By Dave Andrusko
The headline that appeared on the syndicated “Dear Abby” column was
“Couple’s long-ago abortion casts dark shadow on ex-wife.”
The story that the now ex-wife told about her former husband and her daughter illustrates again how abortion’s aftermath can go on and on and on—and that what was supposed to be “secret” may not stay so for any number of reasons.
“Furious in Illinois” believes her former husband “out of spite” had recently told their daughter that Ms. Furious had an abortion before the couple married. Why would he tell her this? According to the letter writer because she’d told her daughter of her father’s many affairs and that “she may have a half-sister.”
Her question to Dear Abby was “Should I ask my daughter about this or let it go? It was a very private decision, and I think he is a creep for hurting her by telling her.”
The response is fascinating on many levels. Why did she believe her ex had “spilled the beans”? Was her daughter “behaving differently toward you”? she asks. (Abby didn’t ask Ms. Furious if she thought she’d been a creep for what she had told her daughter.)
Abby makes this declarative statement: “The fact that you aborted a child before your daughter’s birth has nothing to do with her.”
It is preposterous to blithely state that the abortion has “nothing” to do with the daughter. Does Abby really believe that startling information would not affect her?
Knowing that she would otherwise have a sibling? Knowing that had circumstances been different it could have been she whose life was taken! Knowing also that one sibling may have been aborted, but that she might have half-sister or half-brother?
I know of couples who have told their children (when they were old enough) that their mom had a miscarriage. And while that is a tragedy that some/many kids may keep in their hearts for a long time, it is nowhere as heart-wrenching as losing a sibling disposed of at an abortion clinic.
From that faulty conclusion—that the abortion of her sibling would have no effect on the living daughter—Abby goes on to say “If you think there is something festering between you and your daughter, my advice is to clear the air before it gets worse.”
The implication is (I gather) that since Abby thinks the ex-husband did not tell their daughter, something else must be at work.
Of course from a brief letter, the reader can’t possibly know any of the family nuances and intricacies. But I remember being at seminars where researchers argued that it is uncanny how often children know there’s been an abortion.
Psychiatrist Philip Ney has done a lot of work on the siblings of aborted children.
“In some respects, the decision to talk or not talk about your pregnancy loss, particularly an abortion, is academic,” Ney told Amy Sobie. “There are very few real secrets within the family. The facts seem to indicate that the loss that has affected you will be communicated in one way or another, and children guess at what happened. You cannot not communicate. You will show that something has changed you, especially something as disturbing as an abortion.”