By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This morning I was re-reading a typically brilliant post written by Sarah Terzo–an analysis of what is, in its own way, a classic: “The Ambivalence of Abortion,” by Linda Bird Francke.
This, in turn, sparked a memory of a piece I’d written a while back about a stunning portrait in ambivalence, and sadness, and regret that ran in the New York Times. I reproduce it below for the thousands and thousands of new readers we have since it first ran.
No one would ever accuse the New York Times of having a pro-life bone in its institutional body, but a column that appears in the Times—“Modern Love”—periodically runs personal stories that are both almost unimaginably sad and profound indictments of abortion.
I ran across “A Lost Child, but Not Mine” on Twitter a couple of days ago. A pro-lifer had posted the link to the essay written by Kassi Underwood which actually ran July 28.
Underwood begins by explaining that the occasion was the third anniversary of her abortion and she found out that her ex-boyfriend was having a baby with another woman. “It was none of my business,” she writes, “except I somehow convinced myself that his new baby was a replica of ours, and as such I felt a sense of ownership, of responsibility for the child’s well-being.”
That statement is not as bizarre as it seems on first reading. Even three years later, there is no evidence Underwood has “gotten over”—in any sense—an abortion she hadn’t really wanted on many levels. Indeed, her use of the word “ambivalence” does not do justice to her reluctance. But she had, as she writes, “ambitions.”
She wanted a baby “on my terms: happily married with enough money to live well. After college, after graduate school, after I had started a career. There was no fantasy in raising a child alone.”
What about adoption? “In deciding against adoption, I blamed alcohol: the chance that I had already harmed the baby with my drinking.”
She convinced herself she left the abortion “emotionally unscathed,” but “soon I started drinking again, was arrested for drunken driving and was fired from three jobs for coming in slurring my words or for showing up late or not at all, while my boyfriend eventually disappeared into heroin. I waited for the countless rehabs to work their institutional magic on him, but they didn’t. Our relationship ended on good but sorrowful terms.”
Near the end of the piece we learn that she eventually called him, when his daughter was a year old. Why?
“I harbored a secret motive to find out if he dwelled on the loss as much as I did, so I asked him if he would meet me.” The mother of his child had vamoosed and he was struggling to raise the child they had given the same name that he and Underwood had given to the child she had aborted: Jade.
He is in desperate straits—a drug addict living at home who periodically attempts suicide– and “I felt an urge to run to his parents’ home and cradle his baby in my arms, as if she were the responsibility I had shirked.” She ruefully enumerates all the advancements she had accrued but confesses, bitterly, “Meanwhile, he got Jade, yet he couldn’t take care of her. An overdosing jailbird father stared back at me, buttering crackers with a silver coffee spoon.”
In the three years since their meeting she fantasies about helping the little girl, “but reality has finally sunk in: the abortion is mine alone, just like Jade is his.”
I don’t have any profound way to end this, except to say that abortion is horribly and terribly sad.