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What Happened When an Anti-Choice Catholic Woman Needed An Abortion

December 13, 2009

AlterNet has an interview with Gail and Robert Anderson, a devout Catholic couple who had an abortion at Dr. Tiller’s clinic when they learned about serious health complications for the child they wanted:

At the home of Gail and Robert Anderson, a large statue of the Virgin Mary sits in the yard, welcoming guests into the home while protecting the family that lives there. Next to the statue of Mary, inside a labyrinth of daisies, daffodils, tulips and roses is a stone engraved with the word grace. For the Andersons’ grace is not just a word or a concept taught through their strong Catholic faith, but the name of the daughter their hopes and dreams hung onto. It is the name of the daughter they said goodbye to in the Kansas office of a man named Dr. George Tiller.

They go on to speak candidly and passionately about the incredible care they received from Dr. Tiller, who prayed with them and helped them find a way to memorialize their daughter, Grace. “The staff was respectful and allowed me to have a little bit of dignity where I didn’t think I had any left. It made me sad that I didn’t get that from my friends or my religious community, but from strangers in a hospital setting.”

This story reminds me what a loss Dr. Tiller’s life is for the United States, because of the extraordinary service that he provided for women and families in unimaginably difficult situations. It also reminds me why I am pro-choice, even though the idea of abortion admittedly still makes me somewhat uncomfortable: because in all circumstances, especially the most difficult ones, women should have a full range of choices about how to care for their bodies.

Gail Anderson had been an anti-abortion activist before her pregnancy and abortion. She had gathered monthly with other Catholic women outside abortion clinics to pray for the unborn babies and the women having abortions. But she hadn’t lived that reality herself, and so she couldn’t understand. Many people who I love and deeply respect believe that abortion is morally wrong, that it is the equivalent of taking any human life. I will not try to convince them otherwise, but as Robert Anderson explained, “We are Catholic. We are supposed to be against abortion, but the church teaches mercy as well. The church examines quality of life. It isn’t a black and white issue as so many like to make it.”

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