You may have seen the Michelle Williams Golden Globes speech by now. Reportedly pregnant, she credited abortion for her professional success and for allowing her to be who she is. Pro-life and pro-choice people said what you would have expected but largely missed what seemed to be the misery.
When New York State a year ago expanded legal abortion, in a place that had already long been dubbed the abortion capital of the world, some women who had suffered abortions and come to a place of healing through the work of the Sisters of Life or others were astonished that the governor would celebrate his move. Who would want more abortion when it hurts so much? “I feel like something died inside,” a woman who doesn’t think about abortion as the killing of a life will frequently say. Whatever your position on abortion, it’s not something to celebrate.
But, of course, the days of “safe, legal, and rare” are long past. I ran into Democrat Dan Lipinski at Reagan Airport in D.C. right before Thanksgiving, and all I could think was “man without a country.” He’s the genuine-deal pro-life Democrat. And there’s no room for him in his party. When Tulsi Gabbard, as one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, came out for some restrictions on abortion, I thought, “Please become a leader here.” Could you imagine if we could really change abortion politics so we’re not fighting for a winner-takes-all approach? Can you imagine creative coalitions that could come together to decrease abortions and increase adoptions, including those from foster care, and including older children — those vulnerable teenagers about to age out of the system and enter the wider world all alone. No one should ever be alone.
Alone is what I thought of when I saw Michelle Williams’s Golden Globes speech. Her words, about carving her life with her own hand, seemed to cry out with a haunting “alone.” For all her years in the industry, what pain must she have suffered! I remember thinking this when Robin Williams died by his own hand: Throughout our lives, we are entertained by people. But do we give thought to their lives? Do we pray for them? I think this is a place for common ground, too, among people who consider themselves pro-life and people who love the earth. Sometimes they are the same people, and it’s only natural that they would — this is all creation. Are we grateful? Are we protectors? Are we good stewards? Do we rejoice in the possibilities, and are we in awe of the beauty? What can we do to celebrate the choice of life — and in its different forms? Birth mothers and foster parents are some of the unsung heroes among us who inspire when they are known and supported.
When I watched the camera move around to show us faces in the Golden Globes crowd listening to Williams, I couldn’t help but wonder whether all those jewels and all that dressing up were about covering up an internal sadness, an awareness of the ugliness that has happened, by choices made in life, or by events and actions that leave deep, traumatic impressions. When Williams talked about things that happen to women’s bodies that are not of their own choice, I shuddered to think how she must have suffered. She was a child actor and as a teenager played a role on TV. I’ve read over the last few days that Harry Weinstein had an interest in her. One can only imagine what she had to go through — the #MeToo revelations have made clear that there is a miserable backstory to much that America is entertained by. We ought to be cautious about letting our views on abortion make us forget common decency and humanity.
When women seek help after having an abortion, they often can’t see past the abortion. The abortion has marked them, in their minds. Williams was saying that abortion made it possible to be who she is. But while she was celebrating “choice,” it was also quite clear she probably didn’t have much of a choice. Does the industry prefer abortion? Does much of our culture?
Instead of celebrating or decrying Williams and her speech, we can take her words as an opportunity to think differently about abortion. It’s the leading cause of death in the country and probably in the world. This can’t be healthy.
In our lifetime, many men who would become Democratic leaders started out as pro-life, but their party changed, and they went along. What if a new generation of leaders reconsidered? What if a new generation of Republican leaders spoke words about the evil of abortion but only while considering the heart of the woman who has had abortions? It’s not just Hollywood celebrities and poor, desperate women who have abortions. They may be members of your family. They may be alongside you when you pray. “They” may not be “they” — you’re reading this, and I’m sorry you suffer this.
When the March for Life happens later this month, you’ll see women with signs about the abortion they regret. There’s a sadness in our country. Abortion not only changes a woman, it changes a culture. Some of the anger you see in politics? The poison of abortion has been law for 47 years! And whatever your position on its legality, it has an impact not only on whether an unborn child gets a chance at life but also on whether or not we are going to be decent to one another. To look at that Golden Globes moment and see the human struggle would make us a better people. See Michelle Williams, and want better for women and society, and make a move in your part of the world to do something about it.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.