By Kevin Burke, LSW and Christa Childs
In 1969, a young Texas lawyer, Sarah Weddington approached a desperate and pregnant Norma McCorvey. Norma already had 2 children and a failed marriage, with a family history of abuse and addiction. Norma was unable to get an abortion of her third child due to Texas abortion law.
Over a pizza lunch Norma signed the paperwork making her the plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the infamous abortion suit against the State of Texas – the rest is history. In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and legalized abortion in the United States.
What is less known and understood, is how Sarah Weddington’s own abortion, years before Roe V Wade, played a central role in opening the door to a decision that led to the death of close to 60 million unborn children.
The Price of Higher Education
In 1967 Sarah and her boyfriend Ron Weddington, both law students at the time, were facing an unplanned pregnancy. They did not want any disruption of their educational goals.
Abortion was illegal in Texas. So in the fall of 1967 Sarah and Ron drove south to Eagle Pass, Texas, crossed the border and entered a small clinic in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras.
In her memoir “A Question of Choice”, Sarah, upon waking after the procedure thought, “I hope I don’t die, and I pray that no one ever finds out about this.” Sarah and Ron married the following year.
For 25 years their abortion remained a dark secret that was not shared with family or friends. Only in the writing of “A Question of Choice” did she finally open up about her own abortion. Sarah and Ron would later divorce.
Weddington’s autobiography reveals that once the Roe decision went to court, her memory of that time is sketchy. She forgets how and where she first heard about the Supreme Court’s decision. A Question of Choice presents Sarah as a serious woman with workaholic tendencies.
The Deadly Relationship between Abortion Advocacy and Complicated Grief
Abortion is not a normal experience of loss. It is often a closely guarded secret.
Remember Sarah Weddington’s first thoughts immediately after the procedure:
“I pray that no one ever finds out about this.”
This reveals a natural sense of shame and desperation about what just happened – and a need to keep this shameful event a secret. Pro-choice feminist will claim this is because of abortion stigma directed against those who have the procedure.
But even when abortion is felt to be the “best option or decision” and validated by friends and family, there are often feelings of confusion, shame and guilt when you disrupt the very natural process of pregnancy.
A woman’s body, when experiencing a healthy pregnancy, is naturally pro-life…and not pro-choice. A woman in reality becomes a mother at the time of conception and her body goes through various changes to welcome and nurture the new life growing within her.
Unplanned or complicated, stress-filled pregnancies can cause some mothers and fathers to reject the truth of their parenthood, and lead them to abortion decisions.
Denial of what was lost, and repression of the painful memories and feelings after the abortion event, can be manifest in a variety of ways. Those with previous trauma and abuse and other emotional vulnerabilities are more likely to experience post abortion symptoms such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and unhealthy relationships featuring promiscuity that can set in shortly after the procedure.
However among higher functioning and educated women, denial can take a more sophisticated, but deadly form.
The Deadly Denial of the Abortion Rights Activist
Some women deny and repress their natural post-abortion feelings by total immersion in educational and career pursuits.
Others discover a vocation in abortion rights activism.
To those in abortion recovery counseling, it is no surprise that many of the pioneers of reproductive choice, such as Kate Michelman of NARAL and Gloria Steinem, zealously promoted abortion rights after their own procedures.
Those with previous abortion loss, and consumed with the fight to expand and validate abortion rights, are continually repressing any negative feelings and memories of their own abortion experience. This powerful emotional energy is directed into what they and others see as a noble and just cause. Any feelings of anger and pain from their abortion experience are displaced onto the enemies of choice.
Sadly, the failure of many abortion activists to acknowledge and mourn the death of their unborn children, has led to so much suffering and death.
Pro Choice feminists like Michelman, Steinem and lawyer Sarah Weddington re-enact and re-validate their own unhealed abortion loss by “empowering” other women to make the same “choice” as they did.
Leslie Blackwell of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign shares about her pro-choice activism after an abortion:
“I discovered I was pregnant and I had just landed my dream job as a TV Talk Show Host. A roommate drove me to an abortion clinic in Greensboro, N.C. After graduation, I threw myself into the new job creating a façade of the perfect young career girl who had it all together … drinking, drugging and sleeping around … self destructing. Trying to validate my choices, I became a strong pro-abortion supporter and at times militant with anyone who didn’t agree with my opinion.”
As Sarah Weddington’s story indicates, partners that have an abortion and stay together experience higher rates of relationship dysfunction and divorce.
Why is that?
A couple shares physical and emotional intimacy, pleasure and joy that naturally leads to the creation of life. The abortion procedure disrupts this very natural process and ends the life of the developing child. This loss infects those areas of relational intimacy with the painful emotions and memories associated with the procedure and their role in the child’s death. Couples rarely share their complicated feelings about the abortion experience and the child that died.
Over time this can create challenges in future communication, trust, and sexual satisfaction. Partners, often throw themselves into work (as Weddington did after her abortion,) and are vulnerable to acting out their unrecognized post abortion issues in affairs. Some will abuse drugs and alcohol and may be be prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication by their physicians. They may appear quite successful – but they remain emotionally and spiritually wounded.
The body remembers what the mind and heart deny and repress.
Many women and some men experience depression, anxiety and grief on the anniversary of their abortion or on the actual due date of their child.
Norma McCorvey, (the Jane Roe of Roe V Wade) shared in a radio interview with Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life that her meeting in 1969 with Sarah Weddington, when the lawyer was trying to convince Norma to be a plaintiff, was held on the anniversary of Sarah’s illegal abortion in Mexico.
Weddington may have unconsciously channeled her anniversary reaction after abortion into efforts to validate her own choice, as she met with a pregnant Norma McCorvey and worked to legalize abortion in the courts.
Aborting Jane Roe
Those who deny their own abortion loss are often reactively angry and unforgiving with those that challenge the narrative that abortion is always and everywhere a liberating and empowering experience for women.
From the New York Times:
“Sarah Weddington generously praises the Austin women who first sparked her involvement in Roe, but she is unduly harsh and dismissive toward her former client, Norma McCorvey, with whom she has since had differences.”
Why such animosity toward Jane Roe?
Perhaps because Norma was the voice of her conscience, and the millions of women who have been manipulated and exploited at the time of an unplanned pregnancy.
Norma McCorvey came to later publicly regret her association with Roe V Wade and shared her experience of feeing manipulated and lied to by Weddington at a vulnerable time in her life.
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Sarah’s autobiography, 25 years after the loss of her own child to abortion, was perhaps in part related to an unconscious need to share her public abortion testimony, break the power of the secret, and find peace and healing.
Sadly she cannot fully repent, grieve and heal of her own abortion loss as she continues to promote abortion as a necessary solution to an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
Jesus said it is challenging for the rich and wise of this world to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier “for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.”
Jesus also shared that the poor and meek of this world are blessed.
The periodically homeless single mother who became the Jane Roe of Roe V Wade later repented of her role in that infamous decision. This required great humility and courage. Norma was received into the Catholic Church in 1998 and died recently on February 18 2017. Before she died Norma found God’s mercy, forgiveness and peace.
The journey to conversion and repentance, forgiveness and healing will be much more difficult for Sarah Weddington. But not impossible.
Jesus looked at them and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)