Toni Braxton reveals in her new memoir, Unbreak My Heart, that she got an abortion in her early 30s after discovering she was pregnant with then-boyfriend Keri Lewis. She says she was on the prescription acne medication Accutane at the time, which can cause birth defects including brain, heart, and face deformities. Braxton, whose parents were both Christian pastors, writes, "I knew I’d taken a life … I believed God's payback was to give my son autism."
I was suddenly faced with a choice I'd never thought I'd have to make. Amid my major misgivings about abortion, I eventually made the gut-wrenching decision … In my heart, I believed I had taken a life — an action that I thought God might one day punish me for. … My initial rage was quickly followed by another strong emotion: guilt.
Her son Diezel, now 11 years old, was diagnosed with autism in 2006.
Later in the memoir Braxton suggests that vaccines may have factored in to Diezel's autism diagnosis, writing, "Maybe it's just a coincidence that after my son's first MMR vaccine, I began to notice changes in him."
There's a lot going on here: it seems Braxton's guilt over her abortion has compounded with her struggles to find reasons why her son was diagnosed. Because there is no single known cause for autism, and because its incidence among young children is rising, parents often have trouble making sense of a diagnosis. Jenny McCarthy has famously blamed vaccines for her son's autism, leading to a rise of misguided anti-vax parents (former Laguna Beach star Kristin Cavallari is one of them). To be clear: the medical community has reached a consensus that vaccines do not cause autism.
Whether God punished Braxton for her abortion depends on how strictly you adhere to the Old Testament, I guess. If anything, Braxton's story serves as a reminder of how serious a drug Accutane is — women prescribed it agree to have monthly "pregnancy avoidance counseling" sessions with their doctors and use two forms of birth control or abstain from sex during the entire course of the medication.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.