Comments about abortion in the final U.S. presidential debate prompted a well-known pastor and columnist to break her silence about her own painful experience with late-term abortion.
Amy Butler, pastor of Riverside Church in New York City and contributing columnist to media outlets including Baptist News Global, said in an Oct. 26 commentary in USA Today that she doesn’t often speak about the experience and has never written about it until now.
“The late-term abortion I chose was the end of a dream,” Butler said. “The pain was so real and so consuming that navigating my way through the grief, I never thought that I would have the happy, healthy family that I do today. It was one of the most agonizing experiences of my life and a true lesson in the reality that life is not always as clear-cut and obvious as you might think it is.”
Butler said when her first son was a little over a year old, she and her husband were excited to learn she was expecting a daughter. Things seemed to be going well, until a late-term sonogram revealed severe fetal abnormalities. Her doctors told her the baby would suffer, would survive at most a few minutes after birth and carrying the pregnancy to term would be very dangerous for the mother.
“I went home that night and cried, like I did for months and months after that day, but I never had a second thought about the right thing to do,” Butler said. “For me it was important that the baby not experience pain, and that we have a little ability to say our goodbyes in as safe and loving way as we could.”
Butler said what prompted her to share the experience were comments by Donald Trump during the third and final presidential debate Oct. 19 after Hillary Clinton answered a question about why she voted against a ban on a controversial late-term procedure to terminate a pregnancy discussed in the political sphere as “partial-birth” abortion.
“Well, I think it’s terrible,” Trump responded. “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.
“Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”
Butler said Trump’s words make a woman’s decision to end her pregnancy sound like “a reckless, irresponsible afterthought,” and she was offended to see her deep personal grief being used to advance a political agenda. At the time, she said it never occurred to her that anyone — such as the government — “would have anything at all to say about my own gut-wrenching grief.”
“So, Mr. Trump, when you denigrated my experience with your political strategy, I was angry,” Butler wrote. “I take issue with your characterization of my grief as a clear-cut morality test. The words you chose to use did not in any way reflect my experience of a terrible rending the day my heart broke.”
“I wish I never had to live through the loss of my child, but I am forever grateful for my personal decision being just that: mine,” she continued. “I had a choice, and I chose to make the hardest decision and carry the pain of that decision with me for my whole life to ensure that my child didn’t suffer.”
“Others may characterize that choice as they wish — even presidential candidates seem to be doing that,” she said. “But it’s my conviction that every woman deserves that right in a situation where there are no easy answers, no pious pronouncements, no political solutions that could ever, ever fix the gaping, aching emptiness in her arms.”
Prior to Trump’s comments about abortion in the Oct. 19 debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Clinton about her vote against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 while she was a member of the U.S. Senate.
“The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make,” Clinton said. “I have met with women who toward the end of their pregnancy get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy.”
“I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions,” she continued.
Clinton’s response raised hackles in the pro-life community. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., called Clinton “the most pro-abortion candidate ever to be nominated by a major political party.”
“In the third debate she proudly projected her support for abortion, her advocacy for Planned Parenthood, and her defense of the horrifying procedure known as partial-birth abortion,” Mohler wrote in an Oct. 25 op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“Clinton and her party now advocate coercing American taxpayers to pay for abortion by removing the Hyde Amendment,” Mohler said. “She had made clear her intention to nominate liberal justices to the Supreme Court and liberal judges to the lower courts. She had long advocated policies that evangelical Christians see as abhorrent.”