by Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director
Growing up in a small town, Sue Ellen Browder longed to one day find success in a big bustling city. So landing in Hollywood as an already accomplished writer may have seemed like a dream come true.
As she details in the final chapters of her memoir Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement, Hollywood, however, was just another alluring mirage that would give way to stark reality.
Despite Browder’s prolific and principled husband pouring his heart into one screenplay after another, he faced a steady stream of rejection.
When Browder, renowned for her articles in Cosmopolitan and other publications, appeared on the highly-rated Oprah show, she is left deflated by the experience. “Fame, like glamour, had become for me just another sick illusion.”
The hardships piled up. Unexpected health issues, never-ending financial worries, and rising marital tension. Depressed and at times, even suicidal, Browder felt like there was nothing that could ease her angst.
Her newly emptied nest magnified her despair. When her daughter returned to college one semester, she had a breakdown. Unloading the dishwasher she deliberately smashed every plate on the tile floor. Later, she realized this outburst was fueled “at least in part from my unresolved grief over the abortion” decades before.
Miraculously, in the midst of this dark emotional chaos, a light appeared.
Her husband began to read again and was captivated by St. Augustine’s Confessions. Browder saw a newfound sense hope growing in him that she envied.
In an effort to find greater peace and beauty in life, the couple resettled in a home nestled in the magnificent Redwood forest. Here they would find what they were looking for and more. Their desire to know “God’s reality,” an unchanging truth, led them to the Catholic faith.
Just moments into their first meeting with a priest, Browder’s husband blurted out that they had an abortion. The priest simply nodded, but Browder herself was shocked.
“I had no idea Walter considered the abortion ‘ours.’ It had never occurred to me that all these years he had been silently grieving right along with me.” Theirs, like that of many couples, had been a hushed mourning, with a profound grief simmering under the surface.
As part of her journey into the Catholic Church, Browder received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in which sins are forgiven. She thought she would finally find healing. But even after her first confession she suffered in silence, unable to let go of self-blame. “I feared if I ever started talking about the abortion, I would never stop crying.”
Her post-abortion trauma led her back to the confessional. She began to trust in God’s endless mercy. “After a quarter century of unspoken grief over the abortion, I at last begin to be healed. The Church, in her all-forgiving love, is so beautiful that I feel as if I’m living inside a two-thousand-year-old poem.”
It is from this long-sought place of serenity that Browder can look back at her life’s journey and at the women’s movement she once revered to see where she and we have gone wrong.
“Love for God and others, including love for the little person in the womb, is what gives meaning to life, even in the midst of pain and suffering. This is the unseen dimension of women’s lives that the Mere Fifty-Seven overlooked…when they created a pro-abortion political agenda….”
Brower’s memoir is a lesson to us all, generously offered by way of her own pain and redemption, skillfully crafted by her talent as a writer. We would be wise to keep it within reach and explore its pages from time to time.
“As strong, independent women, we need to be speaking out loudly and clearly about the truth that ‘success’ in life isn’t just about careers, sex, power, and money. All these trappings are nothing without love.” (p.148)
“If every Christian in America had stood firmly with the smallest, weakest, and poorest in our society-that is, if each and every Christian had stood firmly with the innocent preborn child nailed to the cross-we would have far fewer abortions than we do in the United States and the world today.” (p. 180)