PAINTING WOMEN’S STORIES: How Hildegard Art Fellow Emma McDaniel Used Art to Communicate the Heartbreaking Reality of Abortion 

Emma McDaniel - 30 May 2024

Hildegard Art Fellow Emma McDaniel is a freshman nursing major at the University of Kentucky and a conservative activist in Kentucky and Minnesota. By using her creativity, she decided on a goal that connects an audience with the pain, healing, and redemption when a woman experiences abortion. The Hildegard fellowship also allowed her to combine two passions, painting and pro-life activism, to create a unique project. Read about her experience below!  


My project was to incorporate women’s abortion stories into an impactful and symbolic painting. Two friends and a woman bravely wanted to share their stories. Two of the women were raped and in abusive relationships, one while in high school and the other during her twenties, and the third woman was an abortion survivor and international adoptee. All of them were compassionate, courageous, and beautiful.  

Facts about abortion are crucial, but so are the stories behind them. They connect people and humanize abortion. Students don’t often think about the trauma experienced by those who’ve had an abortion or survived one, so they have no idea of how such a thing affects women’s lives. The preborn are not like band-aids you can rip off without any consequence, as the abortion industry often tells women.  

Getting to know these women and their experiences better has allowed me to share their experiences with others. Ever since Kentucky legislators are attempting to add exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities to the existing laws, I’ve had about 1,000-2,200 conversations this year regarding abortion laws. Whenever I tell individuals about my friend who is an abortion survivor, they change their tone and are a bit more understanding of my perspective. Sharing her story has also granted me opportunities to show my fellow students the emotional and mental toll abortion takes on women, which gives them a proper image to connect to rather than merely words.  

My group members were receptive to and supportive of my project, encouraging me to move along and providing additional inspiration for each piece. The goal of my project was not necessarily to create an immediate impact on my community but rather to put real stories into tasteful imagery that could cause a change in heart over time. They reacted positively when I showed my work and explained its meaning.  

I remember a husband and wife on the Central Kentucky Right to Life board during the Spring Tabling Tour my group hosted on campus. They asked me how I got involved in pro-life work and what I was up to, so I explained my project to them and why I, as a nursing student, felt so strongly about the pro-life movement. The husband’s eyes lit up, and he shook my hand, saying, “You are an amazing young lady. We need more people like you. Keep up the great work!”  

Relying on my peers to get the project going was stressful at first but also incredibly rewarding. It may have gone differently from my plan, but it rarely does, and the result was worth it. Connecting with women who have suffered tremendously and telling their stories through are was such a blessing. As a nursing major, I am used to adhering closely to rules and guidelines, but this project allowed me to freely express myself and the experiences of some of the bravest women I know. I’m highly honored to have had the privilege to do so.  

My plan for after the fellowship is to continue my studies to become a certified nurse, work at a Pregnancy Care Center (PRC), and Lord willing, open my center in the future. I also plan to continue outreach to men and women on our campus to let them know they are supported and loved no matter the circumstances in which they find themselves. I hope to keep sharing women’s stories so that others might choose to emulate their courage and spread awareness about the effects of abortion on mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Women deserve better than abortion.  

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