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Silent no more

By Christine Dubois

The Catholic Northwest Progress
Western Washington State Catholic Community

January 20, 2005

Lee Anne Martinez has never before spoken publicly about her 1970 abortion. But on Jan. 29, the 52-year-old mother of three will take the microphone in downtown Seattle.

"I’m scared," admits Martinez, who lives in Belfair and attends Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Bremerton, "but with the grace of God, I can do this. I want to put a face and a voice to abortion. . . .

"I am your sister, your daughter, your mother, your aunt," she plans to tell the gathering. "I am every woman -- not bad, not good. I am just like you. I made a mistake, which was compounded by murder, and for that, my life changed irrevocably. If I keep silent, no one will benefit from my experience."

The Silent No More Awareness event, to be held Jan. 29 at Westlake Park in Seattle at 11 a.m., is the first such gathering in the state, and one of about 20 throughout the country this month. The campaign is sponsored by Project Noel and Priests for Life.

Area coordinator Mary Emanuel, an Internet marketing consultant and member of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Woodinville, says women generally don’t speak about their experience with abortion.

"You get to hear from the people marketing this product, but you never hear from the people who tried it," she notes. "I hope this will raise awareness about the devastation that abortion brings to women, and to men, and that women who are hurting because of an abortion and have kept the pain inside themselves will start to speak out and find help."

Back in 1970, Martinez was a single, 18-year-old college student when she discovered she was pregnant. She planned to have the baby and put it up for adoption. But her parents had other plans. "You’re going to pack your bags and go to Tokyo for an abortion," they told her. (Abortion was illegal in the United States but legal in Japan at that time.)

"They put me on a table and injected me with a saline solution which killed my baby," Martinez recalls. "I felt my son’s wee little body struggling, but was helpless to stop the procedure." She was sent back to the hotel, where she endured 10 hours of vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps before returning to the clinic. There, "I was knocked out and the baby was removed from me."

Later, she and her mother played gin rummy at the hotel. "Why did we have to do it this way?" Martinez asked.

"Because if you saw your child, you would have wanted to keep him," her mother explained. "Now you have an opportunity to go on with your education and have a career."

Martinez did finish her degree and took a job teaching English overseas. But it was all "with a huge hole inside me." Her self-esteem plummeted, she had thoughts of suicide, and she engaged in substance abuse and other risky behaviors to mask the pain. She was haunted by thoughts of her baby and fantasized that he had survived the abortion and was being raised by the Japanese doctor. For years, she told no one what had happened.

In 1985, she met her-husband-to-be, and knew she had to tell him the truth. His response was blunt: "You killed your baby."

"No, I didn’t," she answered indignantly. But his words stayed with her. "That was the first time -- 16 years after my abortion--that I had heard the truth."

The couple tried for years to get pregnant. Doctors could find no medical reason, but Martinez believes her fertility problems are tied to her abortion.

Today her husband, Mel, and their three adopted sons (ages 11, 12 and 17) fill her life with joy. Still, she can’t forget the baby she named Matthew Dean.

"This will never quit hurting," she says. "I will never get over it. My son is not with me, my grandchildren are not with me. I will never have somebody who looks like me. My genetic line stopped in April of 1970."

Martinez, who became a Catholic in 1988, says it’s the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ that have helped her carry on.

"I see our blessed Mother with all the babies around her feet, baby-sitting," she says. "And one day, my prayer is to be reunited with my child."

Also speaking at the Jan. 29 gathering will be Kristina Hathcock, 26, a student, mother of two, and member of St. John Bosco Parish in Lakewood, who had an abortion in 1997.

Hathcock was in the Navy recruitment office when she learned she was pregnant. She was 18, had just joined the armed forces, and was scheduled to leave for boot camp in four months.

The recruitment officer took out a piece of paper and listed the reasons she should have an abortion: She had no college education, her former drug use might have damaged her baby, she had no career prospects. Most sobering of all, the pregnancy would disappoint her grandparents, who had been so proud of her attempts to put her life together.

Hathcock called her mother and sister, and heard pretty much the same thing. She could see no other choice. "I didn’t want to have an abortion," she says, "but I felt I had to."

Her memory of the trip to the abortion clinic is a blur. She recalls lying on the table, sobbing. A volunteer held her hand and assured her that everything would be all right. "Once this is over, you can go back to living a normal teenage life."

It wasn’t that easy. "I was a wreck from the minute it started," she admits. "I cried every day for the next five years."

She married a year and 10 days after her abortion, and tried desperately to get pregnant, falling into periods of depression each month when her period began.

Finally, on a retreat sponsored by Project Rachel, she was able to talk with other women who had endured the same thing and to make peace with her past.

"I knew God had forgiven me, but I hadn’t forgiven myself," she says. "And I realized I was trying to get pregnant for the wrong reasons. I decided I was going to leave it alone. When God knew I was ready, he’d give me a baby."

Ten days later, her twin daughters were conceived. Today Kristina and her husband David, a former Marine, live in Olympia. Kristina divides her time between taking classes at the University of Washington Tacoma campus and caring for 18-month-old Caroline Grace and Margaret Katherine.

By sharing her story, she hopes to help others avoid the pain she’s suffered. "I’m hoping that women who are hurting will learn about the resources out there, and that maybe a woman who’s thinking about abortion will hear and reconsider."

 

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