My journey from a pro-abortion college student to a pro-life young mother was slow in coming. I didn’t have a eureka moment but instead had small moments that I describe now as moments of grace.
In January 1973, I was a junior in college. Someone—perhaps our professor—came into the room on Monday morning, January 22, and told us that Sally’s father had just written the majority opinion in an historic Supreme Court decision that nullified abortion laws in all 50 states. In essence, abortion was now “legal.” Sally was Sally Blackmun Funk—the daughter of Harry Blackmun. We were both history majors. I was, obviously, quite excited, not only because I believed abortion was my right, but because I was close to the man who had finally acknowledged that right, for me and for all women.
I know that at that stage of my life, before marriage and before I was ready, I would certainly have availed myself of a legal abortion should I have needed it. I never did, but if I had, I often think about how I feel now, as a loving mother and grandmother? How would I deal with the knowledge of that lost child?
A few years after Roe, I argued angrily with my mother when she told me my best friend from high school had gotten pregnant and was going to marry her boyfriend. She said, “Well, at least she didn’t have an abortion.” That made me furious. I can still see myself, standing in her kitchen, losing my mind over that simple sentence. She was quiet and smiled at me, which made me even angrier. Then, after I stopped ranting, she looked at me lovingly and said, “I know you aren’t angry at me, honey. I know you’re angry at the conflict you’re feeling. Someday you’ll understand that.”
The second moment was the day I discovered that I was pregnant with our first child. My husband was out of town and I didn’t want to tell anyone until he came home so he could be the first to know. I left the house that morning after having taken the test (remember when they took half an hour?) and as I drove out onto the main road from our subdivision, I thought about the other drivers—“Please be careful! I have my baby here!” It was a stunning feeling; and an amazing realization that those “clumps of cells” in reality were my child. A child I had an obligation to protect.
A few years later, I was ironing, and my toddler was roaming around as Oprah was on. She had Molly Yard as a guest that day—that old crank from the now defunct National Organization for Women—to talk about China’s one child policy. Oprah asked her if she would challenge China on women’s choices. The obvious answer should have been yes. A woman’s choice is a woman’s choice! But she demurred. She defended China. It was stunning for me to realize that in the final analysis the leaders of this movement did not care about choice after all. It wasn’t about choice for them; it was about control. And then the scales finally fell from my eyes.
I began reading and talking, tentatively at first, to my pro-abortion friends—some of whom whispered to me that they, too, were very conflicted. They encouraged me to teach myself what this was really all about.
In attempting to come to grips with my ambivalence and confusion, I read a lot. I ran across an article written in 1976. The article, from Esquire magazine, was written by a surgeon who asked a colleague who performed abortions, if he could observe. Frederica Mathewes-Green recounted it in a recent piece for National Review Online:
He described seeing the patient, 19 weeks pregnant, lying on her back on the table. (That is unusually late; most abortions are done by the tenth or twelfth week.) The doctor performing the procedure inserted a syringe into the woman’s abdomen and injected her womb with a prostaglandin solution, which would bring on contractions and cause a miscarriage. (This method isn’t used anymore, because too often the baby survived the procedure—chemically burned and disfigured, but clinging to life. Newer methods, including those called “partial birth abortion” and “dismemberment abortion,” more reliably ensure death.)
After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright on her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, “I see something other than what I expected here. . . . It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.”
He realized he was seeing the fetus’s desperate fight for life. And as he watched, he saw the movement of the syringe slow down and then stop. The child was dead. Whatever else an unborn child does not have, he has one thing: a will to live. He will fight to defend his life.
The last words in Selzer’s essay are, “Whatever else is said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense [i.e., of the child defending its life] will not vanish from my eyes. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?”
I cried after I read that old Esquire article. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Like the surgeon, I could never think about abortion in the same way. I couldn’t go back. I had been forced to witness reality and could never pretend I hadn’t.
I know that having had those moments detailed above, if I had had an abortion, I would have had a crisis. I would have had to make a terrible choice. I would have had to renounce my own decision and accept that I had killed my son’s sister or brother; my boyfriend’s child, and his parents’ grandchild. I don’t honestly know if I could have allowed myself to even think about it, let alone acknowledge that. I would hope that I could have dealt with it, but I’m pretty sure I would have closed off any possibility of honesty with myself. I would have dug in my heels. I would have ignored reality. I would have hated anyone who made me think that what I had done was sinful and/or evil. I would have screamed at anyone who suggested that abortion was anything other than my right, just as I had screamed at my mother. I would have lived with that anger all my life, trying vainly to justify what I had done.
This is the main reason my heart really does go out to many of those women who marched last weekend, ostensibly denouncing Donald Trump. Make no mistake, although that march was sponsored by the global Left (which cares nothing for women’s rights or they wouldn’t have partnered with an Islamist who believes sharia law should reign in America), for many, women’s issues means abortion. I know in my bones that agony and pain are buried deep in far too many of these women who claim abortion as the ultimate right and the ditch in which they are willing to die in order to protect it.
Abortion, Inc., led by Planned Parenthood, and the Democratic Party have a material stake in profit motive driving them to force our culture to ignore the real needs of women. We have studiously avoided offering women a real choice when confronted with an unwanted pregnancy. Planned Parenthood and Democrat office holders and lawyers have spared no expense in shutting down crisis pregnancy centers that offer an alternative to abortion. The reason they refuse to allow for any regulation in abortion law is because they understand the consequences of any allowance for the rights of the unborn child—even up until her ninth month in the womb. And the inevitable result of their amazing selfishness is that women suffer. Women aren’t permitted to regret their abortions, they aren’t allowed to question the culture that proclaims they must not view abortion as anything but the source of women’s empowerment. It’s a shameful and horrifying thing we do to women—generations of them since 1973.
What I saw at last weekend’s march was pain. So much pain. Our fathers who fought in World War II never talked about it. There are some things that are just too hard. Our modern age tells us that talk, talk, talk is important to get past tragic and horrifying memories. But we assiduously maintain that women must not talk about their pain, their questions, their private but very real horrors following their abortions. We deny them their reality.
Our hearts should break for those who are living in silent desolation or denial. I am eternally grateful I never had to deal with that, but fervently wish that I could reach out and help anyone who is suffering and convince her that forgiveness and peace is possible. Because it is. Being pro-life isn’t just about saving children—it is about that, but it’s also about affirming the true reality of women’s lives, hopes, dreams and peace of mind.