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What Kate Michelman and Pope St. John Paul II Taught Me

AP Photo/Okello Dunkley

Susan E. Wills - published on 08/30/14

I knew all this soon after I quit practicing law and decided to be a full-time pro-life advocate. But while I never “blamed” her or thought less of her for having had an abortion under her very difficult circumstances, I drew the line at abortion advocacy. I believed that anyone who actively promoted children’s deaths by abortion was fighting for the wrong team, if you get my drift.

Advocating abortion necessarily involves lies. HUGE LIES (and we all know who’s their Daddy). It requires lying about the nature of abortion, about the nature of human life before birth and the humanity of the child, about natural human rights, our Constitution and laws, about what abortion does to women—physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

Abortion advocates strive and largely succeed in making vulnerable girls and young women think that abortion is like any other “necessary” medical procedure and a quick & easy solution to the problem of a “crisis” pregnancy, one that will bring only relief. One with no moral dimension or risks. Heck, it’s your right!

I saw her and the others as enemies because through their advocacy and lies, they led others to grave sin, led others to become responsible for the death of their child, led so many young women to unimaginable suffering, grief and remorse, robbed them of their happiness, knowing that many develop destructive addictive behaviors to deaden their pain and many even punish themselves through self-abusive behaviors—such as anorexia, bulimia and cutting.

So, Kate Michelman the Abortion Advocate had become an enemy to me and to the Church for which I worked. It wasn’t “personal,” as they say, but I’d call her out on every lie, every opinion I disagreed with.

The last time I saw her was at a Congressional Committee Hearing in late 2003 or early 2004, shortly before she retired from NARAL. I suppose she’d already announced that she was stepping down. She looked on the verge of a nervous breakdown—rail-thin, sunken eyes, sleep-deprived. Instead of feeling compassion for her, I speculated that her years of abortion advocacy, trying to affirm the rightness of her personal decision, had finally taken their toll. This would not have been far-fetched because she did say that the 1973 Roe decision was a “benediction” for her, blessing and ratifying her abortion decision.

I had ceased to think of her as a human being; she was Abortion Advocate, no more, no less. And since her 2004 retirement, I’ve given her barely a thought (although years ago I started praying for other abortion advocates as I became a little bit better person).

A few days ago, I stumbled on an old news story praising Ms. Michelman for her work and offering a glimpse into her personal life. Then I read a few more stories linked in the original and here’s what I learned:

That day—when I thought that her distraught appearance was the end result of running an abortion clinic and 19 years of national abortion advocacy, and I came that close to thinking “Serves you right”—Ms. Michelman looked awful because she’d been devoting herself to the care of one of her daughters and her husband. The daughter, who worked with horses and whose employer didn’t provide insurance, was paralyzed when thrown from a horse. Ms. Michelman cashed in all her assets except their home to cover the surgeries and long hospital stay (close to $1 million). Nursing care at a good facility was prohibitively expensive, so Ms. Michelman eventually decided to care for her at home with some help from visiting nurses.

The year after her daughter’s catastrophic injuries, her long-time second husband, Fred Michelman, who had Parkinson’s disease, suffered a very serious fall in their driveway. And Kate was caring for him as well.

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