Actress’s abortion process turned her pro-life

By  Tony Gosgnach, Catholic Register Special
  • November 18, 2007

{mosimage}OAKVILLE, Ont. - Actress. Film and television star. Cover girl. Composer. Author. Poet. Artist. And spokesperson for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

Jennifer O’Neill has played a number of roles in her life and on Nov. 9 she added to that list by coming to Canada and serving as the featured speaker at Halton Pro-Life’s annual Respect Life Dinner Fund-raiser. The $75-a-plate event attracted more than 300 people to the Oakville Conference Centre.

O’Neill has more than 30 feature films and numerous television movies and series to her credit, including the movie that made her into a household name, The Summer of ’42, as well as David Cronenberg’s Scanners.

{sidebar id=1}It was her personal and public experiences with abortion, however, that were the focus of attention in Oakville.

She told the crowd about how she became pregnant in her early 20s — during the first part of the 1970s when abortion was newly legal in the United States and while she was engaged to a Manhattan man — and the subsequent shock she experienced when she learned that he was not pleased with the pregnancy and insisted she have an abortion.

“I was devastated,” O’Neill said.

Although she was not in favour of it, a lack of support from her parents and the characterization of the fetus as a “blob of tissue” by her doctor prompted her to “fold” and go through with the abortion.

Years of depression and nine miscarriages because of the abortion took their toll before she became a Christian at 38 and went about a healing process that ended in her finding true love and becoming the proud mother of three children.

In her current work with Silent No More, O’Neill travels and speaks to anyone who will listen, including U.S. congressional committees, about the damaging effects abortion has on women.

“What God did in my life was fascinating,” she said. “It all started with a life that looked so good and hurt so badly.… I am a messy messenger, but God’s message is perfect.”

The goal, the now 59-year-old O’Neill said, is to make abortion unthinkable.

“We’re not designed to kill our babies. It is a cycle that needs to be stopped.”

She added that when individuals grasp the reality that they can make a difference with a single voice, they will “become billboards for the truth.”

O’Neill said the fact that a majority of youth today are pro-life is evidence that the battle is slowly, but surely, being won.

“Isn’t that amazing coming from a culture of death?” she asked. “I believe youth are pro-life because they’ve turned around and realized they’ve lost one-third of their generation — brothers and sisters, friends. Gone.… Youth want the baton passed to them.”

She told her audience that pro-life supporters need to redouble their efforts, as victory is within reach.

“God is not interested in our fence-sitting. He wants us to be bold, because every 24 seconds (in the United States), a baby is lost to abortion.… We’ve got to get over the division in the body of Christ and come together on the life issue. We will not be defeated if we call upon the power of the Holy Spirit and in one voice, be bold.”

She quoted Sir Winston Churchill in observing that while we make a living by what we do, we make a life by what we give.

“Let’s be bold … can we be bold? There is nothing more important than telling the truth in boldness,” she concluded to a standing ovation.

(Gosgnach is a freelance writer in Hamilton, Ont.)

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