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Ahlin: Two Catholic grandmothers and abortion

Ahlin shares the story of two anti-abortion Catholic grandmothers.

Jane Ahlin.jpg

This is the story of two anti-abortion Catholic grandmothers. Call them “Millie” and “Molly.”

Millie and her daughter were sign-carrying anti-abortion protestors. Millie’s daughter was a single mom with a 3-yr-old and they lived with Millie. In fact, Millie was the babysitter while her daughter worked. Unfortunately, because of physical and mental problems, her daughter’s work history was sporadic. Along with that, her 3-yr-old was showing signs of developmental delay that doctors thought needed addressing. Millie, a widow who’d not worked outside the home, also had health issues and financial hardship. With Medicaid they barely scraped by.

Millie’s daughter had had steady work for about a year when she discovered she was pregnant by an abusive boyfriend she’d stopped seeing but still feared. When Millie and her daughter talked it over, they were in complete agreement that the 3-yr-old was their paramount concern.

Millie said, “I never thought I’d be the one saying this, but you should have an abortion.”

Molly, the other Catholic mother who came to mind, was quick to assure me she was “pro-life” when I met her. “But this is different,” she said.


You see, her happily married daughter reached 20 weeks of pregnancy thinking everything was fine. Sadly, it wasn’t. Not only did the fetus have abnormalities incompatible with life, but also Molly’s daughter’s life would be endangered by continuing her pregnancy. Of course, North Dakota doesn’t allow abortions that late in pregnancy. (Pause a moment: In many states pregnancy termination already is limited. That your life is endangered doesn’t matter. If the fetus hasn’t died in utero and you’re not at death’s door, you carry the doomed fetus until it’s born.) What ensued for Molly’s daughter and son-in-law was dramatic and traumatic; however, finally, the pregnancy was terminated in another state.

The good news for Molly’s daughter was that she later had a successful pregnancy. (Do we have to say if she were dead that wouldn’t happen?)

Be very clear: both Millie and Molly understood that although they approved of their daughters’ decisions to terminate pregnancy, their Catholic churches and their “pro-life” communities would condemn them.

The conservative supermajority on SCOTUS dismisses the Millies and Mollies of this country as inconsequential. When the Mississippi case likely to overturn Roe v Wade was argued, Chief Justice John Roberts thought 15 weeks was time enough to know you wanted an abortion, negating the tragic experience of Molly’s daughter and thousands of others across the nation. Justice Amy Coney Barrett thought forcing women like Millie’s daughter to give birth is no big deal since there are “safe haven” laws: Just leave your newborn at a fire station. Justice Clarence Thomas insisted the Constitution says nothing about abortion. (Hmm…seems it’s addressed as much as interracial marriage.)

Justice Sonia Sotomayor openly worried whether SCOTUS will “survive the stench…that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts.”

The much greater worry is what happens to all the Millies and Mollies and their families.

Ahlin lives in Fargo and is a frequent contributor to The Forum's opinion pages. Email

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Related Topics: U.S. SUPREME COURT
Opinion by Jane Ahlin
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