It was the 1930s—a time when out-of-wedlock pregnancy was rare and shocking. A 14-year-old girl—the daughter of a clergyman—finds herself pregnant. What should she do?
Well, today a frightened teenager would likely abort her child. But 60 years ago, abortion was illegal, and the story of that 14-year-old helps us understand the true costs of abortion.
Most Christians are familiar with the wonderfully moving 1977 book by the late Sheldon Vanauken called A Severe Mercy. It’s the story of the spiritual pilgrimage that he shared with his late wife, Davy, at Oxford University. In his final book, The Little Lost Marion and Other Mercies, Vanauken recounted a more private chapter of Davy’s life.
Long before she met Vanauken, at age of 14, Davy bore a baby girl and placed her with adoptive parents. Yet Davy had never stopped loving the blue-eyed baby she’d given up. Following her death in the 1950s, Vanauken began searching for the child Davy had named Marion. In 1988 he finally found Marion, by now a young woman who, Vanauken writes, resembled his beloved former wife.
DAVY NEVER STOPPED LOVING
Meeting Davy’s daughter, now married and the mother of three children, gave Vanauken a greater insight into what he calls a “wholeness of vision” regarding abortion.
In The Little Lost Marion, Vanauken writes: “Had the frightened young girl who was Davy lived in this decade instead of that remote one, she would perhaps have confided in a school counselor, who quite likely would have told her of the possibility of a quick and easy abortion…. What frightened fourteen-year-old would not clutch at the way out that the… counselor held out to her?”
But a wholeness of vision requires looking beyond the immediate concerns of a crisis pregnancy to the full and future implications of abortion. To achieve this, Vanauken writes, “I must see not only the frightened fourteen-year-old Davy… but also the warmly alive Marion and her family.”
While he can feel sympathy for the frightened young girl, Vanauken says, now “I know Marion and her children, too.” Had Davy undergone an abortion, Marion and her “three bright and beloved children, would never have existed at all.”
This is especially poignant in light of the fact that Davy and Vanauken had no children of their own. If Davy had aborted Marion, there would now be no loving woman who calls Vanauken “father,” nor her three children.
“I glimpse,” Vanauken writes, “what [John] Donne meant in saying that any man’s death diminished him. I should be diminished if half a century ago Davy had clutched at the straw of abortion. And all the folk who have touched or shall touch the lives of Marion and her children and their children-to-be would be diminished.”
Today when we are assaulted by the mind-numbing abortion statistics, we need to remind ourselves that each abortion represents the loss of an individual: a person who won’t live and bring love into the lives of others, as Marion has done. It’s a message we need to somehow communicate to those who are considering aborting other Marions.
That each abortion is a tragic loss… one that diminishes us all.