Below is a joint keynote speech my wife LaRee and I gave to the 2010 U.S. Right to Life Prayer Breakfast in Pittsburgh. I've re-posted that speech in its entirety below.
TEARS OF REGRET
TEARS OF LOVE
What is the true extent of abortion’s tragedy? Well, of course, the most obvious tragedy is
the death of a baby developing in the womb of its mother. But that is only the
tip of the iceberg of human tragedy. Abortion kills conscience – both for the
individuals directly involved and the collective conscience of a community, and even entire nations.
|LaRee & me giving|
the keynote address
abortion in 1969. In 1971, I became pregnant at the age of seventeen and Mark
was the baby’s father. I was living with my grandparents at the
time. I was terrified. What would I say to them? What would we say to Mark’s mother? What would people in town think?
Mark and I had known
each other for many years through our family connections. Like most young couples in love, we spent the
majority of our time together. Mark was
the focal point in my life. I was
absolutely devoted to him and knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life
with him. Once I broke the news that my period was late to my Grandmother, she
immediately booked an appointment with a local doctor to have the pregnancy
test done. The news came back positive.
My initial reaction
was both fear and excitement. I thought
about marriage. I thought about our lives together, I thought about struggling
financially, but most of all I thought about our love for each other. I knew exactly what I wanted, … but did
Mark? When the two of us were alone, we spoke of
marriage, the excitement of a new beginning, we even began thinking of baby
names. Yes, we were both scared but we
still dreamed of a future together along with our baby. Then others became involved.
My grandmother began
speaking about abortion. (To be honest,
I didn’t even know what an abortion was!) Mark’s mother turned her back on me
and treated me like I was a piece of trash that had come into her son’s life
and took away his innocence. In other
words, I was the cause of this pregnancy. She told me I made my bed and I
could lie in it. I remember she would not even walk on the same side of the
street as me. I was filled with shame. I didn’t have a friend in town other
I found myself
thinking through my options. I even wrote them down in a letter to Mark that I
have kept all these years. I refer to
this letter every so often just to remind me of my thoughts during
that most frightening and alone time in my life.
I spoke of the four choices I had, and in
these very words (keep in mind I was only 17):
- I can go to
Edmonton and have an abortion, this would free me of all my problems, but
it would also take away a big part of me. I love you too much to take away
your baby, and I will love that baby as much as I do you, Therefore having
an abortion is out.
- I can go into
Edmonton and live in a home for unwed mothers, have the baby, then put it
out for adoption, But I have thought this over and have come to the
conclusion that I can’t do that either.
- I can go into
Edmonton after the semester, have the baby and keep it, and raise it on my
own. I know that by doing this, I am giving up most of my future but I just
can’t give up something that is mine or yours for that matter.
- We can get
married. As for me, I have no
hesitations, because I know I love you.
I can understand you being worried about how we are going to live,
but you aren’t the only man in the world this has happened to.
Now let me tell you
what happened through my eyes. Immense pressure was put on me to have an
abortion. I was not provided with any information on how abortion was
performed or how the baby was dismembered throughout the abortion by vacuum
suction. I was not given any
alternatives or any specific information on adoption or homes for unwed moms.
(Remember, there was no such thing as the internet.) People I trusted said abortion
was the best thing. And if the government was going to pay for the abortion … it
must be okay. At 17 years old it didn’t take much convincing.
abortion law of that time, I was required to go through what they called a
therapeutic abortion committee. Therapeutic? What a farce! The committee was a
rubber stamp process. There was no therapy for me and it certainly was not
therapeutic for the baby. I was booked to see a psychiatrist who spent about 2
minutes with me, ensuring that he asked me if this is what I wanted to do. I
had already been coerced into believing this was my only way of resolving my
problem by friends, family and my boyfriend.
I was placed on a
waiting list at a hospital that performed abortions. They called just in the
nick of time around the 3-month mark since I had conceived.
It was late
November. The Christmas Season was drawing near. The hospital where my
abortion was performed was decorated with festive coloured lights. But there
was nothing festive for me or my baby as I walked through the double doors into
the hospital for my abortion that late and terrible afternoon.
I remember the
sadness and fear that I felt. Looking back now, I know that had someone given
me another option, reached out to me with a loving embrace – I would have continued
my pregnancy. But only the abortionist reach out to me. The pressure was on me and I felt I had no other choice. I made
the wrong choice.
I spent the night at
the hospital in preparation for the abortion.
I remember hearing the cries of newborn
babies down the hall and was
puzzled at why they would place me within earshot of the crying? I still don’t
know why. There was a nurse (and I wish I could meet her now) who
came to my bedside twice in the middle of the night, touched my shoulder softly
and asked me if I was sure that this is what I wanted to do? Oh, how I wanted to
reach out to her and cry out “No! I love this baby.” But I was afraid to change
my mind. That meant that I would let everybody else down. How would I face them
if I didn’t go through with it?
I was rolled on a gurney to an operating room and the procedure was performed. A nurse asked me to
count from ten backwards. Oblivion. Just before coming to, I remember hearing
the sound of something that sounded like a vacuum cleaner. That sound is
forever embedded in my memory. (I imagine my baby being caught up in that
A few hours later,
back in the ward, a male nurse came in to check me. I remember asking him if he knew if it was a
boy or girl? He said something to this
effect: “It might have been a girl, but I’m not sure….”
I was given a small
meal and told that if I was able to keep the food down, then I was free to
leave the hospital. I threw up the meal,
covered up the evidence, my ride had arrived and I was on my way back home.
After the abortion, I
felt relieved but very sad. I went to see Mark where he worked and we talked
for a short time. The stress was evident in both of us. Six months later we broke up.
I moved on with my
life, and more many years denied ever having gone through the abortion ordeal. Two years later Mark and I met again and we eloped. (Family relations were not
good but we were still in love.) Three years after that our daughter was
The minute I saw her
I realized that she was not my first child.
Memories of my abortion came back. When I looked into the eyes of my
daughter I often wondered if the child we aborted would have looked like
her. My daughter was a beautiful baby
and she is a beautiful woman.
[Let me share a small grief that persists even decades later: (Mothers will understand.)
Every Christmas Season, memories of my abortion always come flooding
back to me. If Christmas lights twinkle in a certain way in late afternoon
shadows, I have a flashback to my feelings of fear and aloneness that day so
long ago. Those feelings mingle and confuse my joy of the Christmas Season and
the meaning of Advent. My first child would have been 38 years old today and a
contributing member of society.]
North America, a woman can have an
abortion for any reason at all, or no reason
whatsoever. I am the Executive Director of the Pro-Life Association for the
Canadian province of Alberta. My office is located directly across the street from a
major abortion clinic. They have a booming business! Every day, there's a
steady stream of women entering that terrible place. Later they come out pale and unsteady. Some stagger into the back alley and throw up and I
think to myself: Nothing has changed in 39 years. Women are uninformed, kept in
the dark about the real effects of abortion. Like lambs led to slaughter, their
babies are sacrificed on the altar of so-called sexual liberation and reproductive rights. The
women are left to pick up the pieces of their life-changing decision that may
haunt them for years – like it did to me. The abortionist pockets $600 and the
woman swallows her internal poverty. Some freedom! Some choice!
About 25 years after
my abortion I learned that in 1929, my grandmother became pregnant before
marriage. She lived in a small town and consequently suffered humiliation
and was ostracized by the community. I honestly believe she thought she was
doing the right thing in directing me toward abortion. She was trying to save
me from people’s cruelty similar to what she suffered. She had no idea about the long-lasting effects of abortion.
My grandmother may
have suffered the humiliation of having a baby out of wedlock but I suffered sorrow
and grief for having killed my baby. Neither of these
scenarios is God’s plan. Children should be born into the love and security of
a family. Sex should be reserved for marriage. That is where sexuality is
In 1984, Mark became
incurably ill with multiple sclerosis. It’s degenerative and has disabled him
as you can plainly see. I vowed to protect him when the time came that he could
not protect himself. You see, we now
live in a society that is advocating the killing of people like my husband. This time, I will stand up for a vulnerable person in my life.
Euthanasia advocates are trying to bring their agenda to America, state
by state. One thing you have to give to euthanasia advocates – they are
kinder to me than I deserve. I pressured her to have the abortion. I didn’t
want to be a father. I wanted sex without consequences. But abortion has
consequences for men too.
later it was certain that I would face the fact that I did not protect my
child—that my hands were bloody
too! A great and terrible day came when my conscience would be silenced no more. It was like God what said to Cain: “What have you done?! The voice of your baby’s blood
cries to Me from the ground.”
My conscience condemned me! I remember thinking
“How could you abandon your child when you had such a wonderful father!” My
heart broke. I could not even claim ignorance. I knew my baby was not a "clump
of tissue" or "potential life." She was an actual life—a human being as deserving to be alive as me.
You see, my father kept
in his library a Life Science series of books. One was entitled Growth. It was published in 1965. I remember as a 12 or 13-year-old boy sitting with my parents and marvelling at these very early photographs of prenatal development. Some of the photos in this book date back to 1957. This baby is at least 45 years old. When we had the abortion in 1971, I knew what we were doing.
photographs from the book
In the 1990s
I heard a university professor of medicine claim that when abortion on
demand was accepted into the social fabric of North America (1969 for Canada
and 1973 in America) we did not know about the humanity of prenatal life. I happened to have this book with me and showed him the pages I just showed you then said, “If
someone as dumb as me knew then surely those who passed the law, and the doctors
who participated knew.” The strangest thing happened. He looked away, almost
imperceptibly began slightly rocking in his chair and wringing his hands. I don’t
think he was even aware he was doing it.
The thought came to my mind: “Pilate.” Not just him. I am like Pilate
too, and so everyone who has washed their hands of helping women in crisis
pregnancies make life-affirming decisions. Everyone is like Pilate who remains
silent when we know that 98% of abortions are not medically required.
fittingly ironic that now it is me who is vulnerable in the same society that
does not protect unwanted or inconvenient preborn children. Indications are
that eventually it may not protect its incurably ill and disabled people (like
There was a
time when I was healthy, athletic and strong. Now I am chronically ill,
disabled and weak. The journey from there to here has been long and painful. Is
there an eternal lesson I am being taught? Perhaps. I’ve been so dense
emotionally and dim spiritually. There were times when I would have given up if
I had not been surrounded by people who loved me. I can see how a person can
despair and want to die in the isolation of suffering. I cannot even imagine
the abandonment of people agreeing to help someone with their suicide.
diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 30. It has been slowly
destroying physical function for more than 25 years. My onset of multiple sclerosis in
1984 was sudden. It began one morning when I awoke to find no sensation
below my waist. I could walk just fine, but I could not distinguish hot from
cold or sharp from blunt. Then, overnight I lost the use of my right arm and
hand. It initiated years of terror as MS ravaged my body. It would attack
taking away a function, then remit and return most, but not all the previous
function. I would go to bed at night not knowing what function I would wake up
with or without and no guarantee I would get lost function back. It was like
was like a wild, savage roller-coaster ride.
One thing I lost early on was
my sense of musical timing and the coordination in my right hand. This was
important to me because music was a huge part of my life. I played guitar, and
at the risk of sounding boastful, I was very skilled. I grew up in a musical
family. My mother taught music for over 60 years. At any rate, about two years after
losing my ability to play the guitar, I realized it was probably not going to return.
And so in a fit overwhelming grief I took my beautiful, top of the line instrument and sawed it in half.
LaRee was horrified! She yelled
at me, `What are you doing! You`ve lost your mind!`` I put the two pieces of my
guitar back in the case and LaRee and I spent the rest of the evening in
stunned silence, but I wasn`t sorry. That night after the family was asleep, I
got up and wrote a note and put it in the case with the destroyed Fender
guitar. May I read you what that note said.
``I sawed my guitar in half today. It was the healthiest thing I have
done in a long time. It gave me a release and a feeble way to express my grief.
My love was music. As a youth I lived for my guitar and my music. I remember when I would
rather play than eat. Now, my timing is gone, so too is the strength in my
On September 27th
1986, my new reality came into clear focus. Life will not be normal again. I
realized I must pick up the pieces remaining in life and forget what I`ve lost.
Grief that would not focus for 2 years finally came to a head. I couldn`t cry
so I sawed my guitar in half.
I couldn`t just give it away;
that would only be more things slipping out of reach. There`s been too much of
that already. I needed to sever the past with no tiny remnants to haunt me and
I sawed to say goodbye to
artistic expression. I sawed to say goodbye to a carefree youth. I sawed to say
goodbye to life without a cane or other contraptions of the disabled. I sawed
to release grief and say Ì hurt! But mostly, I sawed to say goodbye to an old
and trusted friend – my guitar – a finely crafted instrument I can no longer
It didn`t seem right to just
leave it in its case. I sawed my guitar in half today.
And so LaRee and I began a
terrifying but illuminating journey with a catastrophic disability.
It was important for me to know I
was loved by someone who was adamantly committed to my natural human dignity. I
found it in LaRee who was also suffering.
I want to bring your attention to
this aspect of suffering disability or chronic illness. It’s not just
individuals who suffer. Those who love them suffer too, sometimes more
Mark lives with the real symptoms of aggressive,
degenerative multiple sclerosis, which have their limits. I am left to witness
it all, ― and imagine. Imagination has no limits. I believe it is easier to be than to watch. Despite countless trials love has prevailed. But love is
like the two sides of a precious coin. The two sides of love
are this: It is life’s greatest ecstasy but also the cause of life’s greatest
agonies and anguish. It is a paradox of love.
Century author, Victor Hugo said,
“To love or to
have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be
found in the dark folds of life. To love is a consummation.”
And so it is. Yet as a
wife, mother and grandmother, I want more, and I ask further. I want to
protect those I love from pain, emotional hurts, disappointments, and even life
as it ends—but I cannot. So often I sat
at the bedside of suffering loved-ones and prayed, “Lord give me their pain” as though there is some quota of suffering to be filled which I can bargain
over with God. There is not.
begins with a glance and a hello and ends in tears of goodbye at life’s
conclusion and separation – or it should. Life begins with the agony of
childbirth but is quickly forgotten by the power of love. Such is the love of a
mother for her children.
When Mark and
I married, he was so healthy and active. For the first eleven years of our marriage, he was a super-achiever not only in his career but with family life. He was my
diagnosed with MS his career stalled and he was often too sick to participate
in family activities he previously led. Our children were 7 and 5 when Mark
was diagnosed with MS. They had difficulty understanding why their dad
could not play and be active like he used to be with boundless energy.
At the time
that Mark was diagnosed with MS, I didn’t even know what the disease was. I had
no idea of the impact it would have on our future. And so I began to research
the medical literature and even visited a few auxiliary hospitals to see if I
could pick out the people with MS: I noticed the
canes, the crutches, the
wheelchairs and scooters, the van
contraptions and curb cuts. MS meant DISABILITY!
I looked into
the faces of loved-ones of patients with MS and wondered if I could endure the
heartbreak and hurt.
reaction was anger! It was irrational but my immediate response was anger. How
could Mark do this to me?! How dare he get sick! He was
supposed to be the strong one. I was the weak one. “Damn you!” I thought. If
one of us was to get sick, it should be me. I could cope better with the disease.
Mark was the one with the most energy. I could accept this much more easily if
I was the sick one. I could just
slink away from the world, it would be okay. I was angry, sad, and bitter but
most of all, I was afraid.
I wanted to
correct the fate God allowed by trying to convince Him he made a mistake. Mark
could raise the children, remarry, and go on with life. “I can’t do
this!” I cried. “I can not sit back and watch this Lord.” I pleaded with God to
give me the MS.
was stronger than mine, his personality stronger than mine, his body was
stronger, his upbringing stronger. His ability to make a living was better than
mine. Couldn’t God see that?! I was so angry with Mark and GOD! I felt cornered
... and so let down by life.
started changing him. I began to gauge the distance between benches in shopping
malls in case he needed to sit with exhaustion. I started fearing places with
crowds. He might get impatient and I would see that look of frustration on his
afternoon, I looked on in horror as my husband began to crawl his way up the
stairs in our bi-level house so he could use the bathroom. I realized our life
had changed and I had to make some decisions.
The first decision I had to make was whether I was prepared to stay in
Satan told me that there was an easier way out. “You’re still young. The kids
would get over it,” he whispered over my shoulder. “You can start over like
many other women after divorce.” The temptation continued: “You can get help
from other family members. They will understand.” Even people at my work asked
why I was staying with Mark?
It did not take long to
realize I needed to get serious with God and ask for his hand if I was going to
jump on the wild MS rollercoaster ride. My first
prayer was to ask for a wheelchair accessible home so we could begin our new
life TOGETHER: God, Mark, me, and the children.
We needed a
house that would allow Mark to move about without a struggle, a home that would
take us far into this disease. Where the MS would take us, we did not know. We
had to trust God.
My prayer was
two-sided. I had always had a deep longing for permanence, a place to call
home. As a child I was moved from pillar to post (37 times throughout Canada).
I didn’t want my children living like
gypsies. There was nothing I wanted more than a
stable HOME, a permanent
address and an apple tree in the back yard. The Lord knew this had been my
And so, in
1987, God answered a need and a prayer. He provided us with a wheelchair
accessible home in Beaumont, Alberta, just down the hill from a historic Catholic Church. During
difficult times with MS attacks, Mark seemed to find comfort sitting near the
apple tree in the backyard and looking up the hill at the old church and listen for the sound of its bell. It seemed to draw his heart closer to God.
enveloped me with His love in such a way that I don’t need a Superman husband.
(I must admit though, when I hear a noise in the night, I send Mark in his
wheelchair whirring into the darkness swinging a cane to protect us from the
bogeyman.) What more could I ask for?
Our home has become a
meeting place for family occasions where our children and grandchildren gather.
Every August we gather in the backyard to
pick apples from the tree.
Occasionally I reflect on what began with abortion – the denial of life and
love’s potential to blossom (both human and divine). It started a pilgrimage to
regain the meaning of life and love.
this session by posing the question: What is the true extent of abortion’s
tragedy? Perhaps this is abortion’s greatest tragedy. The gift of life – with
its limitless potential – is denied, returned to the giver of life unopened,
unwanted, unexplored and unrevealed. Nobody has the right to rob another life
of its potential. Abortion did not liberate us – it broke our hearts and made
Mark and me poorer – much poorer.
King David wrote: “The sacrifices of God are
a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – These, O God, You will not
despise.” It was on the foundation
of a broken and contrite spirit, first with the abortion and later with a
serious and crippling disease that the Saviour began to teach us the purpose of
life and love. Out of the tear-soaked soil of regret and sorrow grew understanding. We are loved and
convinced that the Lord has allowed the MS to continue so that we grow
spiritually and learn to depend upon God completely. And I have become
convinced that divine love is the only thing that matters. To abide in Christ’s
love, and reflect His love to a lost and hurting world, … that’s where the real
meaning of life is to be found.
Christ told us to
take up our cross daily. I found meaning in my cross because I found meaning in
His cross. At the foot of that cross, LaRee and I found divine love. In our
brokenness, we have found forgiveness and love. Christ is leading us home.
After receiving CHRIST's forgiveness and Love, I would pray as I sat across from my husband at the table - JESUS, I need YOUR LOVE for him. Myra Jean
Thank you Myrna. Your comment is so important.
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