Memories of the Little Soul: Why I Cried When I Heard the US Supreme Court’s Decision on Abortion
When I thought about the 60 million children who have been aborted since 1973, I knew one of them was mine.
I cried when I heard the news about Roe v. Wade being overturned. My tears came from sheer happiness, plus the realization that the decision came on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
But I also cried for a very different reason, and I suspect I’m not alone. You see, when I thought about the 60 million children who have been aborted since 1973, I knew one of them was mine.
I took advantage of a legal abortion in my 30s, when I was faced with an unwanted pregnancy. At the time, I was a fierce feminist and atheist, who believed my rights were more important than the rights of a “clump of cells” in my body. This was in 1980, long before medical technology revealed the unborn child’s tiny movements and beating heart.
I was unmarried at the time, although I was in a stable relationship with a man I dearly loved. I was teaching ethics at a local university, and when my class explored the topic of abortion, I strongly defended the mother’s right to terminate the pregnancy for whatever reason she chose. I also sided with philosophers who said an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy was less morally problematic than in the later stages.
I had turned away from my Catholic upbringing in college, so the Church’s stance on abortion wasn’t relevant to me. I considered the unborn child part of the mother’s body, so “my body, my choice” seemed like a fair motto. Today, this stance seems absurd, since a pregnant woman’s body doesn’t have two hearts, four legs and two heads, but at the time, this was the standard feminist viewpoint.
My boyfriend and I both regarded abortion as a simple procedure that would solve our problem. We hadn’t made plans to marry at that point, and I didn’t want to pressure him into marriage due to the pregnancy. I saw the situation only from my point of view, with no concern for the baby, since it was just a “clump of cells.”
When I went to the feminist health clinic for the procedure, the doctor neglected to perform an examination to determine how far along I was. For some odd reason, the doctor accepted my estimate for the length of the pregnancy. The procedure itself was horrendous — nothing like the “simple” solution I had envisioned. There was intense physical pain, but the greatest agony came from the offhand comment by a nurse: “You were farther along than we thought.”
These words haunted me for decades, since I had drawn a line in the moral sand, which said “the earlier, the better” when it came to abortion. Oddly enough, I didn’t ask the nurse how many months pregnant I actually was because I dreaded hearing the answer. The initial relief I felt at having “solved” my problem soon gave way to a searing regret and sorrow. Whenever I spotted a baby in a department store, I had to look away. Whenever I heard a baby crying, I had a deep impulse to offer comfort. The thought that haunted me was: “That could be my baby.”
My boyfriend and I married about six months after the abortion, and we went on to have a wonderful life together for 33 years until his death in 2015. During the early years of our marriage, I was still an adamant feminist and jumped on board the “childless by choice” bandwagon, which preached a gospel of selfishness when it came to having a family. Childlessness wasn’t seen as a tragedy, but a blessing, because it offered freedom and the chance to fulfill dreams that parenthood might prevent.
By the time I returned to Catholicism and gave up my feminist ways, I was too old to have children. I continued to be haunted by memories of the “procedure” and resisted going to confession because I felt I’d committed the worst crime in the history of mankind. When I finally mustered up the courage to enter the confessional and tell the priest my story, he extended mercy and forgiveness. He reminded me of Christ’s words from the cross: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”
The priest explained I hadn’t realized I was taking a human life when I had the abortion. I felt a great burden lifted from my soul, but still had one question that was tearing me apart. “What happened to that little soul?” I asked him through my tears. “God takes care of the little souls,” he replied gently.
Now, I’m a widow who never experienced the joy of children and won’t know the happiness of having grandchildren. The feminist message brainwashed women like me into believing nothing was as important as professional accomplishments. As for me, I have a doctorate in philosophy and have written eight books, but these do nothing to comfort me during the long, lonely hours.
Would I have gone ahead with an abortion if it had been illegal? I can say with full certainty the answer is No. The fact of its legality made abortion seem like just another medical procedure that women go through. I know I wouldn’t have sought a physician to perform an illegal abortion, but instead would have done what millions of women before me did, which was welcome the little soul into the world.
Recently, there were pro-abortion demonstrators standing outside a Catholic church where my friend had just attended Mass. He made an attempt to dialogue with one of them, and she surprised him by saying, “I’ve had an abortion! What would you say to me?” He told me later his answer must have come from the Holy Spirit: “I pray that someday you will meet your child in heaven, and she will forgive you.” After all these years and so many tears, this is also my prayer.