By Maria Vitale Gallagher
How does it happen that a pro-choice feminist ends up changing her mind and working full-time in the pro-life movement?
While I cannot speak for every woman who’s done an about-face on the issue of abortion, I think my experience can be helpful in understanding how it can be that so many women who were once solidly in favor of the “right to an abortion” now passionately advocate for the right to life of the child in the womb.
I came to embrace the pro-choice philosophy based on the twin pillars of reasonability and convenience. I thought it was entirely reasonable that a woman should not be expected to bear a child she didn’t want. I also viewed it as terribly inconvenient to be pregnant when that had not been a woman’s desire. Abortions would happen anyway, I reasoned; therefore, they might as well be legal.
It is a curious paradox that, even though I viewed myself as well-informed on abortion (I became a part-time journalist during college and covered the abortion issue often), I was lacking many basic facts.
Prompted by a pro-life friend, I began perusing right-to-life literature. I was shocked. I had not known, for instance, that a heart starts beating 24 days after conception, or that brain waves can be detected 43 days after the unification of egg and sperm.
I was to the point of tears when I learned that, at 49 days post-conception, a preborn child resembles a little doll, with fingers, toes and ears. (This was not dissimilar to the “Aha” moment experienced by the main character in the film “Juno” when she learns that her unborn child has fingernails. The humanity of the preborn baby is a powerful argument against abortion.)
As a reporter, I had been led to believe by a spokeswoman from the abortion advocacy group NARAL that late-term abortions occurred only when the life of the mother was at stake. I subsequently learned that the real reasons behind partial-birth abortions could be far less convincing.
For instance, a 1995 letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the National Abortion Federation stated that late-term abortions were sought by “very young teenagers who have not recognized the signs of their pregnancies until too late.”
A study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the former research arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, showed that 48 percent of the women who sought abortions after 16 weeks did so because they “found it hard to make arrangements.” Not exactly a life-or-death reason.
As a pro-life advocate, I want to defend the right of the unborn child to experience life. But I also advocate for the right of women to be free from the documented dangers of abortion: sterility, a perforated uterus, depression, subsequent drug and alcohol abuse. These hazards have been written about in studies published in well-established medical journals.
I also have looked into the eyes of women who deeply regret their abortions and who speak openly and poignantly about the pain that abortion has caused in their lives. The testimony of such women speaks volumes about the dark side of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
Reason led me to the pro-life movement; careful analytical thinking keeps me there. Estimates based on figures from the Guttmacher Institute indicate more than 57 million unborn children have lost their lives after Roe v. Wade and countless women have been harmed by the aftermath. Logic demands that we as a nation take a second look at Roe v. Wade — for ourselves, and for the sake of our grandchildren.
Editor’s note. This op-ed first appeared in the Patriot-News and is reprinted with permission. Maria Vitale Gallagher is legislative director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.