Did you know that John F. Kennedy had more than four children? That writers Christopher and Peter Hitchens had two other siblings? That Marilyn Monroe actually had a large number of children?
I’m not particularly fond of the argument that I’ve heard many pro-lifers use: “Abortion is wrong because of all the amazing people we’ve aborted. One of them could have had the cure to cancer!” Abortion is fundamentally wrong because it ends the life of a developing human being, whether that human being would turn out to be a drug addict or the president of the United States. However, it is an interesting thought experiment—not least of all because so many people considered heroes by the Left have aborted their children or had their children aborted.
For example, I think of liberal icon President John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy Family is probably the closest thing America had to a royal family, although revelations over the last several decades have rather firmly repudiated the idea of an impossibly happy Camelot, as historians reveal anecdote after sordid anecdote of relentless philandering.
Anecdotes of President Kennedy’s devastation at the 1963 death of his two-day old son, Patrick, are well-documented. The Kennedys also lost a daughter in 1956—Arabella, as her parents intended to name her, was stillborn.
Revolutions famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different.
But there are also stories of JFK’s affairs ending in abortions. Though she herself didn't ultimately have an abortion, Mimi Alford, a White House intern that JFK had a relationship with for over a year, reported that when she told the president she believed she was pregnant, he “took the news in his stride.” Shortly afterward, she was contacted by a White House staffer named Dave Powers, often assigned to protect the president’s reputation.
“An hour later,” Alford recalls, “Dave called the dorm and told me to call a woman who could put me in touch with a doctor in New Jersey. The intermediary was a necessary precaution, because abortion was illegal. That was pure Dave Powers: he handled the problem immediately, and with brute practicality. There was no talk about what I wanted, or how I felt, or what the medical risks might be.”
In that case, Alford wrote in a memoir, the pregnancy turned out to be a “false alarm” and “neither Dave nor the President referred to the subject again.”*
However, another of JFK’s famous mistresses, Judith Campbell Exner, reported having an abortion in 1963 after becoming pregnant by the president, reportedly even providing the receipts from the procedure. Other, less substantiated accounts of abortions involving JFK and his mistresses have also circulated.
Another icon of the Left that comes to mind when I think of the human cost of abortion is the late author and columnist Christopher Hitchens. Fans of the Hitch are fierce in their devotion, with his brother Peter, a well-known conservative author, noting that his brother’s fans often burn with fanatical hatred against him, furious that a conservative Christian (who wrote his brilliant book The Rage Against God partially in response to his brother’s philosophically feeble atheist tome God Is Not Great) could bear the same last name as their hero. Both brothers are extraordinary writers and journalists, having collectively written dozens of books and published essays and columns in the most prestigious publications.
What many people don’t realize is that there were originally four Hitchens siblings, not two. As Christopher relates in his Vanity Fair essay “Fetal Distraction”:
I was in my early teens when my mother told me that a predecessor fetus and a successor fetus had been surgically removed, thus making me an older brother rather than a forgotten whoosh.
Christopher noted further that at least two children of his own had their lives ended by abortion, recalling sombrely that, “at least once I found myself in a clinic while ‘products of conception’ were efficiently vacuumed away. I can distinctly remember thinking, on the last such occasion, that under no persuasion of any kind would I ever allow myself to be present at such a moment again.”
Perhaps this was because Christopher Hitchens allowed himself no illusion, writing that, “Anyone who has ever seen a sonogram or spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows that emotions are not the deciding factor. In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain, and, whatever the method, break some bones and rupture some organs.”
Although to my knowledge Peter Hitchens has never addressed the fact of his aborted siblings in print, on abortion he has much to say. “Those who wonder what they would have done had they lived at the time of some terrible injustice now know the answer,” he has said. “We do live in such a time. And we do nothing.”
When considering the lives and careers of the Hitchens brothers we know, we cannot help but wonder what the lives of the two that we do not would have been like.
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The list of politicians, writers, and cultural figures who have discarded their own children are myriad. Comedian Chelsea Handler has talked openly about having an abortion. Sharon Osbourne calls having an abortion at seventeen the mistake of her life. According to author Norman Mailer, the tragic Marilyn Monroe had twelve abortions by her late-twenties. Whoopi Goldberg of The View, Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy, Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz all aborted children. Ava Gardner reportedly aborted two of Frank Sinatra’s children, while the smut-peddling rapper ‘Lil Kim aborted the Notorious B.I.G’s child, which they conceived during an affair. Famed singer Sinead O’Connor had an abortion while on tour in Minneapolis.
It’s especially bizarre, I think, when those on the Left turn out to enthusiastically celebrate any new revelation of a cultural figure having an abortion. The more they admire the person, it seems the happier they are at the “courage” of said person having had an abortion. A bit unintentionally insulting, don’t you think? I admire you so much! I’m so glad you terminated a child that might have had your talent or been a lot like you!
Revolutions, however, famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different, even though we’ve replaced guillotines with Planned Parenthood clinics. The crowds cheered both, and the similarity between a howling mob and a pro-choice rally is striking to say the least. Perhaps it is Peter Hitchens who has the best explanation: “I think that abortion is much beloved by revolutionaries,” he noted gravely, “because they always like the mob to get their hands in blood and commit some sort of crime of their own.”
Abortion is evil because it violently destroys a human being. But one of the reasons abortion is tragic is that it has robbed us of so many who might have given so much to humanity.
*This article originally unintentionally appeared to imply that Alford actually had the abortion. It has been corrected to clarify that, as she herself explains, her pregnancy was a “false alarm.”