One Mother’s Journey from Abortion Absolutism to Life

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.

About Pamela Shuman Lange

Pamela Shuman Lange hails from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. A graduate of Wilson College, she has worked in development, marketing, and public relations for several liberal arts colleges and for National Review Institute. She is active in local politics and is an amateur FaceBook provocateur.

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6 responses to “One Mother’s Journey from Abortion Absolutism to Life”

  1. We all know many women and their enablers who have settled into the dead end of “abortion can’t be bad; I’m not a bad person, and I did it.” I have always suspected that among the decent but not very thoughtful majority of middle class women this is the default position. You express sympathy for them, Mrs. Lange, and God bless you for it. There are also many, many women and their husbands and brothers and fathers who have, with the help of God and friends, gotten past this default position and learned to forgive themselves and others. Yes, thank you for this beautiful essay, and especially for its charity.

  2. Heh! I made this journey too but in a much different manner.

    In the 80s, I was a self styled pro-choice Republican college guy. I took this stance mainly to build up credibility with the Liberal Monolith on campus and as a way to pick up chicks. I failed on both goals, but that’s a different story!

    Two events put me on the Pro-Life road. One during college and one shortly after graduation:

    1. One evening I went with two girls to a rally in Annapolis. While there, one of my friends got an invite to a party afterwards and all three of us went. Shortly after we got there one of the organizers came up to us, pointed at me and asked the other two, “why is he here?”. They explained I was “down with the struggle” and was nice enough to drive them down. This woman made it known my presence was not really welcome and it was her position my thoughts on the issue at hand were completely irrelevant. I noticed from body language while there the overwhelming majority of the partygoers seemed to share this sentiment and I was mostly ignored (beyond the occasional glare).

    2. About a year later I was getting ready to graduate and the issue of where/when/how Pro-Life people could exercise their 1st Amendment rights on this matter was brewing. While at the time, I wasn’t impressed with the Pro-Choice arguments (such as I knew them) I thought they should be allowed to speak up. I noticed my confederates largely did not hold this belief; in fact, most of them didn’t think Pro-Lifers should be allowed to express their thoughts at all!

    Neither of these encounters in and of themselves caused me to change sides. However, they made me suspicious. It seemed to me the Pro-Choice crowd was VERY insecure about something. I proceeded to find out what that was and discovered a whole bunch of somethings like the whole legal justification is built on a house of cards, the sheer brutality of many abortion procedures, the fact the “womens’ health” argument is at best secondary, etc., etc. etc.

    So here I am Pro-Life and much happier!

  3. I wish more Americans would read articles such as this. We should also all realize that we are here only because some woman did not choose to avoid the difficulties of labor and child-rearing by getting an abortion.

  4. The abortion rate has been declining in America. That’s good. The less, the better.

    Sadly – sad because not all things in Life are clean and simple – abortion will never be totally eliminated even if Roe v. Wade were struck down. Some (few, but some) women will still abort despite illegality; some (again: few, but some) abortions would still be medically necessary to
    preserve the health of the mother; if (that’s an IF because) abortion was allowed/legal for rape and incest victims, some (few, but still some) abortions would take place under that exception to Law.

    We’ll never get down to Zero but the rate is declining and that’s due to Millennials (roughly defined as 18 to 35 year olds), and in fewer instances, those younger than 18. Here are some reasons for the decline:

    Young folks are less sexually active than they were in past decades. Believe it or not, studies show that rates are down for high school aged children, and over 50% of those in their 20s said they hadn’t had sex in the past year.

    Advancements in birth control methods, and better compliance with those methods (including the‘Morning After Pill. And, yes, I’m aware that some –mainly staunch Catholics- would deem this to be ‘abortive’ because it prevents implantation, not conception. I, though, am not of this opinion).

    Our current generation of young people is much more apt to say that they deem abortion procedures to be “violent”. Technology and the capability for wide dissemination of ‘facts’ has brought things ‘out into the light’, so to speak. Along with that, they also see Abortion as a Moral issue.

    The current generation has a more open acceptance of unplanned children than in the past. A few reasons for that need to be understood.

    Our young men are FAR more willing to accept, love, care for, and raise another man’s child as their own than in young men in past generations. This relieves those (old) pressures on young women who in the past aborted unintended pregnancies because they knew being a single mother limited their ability marry in the future. Kudos to our young men. As more men are more accepting, more women don’t see unwed motherhood as the end of the world for them.

    As the number of children per family falls, the stress of one more child to raise lessens. For example, if the plan to have (say) two children is altered due to an unintended pregnancy, young people now are more apt to welcome the third. ‘One more’ is not the straw that breaks the camel’s back; they don’t find it impossible to make room for a third.

    Unlike Radical Feminists who came of age in the 60s and 70s (and it’s those who make the most noise… still…), our current young women/females were raised without doubting they were equal to –just as good as- men/males). They just don’t see themselves as ‘Victims’ because they are female. They don’t view unintended pregnancies as making them ‘Victims’ (and yes, I’ll say it, because
    those old tired Radical Feminists would have them believe it: Victims of MEN). And they don’t think that it’s “Unfair!” that they’re the sex that bears the children. (Radical Feminists would rather that Nature be put on trial and convicted; even defied).

    My husband and I have four daughters (29 to 35) and a son (21). In raising our daughters, when discussing sex, birth control, and choices in the event of an unplanned pregnancy, this is what I told them: as women, we bear the consequences of an unintended pregnancy FAR AND AWAY MORE HEAVILY than men do. That’s just a fact (of Nature). Of the three choices women have to make
    (abortion, adoption, keeping and raising), whichever we choose, WE will be more greatly affected; more so than our partners/husbands. Therefore, WE, as women, must take on more responsibility than they do to prevent an unplanned pregnancy; and if it happens in spite of doing our very best to prevent, we
    must take responsibility for the choice we make afterwards. We’re women, living in America, in the 20th (now 21st) Century. We aren’t ‘victims’. We are actually blessed/fortunate/lucky to be what we are when and where we are.

    The old tired same-old-same-old narrative those Old Radical Feminists are still spewing is falling on many deaf ears now. And that’s good. It’s a long road ahead I’m afraid but Millennials seem to be more the ‘future’ than Gloria and the rest of the Old Radicals out there.