“Dear Abby” and Abortion: Part Two

By Dave Andrusko

 Jeanne Phillips, left, took over the column from her mother Pauline in 2002.

Jeanne Phillips, left, took over the column from her mother Pauline in 2002.

Pro-lifers would never look to “Dear Abby” for advice on abortion, whether it came from the original “Dear Abby” (the late Pauline Phillips) or after her daughter, Jeanne, assumed the nom de plume (and the column) in 2002. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a lot from the way people explain their feelings about abortion and, to a lesser extent, what “Dear Abby” says in return. (See, for example, http://nrlc.cc/11odRDo.)

The headline to this particular exchange is “Daughter’s abortion torments mother.” Dear Abby’s advice boils down to this: it was her daughter’s decision; in supporting the decision to abort, the mother acted “as a loving parent should”; and if the mother feels she could “benefit from counseling,” ask her doctor for a referral.  Not exact overflowing with sympathy, but it could’ve been worse.

The mother’s torment begins (but hardly ends) with the truth that she is pro-life. She says she’s cried every day since the abortion and then suddenly in an act of real self-examination asks if she is “beating myself up about this” because “she’s my daughter, because I am pro-life or both?”

Obviously, we know only a tiny part of the story (the daughter is 22 years old, living with her mom, and hardly knew the father of her baby), but, tragically, what took place is not unusual. What can any of us say?

Over the years I have heard in person and read countless accounts very much like this one. But one would be more than enough for any of us.

What if we made this more personal? As a parent, were I unable to save my grandchild, it would tear me apart. The baby is gone, my/our daughter will have to live with that decision the rest of her life, and in the end the decision would be one which I could only try to influence but could not make for her. My job is to protect my family and even though in the end I would have been powerless, I, too, would have to live with that outcome. I understood fully why the mother cries and cries and cries. 

I can just sense this mother saying to herself, “I desperately want to save this baby but I can’t burn bridges.” What a tightrope to walk, one that makes the high-wire act of walking across the Niagara Falls seem easy by comparison.

I’m guessing, of course, but I suspect Dear Abby thinks the mother is over-reacting. What’s done is done; you “supported” her decision; if you feel bad, see a shrink. Let’s move on.

Pro-lifers would say that the mother needs consolation more than counseling, empathy from a kindred soul more than mere sympathy, and a shoulder to cry on more than a couch to lie on.

We can only hope that mother—and all the other parents who have gone through this heartbreak—finds that comforter.

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