s going to know.”

Medication abortions, which make up 54% of all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the former research arm of Planned Parenthood, and their greater prevalence may be helping to change millennial and Gen Z attitudes, Novielli said. Medical abortions require that women be more involved in the process, including disposing of their child’s remains, she said.  

At the same time, Gen Zers typically have more family members who have experienced abortion than millennials, Novielli said. “They’re much more political, and they’re ramping up pro-abortion media. These heavily saturated pro-abortion messages and all these institutions they’re involved with are, sadly, creating a situation where they tend to be more pro-abortion.” 

But when Gen Zers do have a change of heart, they will bring that zeal to be political to the pro-life movement, Novielli said. 

Social justice is important to younger pro-lifers, as well, in part because they grew up seeing ultrasound pictures of family members and others, Mancini said.  

“They have a sense that social justice begins in the womb, and they see that abortion is the human-rights abuse of today.”

One of the most recent ways millennials, Gen Zers and other Americans may be impacted by abortion as its availability is no longer guaranteed in all states is in ordering their sex lives more mindfully, since they no longer can do what they want without consequences, said Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Lake Charles, Louisiana.-based Ruth Institute, a global interfaith coalition defending the family, and frequent Register contributor. 

“What we’ve done in the past can’t be undone,” Morse said referring to the millions of innocent lives lost to abortion. “But what the Post-Roe future offers is a more humane attitude towards babies and towards reproduction.”