One day when I was in third grade, my mom and dad asked me to sit down for a talk. They began by saying that since I was very little, my parents always found me sleeping curled tightly in the fetal position, buried in the covers and always to one side of the bed. I had a recurring nightmare of being trapped in a room with a window blocked by a knife, and they said they often found me talking to my “other self.” My mom said she though these were signs telling her to confess something she had done and hoped I would forgive her.

She told me how, at 39, with her 5 children grown, (the youngest was 19 years old and two were in college), she had found herself pregnant. She had been pressured especially by a particular friend to abort because she was too old and it would be “ridiculous” at her age, to have a baby. This was 1952, and her friend told her a self abortion method. She delayed her abortion attempt until the end of June, her eldest son Elliott’s, birthday. She was about 3 months pregnant.

She started to cry and told me never to believe them when they tell you it is not a baby, but just a blob of tissue. Tracing a tiny outline in the palm of her hand, she said “he was this big and a fully formed baby.” She could hardly continue. “He was a perfect little baby boy.” She cried to heaven on that cold bathroom floor and asked God to forgive her and promised Him if she were ever to become pregnant again, she would NEVER abort a baby. She flushed her little son down the toilet and said she lay on the cold floor crying until she was numb.

No one knew, except her and her so called “friend.” Later, she still felt pregnant. The doctor said that I was probably a tumor or an ulcer. And the first part of September, I kicked her! The doctor was amazed that I had been a hiding twin and survived the abortion attempt. She told no one of her pregnancy except my dad, and later, my youngest brother, 19 year old Fred, who I kicked.

I was due January 21, 1953, however, I was induced one month early on December 19, 1952, and after 3 days of labor, I was born at the Hour of Mercy, 3:30 P.M., Sunday, December 21, 1952. She asked me to forgive her. I asked if she loved me NOW because she did not know me then. She sobbed and sobbed and said, “Yes. I love you with my very life.” I said, “Ok,” and walking back down the hall to my room I could still hear her heartbreaking sobs. When my dad hurried and caught my arm, he whispered, “I did not do it.” And pointing to Mom, he said, “She did!” And I believe the Holy Spirit said this to him through me: “But your love was supposed to make her feel safe to have me.” Those words hit his heart and stopped him from coming any further. (Note: I never slept curled up or had nightmares after this day.)

Years came and went. My mom’s “illness” without a name was cyclical and caused her to take to her bed from the end of June to the beginning of September. Sometimes she flew into rages, or walked the floors night after night, or went on buying binges. She suffered from paranoia, and gobbled down her doctor’s pills. This led to stays in mental hospitals, filled with psychotropic drugs and painful electroshock therapy. Part of the therapy was to tell her it was shame abortion was not legal then, because she could have gone to college, had a career…and not wasted her talents. I remember when I looked deeply into her drugged eyes and told her one summer day, “I know my mom is in there somewhere and some day when I grow up, I am going to find out what this illness is!” We all suffered. Around me I saw other moms with similar problems and obsessions. Now we were living in the days of Roe v. Wade. Imagine the scope of my mom’s pain from just one abortion attempt, and now women have multiple abortions! Three months before my mom died, I asked her why all the breakdowns June through September every year. Why? she broke down in tears and said it was on Elliott’s birthday (the end of June) that she aborted my brother and when Elliott had died tragically at age 27, she felt she had caused the death of her first born son when she aborted her last son. By September she remembered the day I kicked her and how happy she was, and that would bring her out of her moods. She could not trust herself and hated herself for aborting her baby! How could God forgive her? It was a form of self punishment for a crime she felt she could not be forgiven. I told her that is why Jesus died and that God forgave her when she found out that she was still pregnant with me. He trusted her to give me life. She never saw this until the day I told her. Three months later she died, but at peace, and forgiven.

Then and now, silence from the pulpit, the medical and psychiatric communities keep this killing cycle going. Now we have a name for the “illness.” It is post-abortion syndrome. But physicians and women’s (so called “rights groups”) do not even recognize it. How many suffer in silence, looking for help. Yet, we live in an age where Project Rachel groups, St. Raphael Ministries retreats, and pro life organizations are breaking through the silence barrier and helping all the victims of abortion to find healing through the cross of Jesus and the life giving sacraments, especially Reconciliation.

I can remain silent no more. I was a survivor of abortion. Life is never a mistake; life is always a blessing from God. Every single person has a divine mission that only they can fulfill.

The Bible says, “…and a child shall lead them.” It is the worst of times because of great sin, but it is the best of times because of an abundance of God’s grace. Love is a decision. Let us decide to be silent no more.


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Sharon’s Story

Sharon and her husband were a Christian couple who were using an IUD for contraception. When their IUD failed, they were faced with a grim choice.

The general belief was that if a woman became pregnant while wearing an IUD,a miscarriage was a certainty. Not only that, but the miscarriage would cause a massive infection which would lead to a hysterectomy and possible death. Reluctantly, Sharon went in for an abortion.

Here is what she says about the clinic:

“When we arrived, it was an awful place. They had hard rock music playing, huge flowers on the wallpaper, and I was treated like a bad little girl. We were herded in like cattle, vacuumed out and sent to a recovery room.”

Thinking she was no longer pregnant, Sharon went through three packs of birth control pills over the next few months. She “rode Space Mountain at Disney World, took diet pills prescribed by my doctor, took antihistamines for my allergies and moved into a new home.”

Then she felt her baby move.

She goes on to describe the rest of her pregnancy:

“The next four and a half months were hell. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t sleep. All I could do was worry about the condition of this child that I had tried to kill. I will tell you at this point that the abortion clinic would not talk to us at all. They would not tell me if they had taken a fetus or if they just missed.”

Her son was born healthy. For twenty years, Sharon and her husband kept their story a secret. Then she sought healing through a ministry.

For Sharon’s complete story, and to read more about post-abortion support from a Christian perspective, go to the Safe Haven Home page.

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Phoenix Doe

An unnamed 17-year-old girl went to Moshe Hachamovitch’s A – Z abortion facility in Arizona, seeking a late second-trimester abortion. She was self-referred after a positive home pregnancy test. The date was June 29, 1998.

Dr. John Biskind diagnosed the girl as being 23.6 weeks pregnant based on an ultrasound. The following day, June 30, he began trying to remove the fetus.

The Associated Press story leaves it unclear whether Biskind noticed his mistake and chose to deliver the baby live, or whether she simply came out whole and breathing. Either way, she turned out to be very much alive, not dead as intended despite the fractured skull and two deep facial lacerations she had suffered during the attempt on her life.

Local pro-lifers dubbed the baby “Phoenix”.

After her unintended birth, Phoenix was transferred to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. She weighed in at 6 pounds, two ounces. She was actually closer to full term — 37 weeks of gestation. Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Torres told the Associated Press that a Texas couple were to adopt her.

Dr. John Mattox of Good Samaritan told the AP that given the differences in size lie of fetuses of 23 weeks and 37 weeks, the mistake ought not to have happened. Dr. Carolyn Gerster of Arizona Right to Life noted that a 24 week fetus typically weighs only about 2 pounds, a third the size of Phoenix. She said, “With an ultrasound, there shouldn’t be that kind of discrepancy.” Even abortionist Dr. Brian Finkel agreed, saying that “Missing a 37-week gestation and confusing it with a 23-week pregnancy is unacceptable.”

The AP reported that Biskind had gotten letters of concern from the medical board in 1989 for misdiagnosis and in 1990 for improper prescribing. He was censured in 1996 for “gross neglect/conduct harmful to patients or the public.”

What the AP failed to report was that 1990 letter of concern was for attempting to abort a term-infant he had diagnosed as only 10 weeks of gestation, and he was censured again in 1995 due to the death of an abortion patient, Lisa Bardsley.

Biskind’s license was finally revoked in 1998, in the wake of his conviction in the death of Lou Ann Herron. Evidently the medical board doesn’t consider you a threat to the public as an abortionist until you’re convicted of manslaughter.

The clinic where Baby Phoenix was almost killed was owned by abortionist Moshe Hachamovitch, who was implicated in the abortion deaths of Christina Goesswein, Tanya Williamson, Luz Rodriguez, and Jammie Garcia.

A – Z was finally closed July 21, 1998, after its lease was revoked by the landlord and a judge ordered the release of records to a grand jury investigating “possible criminal activity,” NRL News cites from the Arizona Republic. Hachamovitch reportedly also closed his two other Phoenix-area facilities.

Sources: “Infant Injured In Abort Attempt”, Associated Press, 1998; “Full-Term Baby Survives Abortion Attempt”, National Right to Life News, 1998

Credit: Christina Dunigan

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Amy Charlton

In September of 1975, a woman discovered that she was pregnant. Things were very difficult for her, as she was raising two sons, six and 15 years old. Their father had walked out on them and refused to help care for the boys financially, or in any other way. The only alternative for this woman, it seemed, was to abort this unexpected baby. After all, she could barely afford to feed the children she already had.

Between the months of September 1975 and January 1976, this woman had three therapeutic abortions in an attempt to rid herself of the unborn baby. These abortions, also known as a “salting out procedure” are performed by injecting a very large syringe into the woman’s abdomen, removing a certain amount of amniotic fluid out of the womb, and then injecting three times the amount of saline back in, thus “burning” the baby out. For reasons only God knows, these abortions did not take and on April 21, 1976, two months premature, her baby was born. The child was perfect and healthy, weighing four pounds, five ounces.

Unfortunately on March 16, 1977, the mother passed away, less than a year after her baby girl was born. After the woman’s death, the infant’s father and paternal grandmother took custody of the baby and her two brothers. As this baby girl grew up, her father told her about the three abortions she had undergone in her mother’s womb but this little girl never believed him, as she assumed that if a baby is aborted, he or she could not possibly survive.

The truth only came to this girl when she was eighteen years old, married, and approximately five months pregnant with her first child. This girl needed and soon obtained her mother’s medical records from the hospital that had treated her. Imagine her utter shock as she read about how her mother tried to terminate her unborn child three times. As the young girl read the medical documents, the new life inside of her was stirring and kicking as if to say “Mommy please don’t get any ideas.”

Today this young woman is 25 years old and is raising a family of her own. She is healthy and normal in every way, with no physical deformities of any kind.

I am the child that I have been writing about. My mother had no right to try and abort me, no matter what the circumstances were, no matter how inconvenient her pregnancy was. And if she was here with us today, I’m sure she would agree. Life is too precious to simply throw away. Now I can speak out against abortion from the baby’s perspective. Any baby would choose life.


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Heidi Huffman

Seventeen year old Tina Huffman became pregnant in 1978. She gave in to pressure from her parents and boyfriend’s family to have an abortion at ten weeks gestation.

She describes the experience this way:

“my body started to vibrate. I felt my insides being pulled out, all of them.”

She told the accompanying nurse, “I am dying!” The abortionist responded “empty your bladder.” Next came the curette, a loop-shaped knife used to scrape out the remains of an unborn child. Once the abortion was presumably finished, the nurse remarked to Tina in surprise, “You’re not bleeding” and proceeded to send Tina home with birth control pills and antibiotics.”(1)

After two months of physical problems, Tina went to her physician and found out that she was still pregnant. She looked into suing the abortion clinic, but her attorney was told that the clinic lost her chart. No suit was therefore filed.

Heidi Huffman came into the world when labor was induced at 28 weeks. Despite the abortion attempt, Heidi was born healthy.

When Heidi was a child, Tina saw pictures of aborted babies at a fund raiser for a church group. Shocked at what she saw, and grateful that her child’s life had been spared, Tina became a pro-life activist. She and Heidi began to picket abortion clinics and go on speaking tours.

Heidi is quoted here:

“I didn’t really understand all this [about how profound her experience was] until last year when I was telling my story to a large group. Men began weeping, and that’s because they realized – as I did- that I had nearly become an abortion statistic.”

Of her experiences as an abortion activist, Heidi says the following:

“When I was in the third grade, I began joining Mom at various pro-life demonstrations. The night before my first clinic protest, Mom bought some poster board and a black Magic Marker. She wrote “My mom tried to abort me, but God said no. Thanks be to Him that I’m still living.”

I walked back and forth, carrying my sign. then Is spotted an open window in front of the clinic. I walked up to it and noticed a girl- she couldn’t have been more than 13- sitting all alone in a waiting room. I held my sign up to her. She stared at it for the longest time, and then she started crying. A nurse came by and saw me standing outside with my sign. She walked over and closed the blinds.


….I’m carrying a new sign that says “I survived a suction abortion.” I usually get two reactions whewn I show this to abortion rights demonstrators. Many women come up to me, smiling, saying, “Yes, I had a suction abortion, and I survived just fine.”

“No, no,” I explain. “I was inside my mother’s womb when she had a suction abortion. I was almost ripped limb from limb, but I survived.” Their smiles freeze on their faces.

Other people come up and accuse me of making up my story. My mother always carries the hospital records with her to prove that she’s telling the truth.”(2)


1. “Alive & Kickin'” Heidi Huffman: Gravity Teen,
2. “The Miracle Child” Focus on the Family May 1993 pgs 2-5

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Baby Claire

Little Baby Claire is missing her right arm. Like Ana Rosa Rodriguez, she lost the arm when an abortionist twisted it off trying to abort her.

Her Korean mother was unmarried and considered abortion to be the only solution to her problem. Claire, considered unplaceable in Korea, was adopted and brought to the United States by an American couple whose family already included four biological children and a severely disabled, adopted daughter from Taiwan named Carissa.

Claire was one year old when she came to America. She had hip surgery when she was two years old. For six weeks the energetic two-year-old was immobilized in a body cast. Claire’s adopted grandmother Dr. Jean Garton says that her other daughter, Carissa, came to the rescue.

Carissa was born with severe head deformities: She has a severe cleft palate, and no lower jaw, making speech difficult, and difficult to understand. But there’s nothing wrong with her loving heart. With infinite patience, she took care of her little cast-bound sister.

“What could have brought chaos to the family turned into something wonderful,” Dr. Garton relates. “Carissa became Claire’s missing hand and Claire became Carissa’s voice.” When others in the family can’t understand what Carissa is saying, Claire pipes up with the translation.

In addition to the two girls, the family includes three brothers, all triplets. The children, some “abled” and some not, are of different nationalities and races. The family proves that disabled children can live happy lives with loving parents. Read Dr. Garton’s article “Who Would Want a Child Like That?” We Would! Anyone who feels that pro-lifers only care about unborn babies should read this article.

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Joshua Vandervelden

A lawsuit filed suit on behalf of Joshua Vandervelden alleged that Dr. Benjamin Victoria attempted to perform an abortion on Linda Moie on January 12, 1979, at Fox Valley Reproductive Health Care Center in Wisconsin.

The abortion injured but did not kill the fetus (Joshua), who was born September 18, 1979.

Joshua spent two weeks on a respirator. According to the suit, the abortion caused hearing loss.

The suit was struck down by the court on the grounds that Linda consented to the abortion. Linda appealed, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s refusal to hear the case.

After the lawsuit was struck down, Linda Noie, Joshua’s mother, called the case a “victory” because its high profile has allowed people who have undergone a traumatic abortion “to come out from behind closed doors” to discuss their suffering. Noie now leads the WI chapter of Women Exploited by Abortion and often takes Joshua with her when speaks out against abortion.

According to reports, mother and son sometimes picket the clinic where he was aborted.

Sources: Dennis Roddy “Living Proof” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 22, 2000

Christina Dunigan “Pro-Choice Pro-Child? Joshua Vandervelden”

State Report “Wisconsin: Supreme Court Won’t Hear Abortion-Battery Case” 11/2/93 Madison Wisconsin State Journal


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Lauren Pullium

Seventeen-year-old Kristen went to Birthright for a pregnancy test. When the result was positive, she cried. Her mother spent the next few days reassuring Kristen that she’d help with caring for the baby, or with an adoption plan, but not with abortion. Kristen became withdrawn, and her mother became concerned. She learned that a friend had encouraged Kristen to go to Planned Parenthood.

After speaking with Planned Parenthood staff, who assured Kristen that she didn’t need her parents’ permission to abort, Kristen decided to schedule the abortion. Her parents pleaded with her. The day of the abortion, Kristen left the house in silence. Kristen’s mother, Pat Pulliam, said, “Our home seemed a tomb.”

Four weeks after the abortion, when Kristen returned to Planned Parenthood for a checkup, she learned that she was still pregnant. The staff recommended that she schedule a second procedure, but Kristen instead rushed home. Her mother called Planned Parenthood, but nobody would speak to her.

Kristen then went to an obstetrician for a checkup. He performed an ultrasound, and told her that the baby was a girl. Kristen and her mother looked at the ultrasound and everything seemed fine to them, but the doctor told them that the baby had abnormalities. He asked Kristen to reconsider abortion, but after having heard the baby’s heartbeat, Kristen refused.

Kristen’s mother took her to a pro-life obstetrician, who told them that the baby was “destined to be born.”

Lauren Pulliam was born one month early, weighing six pounds. She was perfectly healthy. “Our daughter was in labor only twenty minutes,” says Kristen’s mother. “The baby was six pounds and absolutely perfect in every way….Our lives will never be the same.”

Source: Christina Dunigan

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Women Who Abort: Their Reflections on the Unborn

Sit with me for a moment in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. Here you will find women who, in general, are neither philosophers nor fools–categories which admittedly include substantial overlap. Very few of these women have engaged in arcane debates about the meaning of “personhood.” Fewer still are so foolish as to believe the claim that having an abortion is no worse than having a tooth pulled.

Look about and you will see women from a wide cross-section of American culture. Bright and dull, conservative and liberal, religious and irreligious. All are represented. There is significant overrepresentation by adolescents, unmarried women, and racial minorities, but still, they are a cross-section of America. And like all Americans, these women are uneasy and deeply divided over abortion, more so today than ever before in their lives.

Many of these women, even now, while waiting to be escorted to the operating room, bury their heads in the sands of denial. “It will be over soon. I just won’t think about it. I’ll just go on with my life like before…. It wouldn’t be legal if it wasn’t right; it wouldn’t be legal if it wasn’t safe. I just won’t think about it.”

Others, who at best consider their pending abortions to be an evil necessity, are saying goodbye: “Forgive me. Mommy doesn’t want to do this, but I really don’t have any choice. If only I could have you, I would love you so much.”

For some their wait is unemotional, but they are intellectually tortured by the metaphysical question: “Am I doing the right thing?” Others are carefully focused on their answers to this same question: “This is the right thing, the only thing to do. I can always have a baby later, when the time is right, when I can be a good mother. It wouldn’t be fair to me, to Jim, or even to the baby, to have it now.”

These women, joylessly seated around the waiting room, are just typical Americans. They share the same spectrum of American beliefs and angst over the abortion question. Polls show that roughly 70 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal. Yet 75 percent (which obviously requires substantial overlap) also believe it is immoral. There is clearly a tension in our hearts between what should be legal and what is actually moral.

This tension is especially visible in abortion clinic waiting rooms. Interviews at clinics confirm that at least 70 percent of the women having abortions view abortion as immoral, or at least deviant, behavior.1 Rather than choosing according to their own moral beliefs, most women are acting against their belief systems. They feel “forced” by circumstances, or loved ones, to violate their consciences for the sake of some “other good.”

Everyone Knows…

Why, after over twenty years of legal abortion, do Americans–including young women for whom abortion has always been legal–still have a negative moral view of abortion?

The answer to this question is the same at it was two decades ago. In 1971, the editors of California Medicine wrote in support of legalized abortion, but noted that the moral view underlying this change would only slowly be adopted.

“Since the old [Judeo-Christian] ethic [of the sanctity of life] has not yet been fully displaced [by the new ethic which places relative rather than absolute value on human lives] it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary because while a new ethic is being accepted the old one has not yet been rejected.”2

With an honesty often missing from the current abortion debate, the pro-choice editors of California Medicine affirm that “everyone really knows” that human life begins at conception. Everyone knows it. Every denial is simply “semantic gymnastics” offered by “socially impeccable auspices” to ease our way.

Sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room, this truth rides uneasily beneath the surface of silent submission. No one dares to speak it, but all know it. Even young children can understand this simple truth. It lies at the heart of the question that all children eventually ask: “Where do babies come from?” While a child might be temporarily diverted from the answer to this question, no child’s curiosity is completely satisfied until the full truth is revealed. Life begins at conception. Babies are created by an act of conception, the uniting (hopefully in an act of love) of a man and woman, sharing the substance of their very selves, two becoming one in the flesh–both symbolically in the uniting of the sexual act and most truly in the conception of a new life which unites the flesh of man and woman to create a new human being, their child.

The knowledge that the human fetus, the human embryo, or even the human zygote, is in fact a human being is as undeniable as the answer to the child’s question: “Where do babies come from?” The women in the waiting room, some of whom have yet to pack away their cherished dolls, remember when they once asked that question. They remember the answer. They remember the truth. And it is this truth–no matter how much they try to ignore it, forget it, or bury it beneath slogans or philosophical quibbles–that demands their attention.

In interviews with 40 women shortly after their abortions, sociologist Mary Zimmerman avoided any questions regarding the woman’s view of the nature of the human fetus in order to avoid upsetting the women. Yet even when this question was left unasked, it was clearly on the minds of the women since most of them chose to reveal at least some hint of their opinion during the interview. Nearly 25 percent explicitly stated that the aborted fetus was a life, a person, or a human being. In many of these cases, they admitting a sense of having killed or murdered another being. Another 25 percent expressed confusion about the nature of the fetus. In these cases, the women generally believed the fetus was human but denied that abortion was killing. Zimmerman suggests that this contradictory stance was taken in order maintain their self-images as moral persons. Finally, only 15 percent maintained that the fetus was not a person or human life, but even these women expressed themselves in terms of denial rather than with arguments to support their beliefs, stating, for example, “I feel that it’s something there, but I don’t really feel that it’s a life yet.”3

Everyone Struggles…

The feeling of a life being killed is a common thread throughout the testimonies of women before, during, and after an abortion. According to one woman, interviewed in a clinic’s waiting room: “It’s killing. But it justifiable homicide.” Another, shortly after her abortion, says: “Like when you have an abortion you’re just destroying a part of yourself. That’s the way I feel anyhow. I just feel bad inside, that’s all. I didn’t really want to do it. It’s a sin.”4 Still another woman, describes her feelings after an abortion, saying: “I hated myself. I felt abandoned and lost. There was no one’s shoulder to cry on, and I wanted to cry like hell. And I felt guilty about killing something. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I’d just killed a baby.”5

For some the anticipation of guilt itself moves them toward acts of self-punishment. An example of this is reported in a New York Times interview with American women who have traveled to England for RU-486 abortions. A woman from Pennsylvania explained that for her there were “psychological advantages” to the harrowing experience of repeated clinic visits for RU-486 and prostaglandin injections and in the six hours or more of labor pains to expel a dead human fetus. “I didn’t want to just zip in and be put to sleep and zip out in two hours with it all done,” she explains. “In a way, that would have been too easy. This was a big painful decision for me. I would have felt irresponsible if it had just been over with like that. I wanted to remember this all my life. I never want to do it again.”6 For this woman the price for an abortion must be measured in something more than negotiable currency. The act must be etched in one’s memory with proper solemnity. Physical and emotional pain are the only fitting tributes which can be made to a life denied.

Even for those who deny the humanity of their unborn child, there is a often an admission that this denial can be maintained only by a conscious effort. For example, one woman writes: “I didn’t think of it as a baby. I just didn’t want to think of it that way.”7 Another insists that denial is the only way to deal with it: “I made up my mind to do it, and like I could let it drive me crazy, any woman could, but you can’t, because you’ve got to live with it and there’s really no sense in letting it drive you right off the edge.”8

For others, even the process of discussing their experience threatens their precarious equilibrium. For example, one woman interviewed in a clinic as she awaited her third abortion at first insisted she had adjusted well to her first two abortions, but then she went on to describe experiencing symptoms which are now identified as part of post-abortion syndrome. She found herself confessing that she had developed a compulsive fascination with other people’s children, outbursts of rage, and periods of depression and substance abuse. As she heard herself describing these problems, which she herself attributed to her previous abortions, she began to doubt what she should believe, finally concluding: “Maybe I should go to a psychiatrist, but I really don’t have the money or the interest. Truth is hard to take, and I just don’t know if I’m ready for it.”9

What is the truth, which she already knows, but is too “hard to take?” Abortion destroys a human life. Moreover, this life is her own child. This human life is also the progeny of her male partner. And their parents. And their grandparents. In this way, abortion is even more than a profound moral issue; it is a familial issue. The abortion experience not only defines how she sees herself, it also defines how she sees her family.

No One is Safe

Even the most ardent defenders of abortion rights are not immune to these issues. Linda Bird Francke, a professional journalist, feminist, and a pro-choice activist, describes how when faced with an unplanned pregnancy which would have interfered with her and her husband’s rising careers, the couple decided “It was time for us,” not another child. It was a relatively easy decision. Without any emotional hand wringing, the logical and practical choice was made.

It was not until Francke and her husband were actually sitting in the waiting room, that an unexpected ambivalence arose. “Suddenly the rhetoric, the abortion marches I’d walked in, the telegrams sent to Albany to counteract the Friends of the Fetus, the Zero Population Growth buttons I’d worn, peeled away, and I was all alone with my microscopic baby.” Intellectually, she tried to concentrate on how small the fetus was, and therefore how impossible it was for it to be human, but she had borne children before and the feel of her own body kept telling her that there was real life growing within her. “Though I would march myself into blisters for a woman’s right to exercise the option of motherhood,” she writes, “I discovered there in the waiting room that I was not the modern woman I thought I was.”10

By the time the she entered the operating room, Francke was desperately hoping for some release from her predetermined course. She longed for her husband to valiantly “burst” through the door and stop it from happening. When he failed to do so, and the doctor began to dilate her for the surgery, she herself begged him to stop. But the doctor told her it was too late and completed the surgery anyway. At that point she gave in: “What good sports we women are. And how obedient. Physically the pain passed even before the hum of the machine signaled that the vacuuming of my uterus was completed, my baby sucked up like ashes after a cocktail party.”

Afterwards, her ambivalence continued. During times of relaxation when she had time to reflect on the beauty of the world, she experienced the common reaction of “visitations” from her aborted child. Her benign “little ghost” would come to her and wave. And she would tearfully wave back to reassure her lost baby that if only he could return, now they would make room for him in their busy lives.

Five years after her abortion, Francke was drawn to reinvestigate her own mixed feelings about abortion and wrote a book entitled The Ambivalence of Abortion, in which she transcribed reactions to the abortion experience of almost 70 women, couples, parents, and men. What she found, as the title suggests, is universal ambivalence, and often frank admissions of guilt and remorse. Over 70 percent of those she interviewed expressed some type of negative feelings about the abortion. Most saw that abortion involves a “baby.” Those who denied the human fetus’s humanity did so in curt assertions which belied an edge of uncertainty. Few were as well prepared for the abortion decision as was Francke, who at least had the advantage of having been a pro-choice activist who had confronted the issues and argued for the principles used to justify abortion. Instead, few had ever participated in the abortion debate. Most had deep moral reservations about abortion, yet they were aborting because they felt they had no other choice.

Francke’s interviews are consistent with the findings of other researchers. These findings suggest that for most women, abortion is at best a marginal choice. Between 30 and 60 percent of women having abortions initially have a positive desire to carry the pregnancy to term and keep their babies.11 Many of these women still desire their babies even at the time of the abortion, but are aborting only because they feel forced to do so by others or by circumstances. Indeed, of women who experience post-abortion problems, over 80 percent say they would have carried to term under better circumstances or with the support of loved ones, over 60% report having felt “forced” to have the abortion by others or circumstances, and approximately 40 percent were still hoping to discover some alternative to abortion when going for counseling at the abortion clinic.12

Such data suggest that rather than “choosing” abortion, many women, perhaps most, are instead “submitting” to abortion. The rhetoric of “choice” may actually be obscuring the national problem of unwanted abortions–abortions on women who would prefer to keep their babies if only they could receive the love and support they need to empower them as mothers.

No one can reasonably deny the testimonies of women who describe how their unwanting lovers, parents, and others have pressured, badgered, blackmailed, and even physically forced them into accepting unwanted abortions because it would be “best for everyone.” Even pro-choice ethicist Daniel Callahan, director of the Hastings Center, writes: “That men have long coerced women into unwanted abortion when it suits their purposes is well-known but rarely mentioned. Data reported by the Alan Guttmacher Institute indicate that some 30 percent of women have an abortion because someone else, not the woman, wants it.”13

Everyone is changed

This data, combined with over a thousand case studies, in my own files alone, demonstrate that the decision to abort is often a tentative one, or even one accepted solely to please others. For many it is nothing more than an act of despair. For all, it is an intensely emotional issue which irreversibly changes the course of their lives and touches the very depths of their sexuality and self-image. It is a life-marking event. Just as after a marriage one becomes a wife, or after the birth of a child one becomes a mother, so after abortion one becomes–well, “another”–somehow different than before.

As with all life-marking events, it is human nature to look back and wonder, “How would my life be different if I hadn’t married Jim? How would it be different if I had never had the twins?” So the woman who has had an abortion is inevitably confronted with the question, “How would my life be different if I’d had that baby?”

For many women, the abortion becomes a key point in their lives around which all other events take reference. In their minds, everything can be clearly placed as having occurred either “before the abortion” or “after the abortion.” They may even see themselves as being two completely different people before and after this defining event. In a retrospective study of 260 women, an average of nearly eleven years after their abortions, 51% report having undergone a “dramatic personality change” following their abortions, of which 79% say the change was a negative one.14

Abortion is such a profound event in one’s life, that one must either thoughtfully integrate it into one’s life, or fearfully suppress it. Neither is easy. The former requires great fortitude and honesty. The latter is simply unhealthy. It is a fundamental principle of psychiatry that suppression of emotions is the cause of numerous psychological and physical ailments. Suppressed feelings create their own internal pressures, sap emotional energy, and cause turmoil in one’s life until they burst forth in a way which can no longer be ignored.

These observations are substantiated by the testimony of Dr. Julius Fogel, a psychiatrist and obstetrician who has been a long-time advocate of abortion and has personally performed 20,000 abortions. Although he approaches abortion from a pro-abortion perspective, Dr. Fogel is deeply concerned about the “psychological effects of abortion on the mother’s mind.” According to Dr. Fogel:

Abortion is an impassioned subject…. Every woman–whatever her age, background or sexuality–has a trauma at destroying a pregnancy. A level of humanness is touched. This is a part of her own life. She destroys a pregnancy, she is destroying herself. There is no way it can be innocuous. One is dealing with the life force. It is totally beside the point whether or not you think a life is there. You cannot deny that something is being created and that this creation is physically happening…. Often the trauma may sink into the unconscious and never surface in the woman’s lifetime. But it is not as harmless and casual an event as many in the pro-abortion crowd insist. A psychological price is paid. It may be alienation; it may be a pushing away from human warmth, perhaps a hardening of the maternal instinct. Something happens on the deeper levels of a woman’s consciousness when she destroys a pregnancy. I know that as a psychiatrist.15

Other investigators, on both sides of the abortion issue, share Fogel’s concern. Researchers have reported over 100 psychological sequelae connected to abortion stress. These include sexual dysfunction, depression, flashbacks, sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, eating disorders, impacted grieving, a diminished capacity for bonding with later children, increased tendency toward violent outbursts, chronic problems in maintaining intimate relationships, difficulty concentrating, and a loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities and people. One five year retrospective study in two Canadian provinces found that 25 percent of women who had abortions subsequently sought psychiatric care compared to 3% of the control group.16

Perhaps most disturbing is the increase of self-destructive behavior among post-aborted women. Women with a history of abortions are significantly more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs. A study of 700 women found that drug and alcohol abuse subsequent to a first pregnancy was approximately four times higher for those who aborted compared to those who carried to term.17 Another study of 260 women who had abortions found that 37% described themselves as being self-destructive, with 28% admitting having made one or more suicide attempts.18

The Necessity of Denial

Suppression and denial are the most common means of coping with abortion. Between 60 and 70 percent of women who eventually confronted negative feelings about their abortions admit that there was a period of time during which they would have denied to others and themselves any regrets or negative feelings. On average, this period of denial was about five years, with a low of one month and a high of twenty years.19

In general, denial and avoidance behavior is readily apparent. Participants in our own case study project who claim that their post-abortion adjustment was easy almost always give only short, concealing responses which at the same time reveal volumes. Consider the following response, which arrived just today, and is typical of the pattern I have described.

Why did you have an abortion? “I wasn’t carrying the baby right and I had knots in my stomach”

How would you describe the abortion? “I didn’t like it, but I did what was best.”

How did the abortion affect you? “It made me feel sad because I took another’s life.”

What have you done to deal with the abortion, and did it help? “Nothing really. I got over it.”

How do you think the abortion changed your life? “I take better care of myself.”

Notably, this woman describes that what she aborted was a “baby,” not a “fetus” or a “pregnancy.” She further states, very matter of factly, that in having the abortion she “took another’s life.” These statements suggest that this woman is not engaging in any sophisticated rationalizations. To her it was not a “potential life,” it was a baby, whose death warrants sadness. In the same simple and straightforward way, she copes with this death simply by “getting over it.” One hopes that she has indeed gotten over it, but one fears that in actuality she may simply be engaging in avoidance behavior which prevents true resolution and integration of the experience into her life.

But then, denial and avoidance are integral to abortion. Don’t take my word for it. Look at In Necessity and Sorrow, a book by Dr. Magda Denes, a pro-choice feminist psychologist.

Shortly after her own abortion, Denes, like Francke, felt drawn to spend months at an abortion facility to observe how others experienced abortion. Unlike Francke, Denes is a trained psychologist and knows to look beyond the words of those she interviews. She sees that words of bravery are used to disguise fears, words of calm to hide doubts. For example, when introducing the interview of one patient, she writes: “All that she says sounds honest and straightforward. It is only when she refers to the abortion that she lies, not so much to me as to herself.”20 But seeing through these self-deceptions does not mean that Denes criticizes them. Instead, she justifies denial as necessary to protect ourselves from the worst in us: “Oh yes,” she writes, “these people lie, they kid themselves, testify falsely, confess in bad faith, shirk responsibility, only pretend to honor, bracket the past, and invent their lives. And who among us does differently? Especially in times of crisis. Especially in times of irreversible choice.”21

Self-preservation is the name of the game, and Denes clearly sees that sanity in the abortion clinic can be achieved only by a strict adherence to the rules of the game. Both patients and staff collaborate in this conspiracy of self-deceptions. Describing her interviews with both staff and patients, she writes, “Above all, this a document on the evasions, multifaceted, clever, and shameful, by which we all live and die.”22 In the abortion clinic, she adds, “Reality is a matter of courtesy. A matter of agreement not to rock the tempest-torn boat.”23

Though Denes is personally committed to the pro-choice philosophy, her book, like Francke’s, was never embraced by the pro-choice movement. It is too dark, too questioning, too disturbing. In fact, despite the opposite leanings of their authors, both Denes’ and Francke’s books show that abortion is at best an ugly experience, at worst a heart wrenching nightmare. Neither is able to find any substance in the stories they tell to support the pro-choice rhetoric about “salvaged lives” in which they themselves earnestly hope. This failure is due to the fact that when one studies the effects of abortion on women in an intimate and personal way, it is never an encouraging story. What emerges is always much more sorrow than joy, much more guilt than relief.

The philosophy of “choice” is admirable only when stripped of its reality, only when worshiped as an ideal, believed in its abstract. When examined from the viewpoint of women filled with despair, dread, guilt, and denial, this pro-choice rhetoric is cold and uncomforting. When examined from the viewpoint of the aftermath of breast cancer, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, sexual dysfunctions, impacted grieving, and Mother’s Day depression, it is a mockery.

In sum, speaking as one who has been there, Denes favors abortion on demand purely on the grounds that women should be given a choice. Yet she is discomforted with that choice, for even under the most ideal circumstances, even if abortion on demand were “provided free by the state, [and] supported with mercy by the church,” she believes that such a pure freedom would only accentuate the horrors, doubts, guilts, and other problems which are inherent to abortion. “For if we remove abortions from the realm of defiance of authority,” she writes:

“…if we permit them to be acts of freedom as they should be, their meaning, private and collective, will inescapably emerge in the consciousness of every person….I think it is a far, far lighter task to regard oneself as a martyr and to battle the world than to know the private sorrows of unique commitments and the heartache of self-chosen destiny. I wish, therefore, to be taken for what I am. A proabortionist with a bad secular conscience.”24

No One Forgets

Denes is not unique. Because “everyone really knows” that life begins at conception, everyone who has ever been involved in abortions, at some level, has a bad conscience–or at least a nagging one. This is true of all those involved: the father, the parents, siblings, friends, counselors, doctors. But it is especially true for the mother because her body has been desecrated; her body has been used by another as the actual killing ground for the child her womb was designed to protect.

Like many others, Denes is compelled to admit that abortion, though justifiable, is “a type of murder” because its victim is “alive and human.” For women who allow themselves to reflect on their abortions, no other conclusion is possible.

Still, those women who possess sophisticated philosophies, strong coping resources, and semantic agility, can keep this aborted life at a distance. They remind themselves that it was just a “potential” life whose time for fulfillment had not yet come. They can lessen the impact by sanitizing the terms with which they think about it. But for the majority of women, who lack the sophistication, the coping skills, and the verbal dexterity, this aborted life is quite simply their “baby”–a person they would have cuddled and loved if only things had been different.

For this latter group of women, their abortions were an “evil necessity.” Many of them feel an immediate sense of guilt, self-condemnation, and feelings of having betrayed both themselves and their child. Others try to block out their feelings through denial, suppression, and focusing on the future. But for these women who know that what they aborted was “my baby,” the past will inevitably demand its tribute. The need to grieve will relentlessly pursue and overtake them, and this need must be compassionately acknowledged by society and shared by their loved ones.

The future of the “sophisticated” woman, who holds to a more dehumanized view of the life lost during her abortion, is less certain. If she has integrated these beliefs into her life before her abortion, then there is a congruency between what she believed and how she acted. In such a case, it may be plausible that she has not been changed or affected by her abortion experience.

But if there was not a congruency between a woman’s pre-abortion beliefs and her sophisticated post-abortion mindset, her prospects for peace of mind are not good. In this case, her more “mature” and “experienced” views are likely to be nothing more than a veneer of rationalizations which conceal, but have not obliterated, the person who once knew that abortion means the destruction of a human life. Because the modernity of this woman is just a veneer, she lacks the confidence and security of those for whom this modernity runs deep and was an integrated part of their personalities long before their abortions. This woman, with only the veneer of modernity, is easily identified by the angry energy with which she feverishly defends the abortion liberty. She is not calmly confident of her belief system, or even capable of respecting the contrary beliefs of others. Instead, she sees every challenge to her new ethic as a personal insult precisely because these challenges reverberate through the veneer of her new ethic to disturb the slumber of an old ethic which still lays claim to her heart.

Such a woman will know no true peace until there is an accord between the person above and below this veneer. And this peace, I suggest, can only be found when the person below is freed to grieve and repent according to the old ethic, precisely because it was this old ethic which had a claim on her conscience at the time of the abortion. It is to this old ethic which she must still provide an answer. Until she does, her “new ethic,” like every ethic adopted to justify past acts, is polluted with rationalization. Her new self is unstable, built upon a discordant self–a self with an unreconciled past. Such a woman is a psychological time bomb. She has unresolved pressures contained within a veneer. If that veneer is ever shattered, the emotional explosion which occurs may cause irreparable damage both to her life and the lives of loved ones.

The Journey Begins

So it is, when I look around the clinic’s waiting room, I see lives driven by despair, not hope. I see women inwardly crying, saying goodbye. And I see women whose clenched teeth and fixed eyes are determinedly set on the future because they dare not look at the present which will forever be their past.

As I look into their many faces, the philosophical debate over when a human becomes a “person” dissolves into nothing more than ethereal elevator music. Whether these waiting women listen to it or ignore it, it has no real effect on the living of their lives. For beneath the lyric of excuses and jargon, on the level of a little girl who once asked, “Where do babies come from?”, every woman here knows that life begins at conception. It is a human life. It is a familial life. It is a part of her and a part of another; it is their child. The only question which remains is how well will she be able to live with this truth…or how long will she be able to run from it?

This article is adapted from an essay which will appear in The Silent Subject: Reflections on the Unborn in American Culture, edited by Brad Stetson. It will be published by Praeger Publishers in 1996.

By David C. Reardon, Ph.D.

Originally published in The PostAbortion Review 4(1) Winter 1996. Copyright 1996 Elliot Institute.


1. Mary K. Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977), 69. David C. Reardon, Aborted Women, Silent No More (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987), 13.

2. “A New Ethic for Medicine and Society,” California Medicine, Sept. 1970, 113(3):67-68.

3. Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion, 194-195.

4. Magda Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow, (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 94.

5. Linda Bird Francke, The Ambivalence of Abortion (New York: Random House, 1978), 61.

6. New York Times, March 23, 1994 cited in “The Public Square,” First Things, June/July 1994, p.79.

7. Francke, Ambivalence, 201.

8. Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow, 97-98.

9. Francke, Ambivalence, 63.

10. Jane Doe [pseud. Linda Bird Francke], “There Just Wasn’t Room in Our Lives Now for Another Baby,” New York Times, May 14, 1976, Op-Ed Section.

11. Zimmerman, Passages, 110-111. Reardon, Aborted Women, 12.

12. Reardon, Aborted Women, 14-15.

13. Daniel Callahan, “An Ethical Challenge to Prochoice Advocates,” Commonweal, Nov. 23, 1990, 681-687, 684.

14. Reardon, “Psychological Reactions Reported After Abortion” The Post-Abortion Review, Fall 1994, 2(3):4-8.

15. From an interview with columnist Colman McCarthy, “A Psychological View of Abortion,” St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press, March 7, 1971. Dr. Fogel, who continued to do abortions for the next two decades, reiterated the same view in a subsequent interview with McCarthy, “The Real Anguish of Abortions” The Washington Post, Feb. 5, 1989.

16. R.F. Badgley, et al., Report of the Committee on the Abortion Law, Supply and Services, Ottawa, Canada, 1977:313-319.

17. “New Study Confirms Link Between Abortion and Substance Abuse,” The Post-Abortion Review, Fall 1993, 1(3):1-2.

18. Reardon, “Psychological Reactions Reported After Abortion” The Post-Abortion Review, Fall 1994, 2(3):4-8.

19. Ibid.

20. Denes, In Necessity, 101.

21. Ibid., 122.

22. Ibid., xvii.

23. Ibid., 6.

24. Ibid., xv-xvi.

Elliot Institute, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791-7348

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Ximenia Renearts

Sometimes abortions fail. Abortionists can make mistakes. Sometimes a pregnancy is further along than they think. For whatever reason, sometimes a baby survives an abortion attempt and is born alive.

Ximenia Renearts is an example of a child who survived an abortion attempt but was left with crippling disabilities. On December 12, 1988, 22-year-old Nadine Bourne had an abortion at a Planned Parenthood facility in Bellingham, Washington. The doctor who did her abortion told her that she was between 14 and 16 weeks pregnant. . Four days later, she went to the hospital.  She was suffering from complications including fever and racing heartbeat. She was admitted to the hospital.

The next day, to the surprise of the doctors, Nadine gave birth to a baby girl while sitting on a toilet. Her pregnancy had been far more advanced than 16 weeks. The little girl weighed 3 pounds, large enough to be in the third trimester. Exactly how far along Nadine was when she had her abortion will never be known for sure. What is known for sure is that the baby was not killed in the abortion, and was instead born alive.

The nurse on duty when the baby was born, Vera Wood, did not call a resuscitation team or attempt to treat the infant. Even though the child was whimpering and gasping, the nurse decided to leave the baby alone in a room where dead fetuses were stored after abortions. The baby lay alone in a bedpan for 40 minutes. All this would later come out in court after an attorney representing the child and her adoptive family sued the hospital.

After 40 minutes the nurse called the night nursing supervisor, who finally provided warmth and oxygen to the baby. However, the 40 minutes the child was left cold and gasping for air permanently damaged the baby’s brain. She became severely mentally handicapped and suffered brain damage including cerebral palsy.

The baby was named Ximenia Renearts and adopted. Unfortunately, she’s a quadriplegic and her brain has developed only to the point of the three-year-olds. Had she been treated properly and given medical care, there is a good chance she may have been normal. There have been two investigations of the case, but no charges were ever filed against the nurses on duty or the hospital. Many people attribute this to pro-abortion bias in the court system, and the belief that many pro-choice members of law enforcement and the judiciary would rather the case just go away then receive national attention.

Ximenia’s family filed a lawsuit against the hospital and settled out of court for $8 million. This money was used to build a handicap accessible home for the child to live in and to care for her through adulthood.



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