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Lives Interrupted: Six Women and Abortion

March 21, AD2017

sad, sorrow, meditation

Every abortion is different, but the killing of a living child in its mother’s womb is never a trivial thing. The stories I’m going to tell you here are about women I’ve known personally who aborted one or more of their children. It’s time to state in public what abortion is really like from the point of view of women who actually experienced it.

(The names are changed to protect their privacy.)

Leila’s Abortion Story

The first woman I knew who had her child aborted was Leila, a twentyish Finnish-American college graduate. She was pressured into “getting rid of it” by her “old man” Harry. Harry got a hold of the address of a doctor who did illegal abortions. The time was in the early 1960s. Leila wanted to keep their baby, and she wanted to get married.

The father of her child was a bohemian-type artist from a long-time New England family, who wanted just to go on having a great time with a “groovy chick” like her. He told she was “far out,” but he never wanted to marry or support a family. At the time this sad story played out, I lived in a rented room on the same floor as Leila did in a rundown townhouse in the south end of Boston. One night I heard tears and loud arguments and the sound of things being thrown coming from her room, and then I saw Leila’s old man beating a hasty retreat down the stairs. But he would not give in. When she finally agreed to have the abortion, she was grief-stricken and angry.

Afterwards she told me this devastating news: the abortionist told her she could never have another child. She didn’t say why he said that. Perhaps he had punctured her uterus or damaged her cervix. These kinds of injuries to women are not uncommon during abortions. As one abortionist wrote in a 2016 article, anyone who does abortions who says he or she never perforated a woman’s uterus is a liar.

Afterwards, Leila broke off with Harry, and she moved, or more accurately fled, far away from him. A few years later she mailed me a photo of her holding and nursing a beautiful blond baby girl. In spite of what the abortion doctor told her, Leila was fortunately able to conceive and bear this little girl after she met a man who loved and married her. Maybe the abortionist had lied about her supposed inability to ever bear another child because she had been so sullen, angry, and protested so much. It’s hard to know.

Dovana’s Abortion Story

The second woman I also knew around the same time as Leila who had an abortion was Dovana, who was actually just a girl, a headstrong runaway about sixteen years old. Dovana had been living with a man in his twenties in a room in the townhouse next door to me. Her Catholic Lithuanian-immigrant parents brought her to an abortionist after she returned home pregnant. Dovana told me later she screamed throughout the abortion. The pain was horrid. The abortion doctor’s nurse told her to shut up, that she deserved the pain because of what she had done and because she was aborting her child. I heard later that Dovana soon got pregnant again with another man and had another child aborted before she got married in her twenties.

Lori’s Abortion Story

The third woman I encountered who aborted her child was Lori, a minister’s wife with two children. I used to jokingly call Lori a “blond bombshell” because she was so flirtatious and so unlike the stereotypical idea of a preacher’s wife. It was the mid-1960s by then. Men in her peer group played around with adultery as if it was a sport and they liked to compare scores. She wanted to be one of the players, rather than be one played upon. She had several adulterous affairs, one with the family doctor, and she always used contraceptives.

Lori found herself pregnant by the doctor, Tom. Her pregnancy happened when her husband was gone for a protracted period of time so she wasn’t able to pass the child off as her husband’s. Dr. Tom aborted their child in his medical office. When Lori fell gravely ill from an infection caused by the abortion he had performed, he stayed with her day and night until she recovered. Lori later told everyone in the family about the good doctor’s dedication in caring for her when she was deathly ill from an infection, but she told only me and my husband about the real cause of the infection or the reason why Dr. Tom went so far out of his way to make sure she didn’t die. Lori later divorced her husband, Ted, and she never married again.

Betsy’s Abortion Story

The fourth woman who aborted a baby was Betsy. I met her when we were fellow art students in a state college after I moved to northern Minnesota, near Fargo, in the mid 1970s. By the time Betsy had aborted her baby some time around 1977 and told me her story, I had moved again, to the Twin Cities.

I had returned to the Catholic faith of my childhood, and I had two children by then, so Betsy’s willingness to get rid of her child made me upset because by then I understood the grave seriousness of what she had done. Betsy and Sven had fallen into bed together, without any talk of love or marriage. Like many other woman after the sexual revolution, Betsy hid her desire for commitment because she didn’t want to scare her man away. They too had been using contraceptives at the time she conceived.

At the time Betsy found out she was pregnant, she had graduated and recently moved to St. Paul to take a job, and when she told Sven she was pregnant, he “helped her.” He didn’t want to marry her because he “lived for his art.” So he came down to the city, paid for half the cost of the abortion, went with her to the clinic, and stayed around to comfort her. Because Betsy spoke of the abortion so dispassionately, I was surprised when she told me she needed comforting. As it turned out, she had an unexpected attack of deep depression. Think of it: that scene in the 1970s of two young parents comforting each other after they paid someone to kill their child, without a shred of conscious guilt would have been unimaginable before the “sexual revolution” had turned the hearts of parents not only against their children but also against their own emotions.

Even though Betsy believed she was doing the right thing, she was shocked at her body’s reactions. Her body betrayed her by grieving, in spite of how her mind was made up, and even though she didn’t believe that the child was anything more than a clump of cells. Her breasts were tender and leaked milk. Her whole being was longing. She couldn’t stop crying for days. After she recovered enough to go back to work, Sven gave her a long hug and went back to Fargo. Later Betsy married an accountant, who told her he respected her decision to abort her baby, and I soon lost track of her.

Karen’s Abortion Story

The fifth woman I’ll tell you about, Karen, was a friend I’d met in grad school in Minneapolis. Karen was working as a teacher. She also got pregnant while using contraceptives. It was the mid 1980s, and abortion was then widely available. She was afraid of losing her husband, George, afraid he wasn’t “ready” for a baby. Karen spontaneously miscarried the child before the abortion appointment, but she decided to have the procedure to make sure her womb was empty.

Karen told me that she had been surprised how they treated the woman at the abortion clinic because she thought they would be helpful and kind, since their stated goal was to “help women in crisis pregnancies.” It was like a cattle call. All were scheduled to show up at the same time and told to get in line to pay.

Karen forgot her insurance information, and she had to wait until George went home and brought it back. She and many others had to wait for hours. When they finally got around to her, the nurses were gruff and unsympathetic about the pain she experienced. After the procedure, Karen heard other women crying from pain and sobbing from sorrow around her. She later had two more children after her husband George was “ready.”

Roseanne’s Abortion Story

One more story: this sixth woman, Roseanne, took the Pill. Roseanne believed the hype at first that the Pill was a great invention. Roseanne had grown up thinking that intimacy between men and women belonged in marriage, but now women were being told they could do it without being married and without fear of getting pregnant. The Pill would put women on an equal footing with men.

She had been convinced abortion was a good thing too. A lot of what Roseanne believed came from feminist philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, which compared a woman who expects a man to marry her in order to be intimate to a prostitute. She was also influenced by another book called, Our Bodies, Our Selves, and the pervasive “progressive” thinking of the era. These all promoted what she later came to see as a skewed idea of women’s freedom, which actually degraded women and denied them the full expression of their built-in sexual nature.

While she was away from the Catholic Church, Roseanne saw and experienced for herself that the new immorality was worse for women than the old, supposedly oppressive, morality. Women were now expected to free themselves by the extreme measure of suppressing their fertility and their emotions. Men were brazenly using women, and in the circles she ran in, women usually did want to get married and have children, but the men didn’t.

Roseanne eventually returned to the Catholic faith of her childhood, partly because she saw that living by the world’s values was so hurtful and so destructive to her and to everyone around her. She came to see that God’s laws were protections instead of restrictions. She greatly repented her enthusiasms for the sinful ideals of her youth.

Roseanne was relieved she herself had not had an abortion, because if she had gotten pregnant before she met the man she married, she would probably have aborted her child, and then she would have had that also to regret for the rest of her life. Then she found to her sorrow that she had actually probably had abortions, maybe several of them, without knowing it, because she had been taking the Pill.

How the Pill Causes Abortions

Doctors had originally released the Pill without knowing how it worked. They knew the hormones in the Pill suppressed ovulation. Eventually, they figured out that in a certain percent of cycles, an egg would be released anyway. Sometimes that egg would become fertilized.

That’s when the Pill and other hormone-based contraception kick in to terminate the pregnancy. The Pill thins the lining of the womb, making it inhospitable, so the fertilized egg is not going to be able to attach itself to his or her mother’s womb, and it will die for lack of nourishment. That’s why the Pill is an abortifacient.

Common Themes

Did you notice any common themes in these stories? Most of the women in these stories wanted married love and children, but the man did not. Most of the women felt degraded by the abortion experience, and several reported serious pain.

Another common theme: Most of these women had been regularly using contraception when they got pregnant. Planned Parenthood statistics and other studies show that more than 50% of the women who get an abortion were using contraception regularly when they conceived. Tell that to people who claim if we want to stop abortions we need to make more contraceptives available.

Almost every woman of childbearing age who is “sexually active” is using contraception, so how come women are still getting pregnant when they don’t want to be? Because contraception predictably fails even when used as directed.

“In fact, 3 out of 10 women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.”—Planned Parenthood. This is a horrifying statistic.

What Is the Answer?

More contraception isn’t the answer. A radical return to reality is, by which I mean a return to the way of life followed by Christians before 1930, when the Anglican Lambeth Conference tentatively approved contraception for a husband and wife, but only when they had “grave” reasons. It didn’t take long for this exception for hard cases became the norm for almost everyone, married or not.

Only the Catholic Church stood fast against the evil of contraception, which has opened the gates for a flood of many other evils. This evil practice changed how men treat women and how women see themselves and the children that are the fruit of their wombs. In the contracepting and fornicating way of life, the conception of a child is a cause for shame and fear and self-loathing, because women often feel that they are going to be blamed and abandoned.

Pope Paul VI’s Predictions

An unthinkable change has also happened in our thinking, and the safe haven of the mother’s womb became a killing field. Read the prophetic predictions Pope Paul VI wrote about the consequences of contraception in Humanae Vitae and weep.

Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Pope Paul VI might well have added this prophecy:

If people begin to put their trust in contraception so they believe they can separate the marital act from the creation of offspring, what will they do when contraception fails? Will they not then seek to rid themselves of the shame, inconvenience, and expense of the child they thought they could prevent, by then committing the great sin of abortion? Could it be possible that millions of unwanted children will come to be routinely killed in their mothers’ wombs, and that societies could begin to celebrate this kind of murder as if it was a positive good instead of a crime that calls out to God?

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Roseanne T. Sullivan is a writer from the Boston area who currently lives in San Jose, CA. Sullivan studied art, journalism, fiction, and poetry writing while completing a B.A. in Studio Arts and English and an M.A. with creative writing emphasis at the University of Minnesota. She has a deep interest in sacred music, sacred art, and liturgy. Many of her writings and photographs have appeared in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, New Liturgical Movement, Dappled Things Deep Down Things Blog, Latin Mass Magazine, Regina Magazine, National Catholic Register, and other publications. Her own intermittently updated blog, Catholic Pundit Wannabe, is at http://catholicpunditwannabe.blogspot.com.

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