HOLLYWOOD, September 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Film lovers mourned the loss of Gene Wilder, the star of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Young Frankenstein,” after his death on Monday at age 83. Wilder had three known brushes with abortion during his lifetime: Once it kept him from conceiving a child. Another time it claimed the life of his child. Wilder also said he survived a deadly disease due to a stem cell treatment – but not the embryonic kind.
Gilda Rader’s hidden abortion pain
The nation had seen the funny man grieve openly over the loss of his wife, “Saturday Night Live” founding cast member Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer on May 20, 1989.
Radner wept privately over the fact that she would never have Wilder’s baby – an infertility she blamed on abortion.
Radner wrote in her autobiography, It's Always Something:
I had been pregnant in the sixties, and at nineteen years old had an illegal abortion that probably influenced the messy state of my reproductive organs. For the next nineteen years, my priority was to finish my education and pursue my career. Now I couldn’t take my fate: You’ll never have a baby. That was the sentence handed to me. I began to beat my fists against a door that maybe I had locked on the other side.
The Mayo Clinic acknowledges that abortion can harm the cervix to the point that conception is difficult or impossible.
Radner desperately wanted a child, more so than Wilder, and the couple tried unsuccessfully to conceive through IVF.
Women who have had an abortion have a higher need for and rate of fertility treatments, according to a study by researchers from Tel Aviv University, which was published in Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.
Instead, Radner treated her dog as a child. “Sparkle was my baby,” she wrote, explaining why she stayed in the United States rather than accompany Wilder to the UK, where Sparkle was forbidden entry.
Wilder’s first film after Radner’s death, 1990’s semi-autobiographical “Funny About Love” (directed by Leonard Nimoy and co-starring Christine Lahti), centered around a couple’s struggle to conceive.
Wilder’s lost child
Abortion had touched Wilder’s life once before. While filming 1979’s “The Frisco Kid,” he fathered a child with a Swedish woman whom he referred to only as “Gunilla” in his autobiography, Kiss Me Like a Stranger. She acted nervous during a dinner date, refusing to drink wine, before nervously telling him that she had gotten pregnant despite using a copper IUD.
“I had been afraid that she was going to say that she had a serious illness,” Wilder wrote. When she apologized, he told her, “You have nothing to be sorry for.”
He said he would support her decision, whatever it may be.
Wilder revealed that she opted to abort their child but recorded no emotional reaction to it. Wilder – who was raised by an emotionally demanding, domineering mother – told The Scotsman in 2007 that he was afraid to become a father, in part “because I would be number two, and I want to be number one.” Yet he said he also regretted his estrangement from his stepdaughter.
Gene Wilder saved by adult stem cell research
A decade after Radner’s death, cancer again came into Wilder’s life when doctors diagnosed him with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I had a stem-cell transplant. It saved my life,” he said.
In 2002, he clarified to Larry King, “No, no, this is not what you take from a fetus. This is taken from your own blood.”
Five years later Wilder, who was never outspoken politically, gave money to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign because of “the lives that could be saved” by expanding embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).
However, the promised cures – including Wilder’s own – came from adult stem cells, not ESCR, and did not involve the destruction of an unborn child.
Adult stem cells, taken from his own blood, allowed Wilder to live out his last days as a novelist in his Connecticut home with his wife until his death of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Wilder dated only one woman, Karen Boyer, after Radner’s death – and spent the next 25 years married to her. “Most people would consider their daily life a romantic vacation. He built a very idyllic life,” his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, told People magazine this week. “There was nothing that brought him the tranquility that his marriage to Karen did.”
“I was always a one-woman man,” Wilder once said.
Gene Wilder, RIP.