This year on Mother's Day, I helped my grandson place flowers on his
mother's grave. Although Justin is only seven years old, he tries to be
brave as he honors his mother's memory. I can't help thinking how proud
she would be.
Justin is bright and beautiful. He reminds me of Mary when she was my
little girl. How my heart aches for him. Both his mother, my daughter, and his brother,
my other grandson,
were taken from him, killed by an unwanted and unnecessary abortion. I
wish that I could say that she had a peaceful death. Instead, she had a
painful, violent, and politicized death, a death that torments our
family even today.
Mary was only sixteen when Justin was born. She was unmarried, and
bravely accepted the burden of being a single mother. We were proud of
her, proud of her desire to protect and preserve Justin's life when so
many would encourage her to abort. The birth of our precious Justin made
all of us more pro-life than ever.
Two years after Justin was born, Mary was the victim of a date rape.
When the man found out, he tried to make her have an abortion. She
refused and would have nothing to do with him.
At first she was planning to place the baby for adoption. Abortion
was something she would never consider. But she had been receiving an
anti-depressant for bipolar depression, and her psychiatrist told her
that there was a 1 in 12 chance that the anti-depressants would cause
heart and brain damage to the baby.
Mary was devastated. How could the drugs which had been helping her
now be hurting her child? How could she ever have an abortion? She
needed expert advice and counseling. She went to a prestigious hospital
that specializes in women's health care. Justin had been born there. The
hospital's Medical-Social Worker (M-SW) promised to help her with
information and counseling.
When we arrived for the appointment, the counselor excluded me saying
that Mary was eighteen and the session was private. She immediately
scheduled Mary for a sonogram. After the sonogram, Mary had another
session with the M-SW and was convinced that she had damaged the baby.
After this, Mary indicated to us that she had been told that it would
be unfair of her to burden me with helping her to raise a second child,
especially one who was handicapped. (I was already helping her with
Justin and caring for my husband who is quadriplegic.) When it became
clear to us that Mary was being advised to have an abortion, my husband
and I reassured her that the psychiatrist's statistics were really in
her favor. There was an 92% chance the baby was fine. Even if the baby
did have problems, we could all cope with it together. She did not have
to do this. Nor did she want to. But she was feeling as though she had
no choice. We assured her that whatever her decision, we would
understand and love her with all our hearts. After that she didn't say
anymore about abortion.
But two weeks later the M-SW called our home to speak with Mary. Mary
wasn't home, so I told her that Mary was very depressed and she was
crying a great deal of the time. I asked her to please do some fetal
testing to reassure Mary that the baby was fine. Her only response was
to tell me that she needed to speak with Mary privately. Mary waited a
few days and then called her back. The M-SW immediately scheduled Mary
for a pre-admission checkup and an abortion. From this point on Mary
became very withdrawn and dependent upon me for everything.
When I took Mary for her pre-admission checkup, I was not permitted
to speak to a doctor or ask any questions. Again, my depressed teenage
daughter was expected to sign documents and make major health care
decisions without support from loved ones.
When the appointment was finished, she told me that the doctor had
assured her that the procedure wasn't bad at all. Then she immediately
asked me if she could change her mind at any time. This showed me how
fragile and uncertain she really was.
On the day of the abortion my fears began to overwhelm me. But I
reasoned that this was the leading women's hospital in the state. Surely
she would receive the best of care. She was in the safest place
possible. Still, I had no peace -- my 18 week old grandchild was about
A nurse arrived with some papers to fill out. Mary was nervous and
having difficulty answering some of the questions. When I helped her the
nurse just glared at me. She was clearly annoyed with my presence.
At 12:45 PM the nurse walked Mary to the operating room where they
did the instillation of urea which would induce the abortion. When she
returned I helped her into bed, covered her, wiped her tears and hugged
her. "Oh Mom," she cried, "that really hurt." I remember telling her how
I was so very sorry for her pain.
I left the hospital at 5:30 to check on Justin. While I was driving
home, my husband called. He told Mary how he loved her and would see her
soon. They ended their conversation with a simple prayer, a Hail Mary,
asking the mother of our Lord to "pray for us sinners, now and at the
hour of our death." This was the last time he ever spoke to her.
I returned to the hospital that evening and stayed until 11:00 PM
when Mary insisted that I go home to be with Justin. I wanted to stay
with her, because the abortion had still not been completed, but she
assured me she would call if she was lonely. I kissed her goodnight,
saying "I love you...see you in the morning." She looked like a little
girl in that bed. It was the last time I saw her alive.
At 9:15 the next morning I received a call from the intensive care
unit (ICU). The nurse said, "Something went wrong. It's very serious." I
flew to the hospital, rushed into the ICU, bursting into the first room
I came to. Behind the curtain I could see the outline of a woman and a
doctor writing on a chart.
Just then a nurse came up and asked who I wanted to see. I said I was
Mary's mother. She gasped, grabbed my shoulders, and pushed me out of
the door. I said I wanted to see her; I wanted her to know I was there.
She said I couldn't go in because they were working on her.
Thank God my friend Charlotte arrived. She sat with me and comforted
me. Twice a doctor came out to ask me questions about Mary. Each time I
asked to see her and was turned away. Then the room was suddenly filled
with white coats. A doctor sat in front of me and held my hands. "My
daughter is dead, isn't she?" He nodded his head, "Yes."
I could not breathe and felt as if I were sinking into a hole. One of
them said they had told Mary I was there. I was less than grateful for
that small gesture.
Finally they allowed me to see her. We entered her room and I could
hardly believe what I saw. There was my beautiful daughter so horribly
disfigured that she was almost unrecognizable. They still had a tube
protruding from her mouth and I could see that her teeth and gums were
covered with blood. Her eyes were half opened and the whites of her eyes
were a dark yellow. Her face was swollen and a deep shade of purple. The
left side looked like she had suffered a stroke. The only feature that
had not been disfigured was her hair. All I wanted was to hold her. I
managed to get an arm around her and to kiss her good-bye.
As they led me back to the waiting room I started to talk about how
beautiful Mary was as a baby. I was trying to understand what I had just
seen. I was trying desperately to hang on to my sanity. I couldn't feel
my fingers as they dialed my husband. I was in such pain I thought my
heart was breaking. I whispered to him that Mary had died. I can still
hear his crying.
Mary's doctor came to me with an autopsy authorization for me to
sign. Only now did they need Mary's mother. Only now was I important
enough to sign documents. I signed it, knowing that even more
irreverence would be inflicted on Mary's body, because I had to know
what had happened. Why had she died? Why had she died alone, stripped of
her pride, her dignity, her self-worth?
I remember riding home searching the sky for some sign that Mary was
in heaven. When we arrived home, I was grateful to see the family and
friends there with love and support. We needed to focus our attention on
Mary's funeral. Before we arranged for the Mass, I told our pastor that
Mary had died from an abortion. We would be burying both of them that
day. Now he was able to make sense out of the horrible condition of
After the autopsy, the funeral home tried several times to make her
presentable for viewing. The first viewing was on August 19th, 1989. It
was my husband's 39th birthday. Mary's body was clothed in her
Confirmation dress. In her hands was a small pink bouquet from Justin.
Mary's funeral Mass was a celebration of her life. We wanted God to know
that we were grateful for blessing us with this beautiful child. We gave
her back to Him with the same love we had for her when we asked for a
child of our own.
A month later we met with the coroner to discuss the details of
Mary's autopsy. He avoided fully answering our questions. Instead of a
detailed explanation, he advised us to "go home and try not to be
ashamed or your daughter." We had expected an investigation of the
hospital's procedures; instead we received a commentary on our
daughter's virtues. She was just a statistic.
We could not allow Mary's death to simply be hidden away in a pile of
statistics. To learn the truth would require a lawsuit, and this meant
that we and Mary would be dragged into the public record and subjected
to vicious attacks from defense attorneys. Yet this was our only way to
break through the coverup.
It was very difficult to find the right attorney. In desperation I
called Vicki Conroy of Legal Action for Women. She gave me the name of
an attorney in Kentucky, Ted Amshoff, a member of a national law firm
specializing in abortion malpractice cases. When I spoke to his
paralegal, Josephine, I knew I had finally found someone who cared more
about Mary's death than about the controversy of abortion. Two days
later Mr. Amshoff came to our city, reviewed the hospital records and
autopsy report, and recognized that Mary had died a senseless death.
Our suit was filed in September of 1991. The legal battle is still
ongoing, which is the reason why I can't publish our real names and many
of the other details which would identify the defendants.
During the course of this suit, I feel the defense tactics have been
shameless. Among other ploys, they have tried to discredit us as a
family just trying to "cash in" on the situation. Of course I've come to
understand that all of this is part of a strategy designed to discourage
Through Mr. Amshoff's persistence we have uncovered several important
facts. In depositions we learned that the M/SW never saw Mary's sonogram
or even discussed the results with her. The M/SW ordered the sonogram
solely to determine which abortion method should be used.
Mary never saw the words on the sonogram report that would have
changed everything: "No abnormalities detected." Had she been told this,
she never would have had the abortion. She would have been freed from
the guilt and fear that her handicapped child would be unadoptable or an
unbearable burden on her parents and son. This abortion counselor only
wanted Mary to see one choice: abortion. They took advantage of a
depressed 18 year old, leading her to make a major life and health
decision based on incomplete and misleading statements. Never once did
they mention the guilt and pain she would have endured even if she had
survived her "safe and legal" abortion. So much for "freedom of choice."
We also learned that the abortion unit at this teaching hospital
allows residents to perform the abortions and after care. When Mary
became ill, she was seen by a resident who was only two months out of
medical school. Despite the many symptoms of infection which were
present when he examined her, he decided to delay Mary's treatment for
Mary didn't last the hour. After 40 minutes she was in a coma and on
full life support. She had a raging infection that was rapidly
overwhelming her body. By the time Mary was taken to the ICU, it was too
late to save her. Only then, when it was too late, was she finally seen
by a board certified doctor.
When Mary died, there was not one investigation, conference, or group
discussion conducted by the hospital. The abortion unit is still open
and operating as if nothing had happened. The death of an eighteen year
old mother was not reason enough to overhaul their abortion unit. There
attitude has simply been to keep the business running.
Nor has it escaped our notice that there has been absolutely no
concern expressed over Mary's death by the "pro-choice" women's groups.
Why aren't they demanding justice for this dead teenage sister? Aren't
they concerned that she was lied to about the condition of her baby,
that she was denied any true choice? Aren't they concerned that she was
ignored while an infection took her life? This "sisterhood" is a lie.
Not one member of any pro-choice or women's group, like A.C.L.U. or
N.O.W., has come forward to express even token sympathy, much less
outrage over Mary's death. They would prefer that she just remain a
But my daughter is not a statistic. She is a person who deserves
respect. I believe that she is now a person living in heaven with her
son, Christopher, who also died during that abortion. And she is praying
for us, and especially for Justin, that in finding justice we will also
We too pray for justice and healing for all the other families, like
ours, who have been traumatized by "safe and legal" abortion. For their
sake, and the sake of those to come, we cannot be silent.
The "Taylor" family names in this account are fictional. After
this issue suit is settled, "Mrs. Taylor" wants to network with other
families whose daughters have been killed or seriously injured by
abortion for the purpose of mutual support and the advancement of social
reform. Other families who wish to contact her for this purpose can
write to her c/o Ted Amshoff, Swendsen, Amshoff, Maroney, 1385 S. 4th
St., Louisville, KY 40208, (502) 634-2554. Mrs. Taylor was assisted in
finding legal representation by Legal Action for Women, (800) 962-2319.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 2(2),
Spring/Summer 1994. Copyright 1994