The Benediction of Kate Michelman
A Case Study on Coping With Post-Abortion Trauma

The Post-Abortion Review
Vol. 7, No. 1, Jan-Mar 1999
by Amy R. Sobie and David C. Reardon
The Elliot Institute
Reproduced with Permission

As president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), Kate Michelman is one of the most powerful pro-abortion "feminists" in the nation. Defending abortion is more than Michelman's job. It is her passion. In defending the "right of women to choose," she is first and foremost defending the choice that she made nearly thirty years ago.

In her much-repeated personal testimony, Michelman has described how in 1970, she was abandoned by her husband and left to care for her three young daughters alone. Then, just after her husband left, she found out she was pregnant.

As Michelman describes it, her decision to abort was an agonizing one. Because of the social and legal taboos surrounding abortion, she was unable to discuss her decision with anyone -- not her relatives, her friends, or her priest. As a Catholic, she says, her decision to abort "challenged every religious, moral, ethical and philosophical belief"(1) she held.

Like so many other women today, Michelman abandoned those beliefs out of desperation and fear. She was on welfare, with three daughters to raise, and without the support and help of a husband. She felt that she had no choice but abortion because of her impossible circumstances.

Abortion was illegal at that time except where the mother's health or life was at stake. This was a broadly interpreted exception, but it required Michelman to appear before an all-male hospital review panel to obtain permission for the abortion on the grounds that she was unstable and incapable of raising another child. The board granted her request -- provided that her ex-husband also agreed.

During the time she was waiting to get permission for the abortion, Michelman carried with her the name and phone number of an illegal abortionist whom she was prepared to contact if she was "thwarted" in her quest for a legal abortion. Since her ex-husband agreed to the abortion, however, she never used that number. But she says that having to obtain permission from the hospital board and her ex-husband for the abortion left her feeling "worthless and violated."(2)

As the spokeswoman for NARAL, Michelman uses her personal story to effectively appeal to the empathy of those who truly care about women. She argues not only that women must be free to choose abortion so they can control of their lives, but also that America should never return to the days of illegal and restricted abortions that injured, shamed, and degraded women.

Michelman At Risk

Michelman's story is not an unusual one, either for that period or for today. Clearly, it is not the story of an intellectual feminist, liberated from sexual, familial, and religious restraints, who simply took control of her "reproductive destiny." Hers is the story of a woman caught in a trap.

For article and more information go to: