Karen Allen Campbell's story

I was conceived in incest, and I deserve lifeno exceptions!

All of my life, I had sensed that my own birth story held a secret.

There was never a day that didn’t know I was adopted. My wonderful parents had always been very open with me, assuring me that I was God’s gift to them, giving me what little non-identifying information they had from Crittenton Home in Peoria, Illinois. My birthmother was 14, there was no mother in the home, there were four younger half-siblings, and she had been a ward of the court. In my mind, I had imagined all sorts of romantic scenarios, but as I grew older and considered the circumstances, I wondered if my mother had been the victim of rape or incest.

When the State of Illinois allowed adoptees to have their original birth certificates, I ordered mine but was very disappointed to learn that my birthmother’s name had been omitted from the record, something I later learned was very common when births occurred at private maternity homes during the 1950s. The only new information the certificate revealed was that my birthmother had been born in Illinois and that I had been given the last name of Gilmore. Jokingly, I announced to my family, “Well, it looks like all we know is that I’m a Gilmore Girl!”

A couple years went by and I had not pursued any search. My mom was suffering from dementia and living in our home so I didn’t really feel the freedom to initiate any adoption search. A few months after she passed away, another adoptee shared with me that I could use the US Census records from 1940 to find more information if I was interested and she showed me how to access it online.

Amazingly, only a few days later, I had enough information to identify my birthmother, who had already passed away. I was able to contact her family, most who didn’t even know I existed! Among those who knew was one who held the long-suspected secret. I had, indeed, been conceived in both rape and incest, my birthmother’s 55 year old step-father being my biological father. The family shared pictures with me, ones of both my birthparents looking remarkably like my own children and grandchildren! Staring at pictures of my birthmother is like staring into my own eyes!

Many people have asked me how I have been able to accept the truth about my conception and my response is that I can so clearly see God’s amazing plan for my own life through it all. You see, my birthmother went on to marry and had three more children. The first two had cystic fibrosis and died in early childhood; the third had drowned in a horrible boating accident when only seven. But God, in His sovereignty, chose to preserve my life, give me Christian parents, a wonderful husband, six children, and 14 grandchildren! What another had meant for evil, God meant for good!

Just recently, I was allowed to peek inside the cedar chest my birthmother had kept under the eaves in her attic. It was full of so many treasures: baby clothes worn by my siblings, their tiny hospital bracelets, a few toys, pictures taken on past Christmases, and baptismal certificates. At the bottom of the trunk in an old yellowed envelope was a single picture of a young girl, her round tummy just beginning to show a pregnancy, the date on the back matching the day my birthmother was taken to Crittenton Home. It was her only picture of me!

After nearly five decades, the debate over abortion continues in this country and yet many people haven’t grasped the truth that all human beings are created in the image of God. That is reason enough to protect all unborn children, no matter what the circumstances were surrounding their conception! I am so very thankful that abortion was not legal when I was conceived in 1953 because surely so many, including those who call themselves “reasonably pro-life” would have called for my execution. Please look into my face and into the faces of my family and say this is right! I don’t think you can!

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Karen Allen Campbell's story
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