By Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director
A happily married woman who delights in her two children may not seem like someone who would get an abortion.
Yet, Sue Ellen Browder did. In her book Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement, she reveals the mindset that led her to a decision she would later regret.
It’s a mindset that, decades later, still lures women to abort. At its core is the universal emotion of fear.
Browder feared that she and her husband, struggling writers working temp jobs to keep the lights on, could not afford another child. The 1970’s Cosmo culture in which she was steeped validated that fear and gave her “permission” to act on it. “In my mind, abortion was an integral part of the women’s movement, a right as fundamental as equal pay for equal work,” she writes. As “watered-down Christians,” she says her husband even tried to find justification for abortion in the Bible.
But Browder admits that she would never have considered abortion were it not legal in 1974. “Looking up some sleazy criminal abortionist in a back alley would be too hideous a prospect for words.” An important admission that we need to bear in mind today as we seek to change laws to protect life.
Getting a legal abortion in the “bright, clean hospital” where she had already given birth, however, gave it an air of legitimacy, as though it were just like any other medical procedure. “I didn’t think of myself as killing a child. I thought of myself as solving a problem.”
The abortion was excruciatingly painful, both physically and emotionally. In an act of self-preservation, Browder blocked much of the details from her mind, rendering the memory a blur.
Afterward, she numbly returned to work. “I have just snuffed out a tiny life over my lunch hour. I have betrayed the bond of love that holds the universe together. And no one I work with seems any the wiser.”
To prevent any possible feelings from surfacing, Browder buried herself in distractions. She blamed the persistent angst and depression she felt on the couple’s continually volatile finances. Her husband struggled emotionally as well, and they chose to stifle their pain by never speaking of the abortion.
One day, however, Browder found herself offering a gesture of atonement. She spontaneously purchased a brand new wooden crib and mattress and donated it to a pro-life center for “some struggling mother who, despite her poverty, had chosen to keep her baby and to reach out humbly to others for help.” Something she wished she had done.
Browder’s thinking shifted and she questioned the faux feminism that portrayed abortion as the great liberator. She recognized that she herself was deceived by the very propaganda she helped disseminate as a writer for Cosmopolitan.
Her entry into the Episcopal Church, coinciding with her work on a book about human interactions, resulted in a new understanding of personhood. She realized an interconnectedness between all humans, especially mother and child.
It gradually became clear to Browder that the women’s movement embodied by Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women was rooted in flawed thinking that “falsely isolates a woman from God, from a true relationship of love with a man, and even from the dance of life in her own body.”
Browder had succumbed to fear in getting her abortion, but she would no longer succumb to the lies that pitted women against their children.
Her journey was taking a new turn, one that would lead her to a surprising place.
(Please join us in reading Chapter 13-18 and the Epilogue for next week.)
“It’s not only a tiny little life who dies on this gurney. Part of my heart dies along with him.” (p. 105)
“Men, stripped of the maturity than comes with responsible fatherhood, were becoming self-absorbed Peter Pans who couldn’t grow up.” (p. 122)