Pro-Life Actress Patricia Neal of "Hud" Fame Dies, Regretted Her Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 9, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Actress Patricia Neal of "Hud" Fame Dies, Regretted Her Abortion

by Marianna Trzeciak, Esq
August 9, 2010

Washington, DC ( — Pro-life actress, Patricia Neal, died at age 84 on Sunday. She had been suffering from lung cancer and was surrounded by her family at her home in Massachusetts. Neal is best known for her Oscar-winning portrayal of a housekeeper in the 1963 movie, Hud, with Paul Newman.

She is also very well known for her valiant recuperation from a series of strokes which she suffered while pregnant in 1965. She was in a coma for 21 days. The Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, situated in Neal’s hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, is also award-winning for its care for people recovering from strokes and spinal cord and brain injuries.

The actress herself described her life as a Greek tragedy, in some measure. She had 5 children with her husband, Roald Dahl. The first, Olivia, died of measles at age seven. Another, Theo, was severely injured when his baby carriage was hit by a car. After thirty years of marriage and the survival from her strokes, Neal was divorced from Dahl after discovering his affair with a friend.

However, Neal said that her only regret in life was aborting a child when the actress was 21 years old.

Her lover (and co-star) Gary Cooper had persuaded her to have the abortion, as he was still married and had a daughter with his wife. That daughter, Maria Cooper, famously spat on Neal to show her displeasure that Neal had interfered with the marriage of the Coopers. However, later, the wife and daughter reconciled with Neal.

Maria Cooper is credited with helping Neal return to Catholicism. And, despite her hatred of the affair, Maria Cooper is said to have complained to Neal that the aborted child was the only sibling Maria Cooper would ever have and that she wished that the child had been given life.

Patricia Neal openly admired fellow actress Ingrid Bergman, who gave birth out of wedlock to a son by Roberto Rossellini, and was therefore denounced by the United States Senate. Neal said that Bergman had "guts" and that Neal wished that she had had the guts also to carry her baby to birth.

Joshua Mercer of Catholic Vote Action, noted Neal’s death and her pro-life views in later life.

"Neal stood out against the grain of Hollywood by calling for the defense of unborn life. It was learned from her own mistakes," he said. "Neal appeared as a guest on The View and spoke gently about how abortion creates anguish and sorrow. She often said simply but powerfully: ‘Don’t make my mistake. Let your baby live.’"

"I had the chance to hear her speak about six or seven years ago and I can say without any hesitation that everyone in the room was moved by her testimony," Mercer continued.

Even the New York Times noted her abortion regrets in its obituary:

During her affair with Cooper, she became pregnant. She had an abortion and according to her 1988 autobiography, “As I Am,” (written with Richard DeNeut), she cried herself to sleep for 30 years afterward. “If I had only one thing to do over in my life,” she wrote, “I would have that baby.”

"Never underestimate the power of forgiveness! Maria Cooper understood that Jesus forgives, so she found the strength to do so as well. I believe that Patricia is eternally grateful," Mercer said.

The courage that eluded her at age 21 was certainly shown in later years. Rest in God’s peace, Patricia Neal.


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