Daughter Proud of Her Mother for Aborting Her Older Sibling

Opinion   |   Lauren Enriquez   |   Jul 11, 2013   |   10:41AM   |   Washington, DC

In a New York Times opinion piece this past Sunday, Beth Matusoff Merfish shared the story of her own mother’s abortion – and how proud and admiring of her mother the abortion made her.

Prefacing the story with an extended lament about the current state of affairs regarding the success of pro-life legislation in Texas, Merfish explains that the story of her mother’s abortion is in some ways a rite of passage in her family: her mother, Sherry Matusoff Merfish (an avid abortion activist), shared her abortion story with each of her daughters shortly before they left for college.

“My mother chose to abort her first pregnancy, in 1972,” Merfish said. She explains that when her parents were engaged, her mother became pregnant, and Merfish posits two reasons (making it unclear what the true motive behind the abortion decision was) why her parents chose to end the life of their first child: “They knew they were thoroughly unprepared to be parents,” and they feared the stigma of having engaged in premarital sex without using contraception.

Noting that abortion was illegal in Texas in 1972, Merfish explains that her parents traveled to Albuquerque for the abortion. “A few months later, they were married in San Antonio,” she said.

Ironically, Merfish explains that it was “fear of shame” that prevented her mother from being open about her abortion. Despite the fact that her mother was a public abortion activist, she could not bring herself to reveal the truth about her own “reproductive history.”

The proud abortion-supporter’s voice shook as she shared the story of her abortion with her college-bound daughter. “I was shocked: at 18, I naïvely believed that only other women — not my family and certainly not my mother — needed this right that our family had long supported. We had volunteered at Planned Parenthood and canvassed for candidates who supported abortion rights.”



Although Merfish admits that it took years for the shock of her mother’s revelation to “wear off,” she goes on to gush about how proud she is of her mother’s choice to take the life of her older sibling. “What the movement for reproductive rights needs is for the faces of freedom to emerge from the captivity of shame. To my mother’s generation, I ask: Speak openly about the choices you have made. To all women: ask your mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters and partners about their reproductive histories. Show that abortion has myriad faces: those of women we love, respect and cherish. You have the power to cement in the minds of your communities and families the importance of reproductive freedom. You have made decisions that are private, even anguishing, but the weight of this political moment demands that you shed light on those decisions.”

Merfish does not make a convincing argument about how these “anguishing” decisions advance women’s rights or “reproductive freedom,” except to point out that the opposition (that’s us) is “frightening,” and as a guard against the fright, post-abortive women can take comfort in knowing that there are many other women who share their heartache. Rather than taking comfort in numbers, the pro-life community recommends that women who are struggling with the effects of an anguishing abortion decision seek healing from groups like Rachel’s Vineyard, which can lift the load of a long-kept secret.