By Dave Andrusko
Although I have been a small part of this great Movement since the last 1970s, I am humbled by how little I understand about the pain of abortion. The vivid ache of an unexpected stillbirth, yes, but not the torment that so often follows (sometimes on the heels of, sometimes years later) participation in the decision to deliberately take a child’s life.
My “expertise” is even more limited because I am a man. I can emphasize and sympathize and console and even (to an extent) commiserate with an aborted woman, but I cannot see this experience through the same prism. There is an emotional terrain that I have never and can never explore no matter how many times I visit it.
At least at some level, however, I can begin to grasp the bitter regret and abiding remorse that a man experiences when he fathers a child whose life he then cannot protect. Every time I read such an account, the agony is so real it’s as if I am reading about this for the first time.
I write about this today because, as is my habit, over the weekend I went “back in time” to re-read stories that have powerfully moved me and, I’m confident, many of our readers. What follows is based on a front-page column that appeared long ago in a newspaper in Iowa. I will refer to the author by his first name, Herb.
As he would be the first to admit, Herb’s story is hardly novel. The daughter that he has chosen to call Pilgrim “was the result of the carelessness and irresponsibility of two young adults in Southern California about 41 years ago.”
Thinking they were in love and in possession of “all the answers,” they were “not unlike many other couples of the early 1960s,” he writes. They talked “in general terms about someday getting married, but it was something we would do after we had accomplished our great goals in our lives we believed were waiting for us to conquer.”
They reached their goals, “but at a cost so great that it destroyed our relationship, the life of our daughter and put a terrible void in our psyches.”
When Pilgrim’s mother became pregnant, the facade of maturity and love collapsed, “to be replaced with accusatory and sarcastic comments, and finally Pilgrim’s mother declaring she was going to have an abortion – – and that she wanted me out of her life.”
Here it is more than 40 years later and Herb can still recall the specifics as if they took place the day before. How the mother no longer wanted him around. How she told her parents of her pregnancy and how they “readily agreed to Pilgrim’s mother having an abortion.” How only days after he saw Pilgrim’s mother – – “the mother of our child” – – for the last time, Pilgrim was aborted.
Herb tells us that he sobbed uncontrollably, brokenhearted, mourning the loss of “the two beings I loved the most, Pilgrim and her mother,” his inability to have any say “to what happened to our daughter,” and because he “realized that Pilgrim had been senselessly and wrongfully aborted.” His behavior had so tarnished his own moral integrity that it is clear that he fights self-loathing to this day.
He has a grown son of his own, he writes, but there is still a permanent void in his heart that no counsel to “get on with your life” can fill. He wonders how many of these well-meaning people “have any idea that healing for both the fathers and mothers of aborted babies is a never-ending process, and that all the healing in the world does not mitigate the fact a child that had the right to be born was not allowed to have a life.”
Why did he choose to bare his soul so many years later? We can only hazard a guess that something triggered in him the sense that it was “alright” to grieve for his lost daughter.
We learn that he has written her a letter, “telling her how much I love her, and that I hope someday to see her and feel her arms around my neck.” He tells us that he has forgiven Pilgrim’s mother, “and in turn, I am hoping Pilgrim’s mother will forgive me for my part in the pregnancy.”
He began his column with this question: “What do you tell an unborn daughter that was aborted 40 years ago by its mother?” He is the father of a daughter, but “I have never seen or held her in my arms. The two of us never had the opportunity to share the song of a sparrow, throw pebbles across a pond, to hold hands while looking at a sunset. I never had the chance to see her play soccer, softball, or basketball, or to watch nervously with her mother by the screen door as she left to go on her first prom. I wanted to be able to do all these things; however, I did none of them.”
But if his initial paragraph is almost too painful to read, his conclusion holds out hope, for him and for others:
“I write this story to give the reader the opportunity to know that fathers of unborn children should have rights regarding their unborn children, and that many of us men are almost just as permanently affected and scarred by the abortion of their children, as are the mothers of these babies. I hope that any couples contemplating abortion read this article and rethink their position.
“They owe that at least to their baby,” he concludes. “Goodbye, Darling Pilgrim, I love you.”