In a recent New York Times opinion piece called "My Mother's Abortion," Beth Matusoff Merfish tells of her experience sitting with her mother in the gallery of the Texas State Senate while Democratic senator Wendy Davis filibustered the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. In 1972 as a college student, Merfish's mother crossed state lines to find a place to have a legal abortion. She went on to build a career as an abortion rights activist. Merfish writes to applaud her mother's actions and to encourage other women to put a face on abortion by coming forward with their abortion experiences.
Just a few days after Merfish sat in that senate gallery with her mother, "yell[ing] in indignation" as Republicans sought to end the filibuster and bring the bill to a vote, I sat quietly in a conference room at the Dallas-Fort Worth Hyatt Regency with my mother. She was about to share the details of her abortion experience to an audience at the National Right to Life Convention.
Like Merfish's mother, my mother had her abortion in 1972. She was living in New York City for the summer and was preparing to begin her junior year at Harvard when she became pregnant. Abortion was already legal in New York, and advertisements promoting the new right seemed to be everywhere. Abortion looked like a straightforward solution to her problem--a way to turn back the clock.
"At age 20," my mother said, "I had no inkling of the mental and emotional darkness I was about to enter. I couldn't have grasped the immense psychological toll abortion would take for years into the future--unrelenting tears, guilt, shame, and depression." While taking full responsibility for her decision to have an abortion, my mother believes she was led to what she calls her "tragic, irreversible decision" by a series of lies and distortions: distortions about fetal development, doublespeak about choice and rights, and glorification of "planned" and "wanted" children.
As my mother told the audience that day, she did not begin to heal until she understood the reality and victimhood of her aborted child. She realized that whatever hardship the baby might have caused her, it could not compare to the pain she was suffering in the wake of abortion. As long as she rationalized her choice with the notion that having a baby would have ruined her life, her secret grief festered. But one bright afternoon at her kitchen table, a moment of realization came full force. There was no moral basis for her abortion. Her so-called choice had ended the life of an innocent human being who was her own child. When she embraced these difficult truths, she was finally able to acknowledge her grief, find the peace she longed for, and begin the healing process.
Much like Merfish, I spent years actively involved with the abortion issue without realizing the toll that abortion had taken on my own family and life. When I was young, my parents ran a pro-life organization that lobbied the Southern Baptist Convention to take a pro-life stance. Our message was clear: Every unborn child is an innately valuable human person bearing the image of God. But worried that confessing her own mistakes might have the perverse effect of making me more likely to repeat them, my mother waited to tell me until I was in my early 20s. I did not know as a young child stuffing envelopes with pro-life literature or distributing pro-life voting guides before an election day that among the millions of lives lost to abortion was my own half-sibling. And I did not know on the days my mother would lie in bed crying for hours that she was grieving for her aborted child.