“You are my dreams fulfilled, Sydna,” my Irish maternal grandfather announced upon meeting me at 5 years old. “You are my American grandchild, a citizen of the land flowing with milk and honey!”
In last week’s Republican debate, history was made wherein two candidates – Cruz and Rubio – were children of immigrants. The ability of these two candidates to run for President was clearly the fulfillment of their ancestor’s American dream.
Abortion among first and second generation Americans – immigrants and children of foreign-born individuals – can be common simply because we are often held hostage to the hopes and dreams of our impoverished ancestors. An unplanned pregnancy not only threatens the respect of family in home nations, it is perceived to cancel any potential American dream fulfillment.
According to a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center, “The white second-generation population is well educated, compared with the population overall: 39% have at least a college degree, and only 7% have less than a high school education.1 Obviously, many second-generation Americans realized their ancestor’s educational dreams but at what cost?
At 8 years old, my grandfather watched the Titanic – a ship his father had helped build – sail out of Belfast Harbor in 1911. He shared with his children that watching the Titanic sail was the day his dream to become an American was born. Like other nations in that era, if you were not the first-born child in Ireland, immigration to America was your only hope for a decent future.
My grandfather arrived in America as an illegal alien in the 1920’s, stowing-away on a ship and jumping into the New York harbor. He hoped to carve out a new destiny for his descendants.
Convicted that his illegal status was problematic for his offspring, Samuel made the rare decision to return to Belfast a year later. His hopes to immigrate legally were dashed when his new girlfriend announced she was pregnant.
In that day and age, my grandfather had no choice but to marry. He then bestowed his American dream onto his second-born daughter, my mother, who immigrated to the Detroit area in the 1950’s.
My mother then transferred her father’s dreams to my shoulders by proudly declaring, “You will be the very first female to achieve a college education! No other woman in our family line has ever had such an opportunity!”
I was a sophomore in college when I discovered my unplanned pregnancy at a Planned Parenthood office in 1981. Obviously, without a marriage proposal, that pregnancy was an immediate barrier to fulfilling my ancestor’s hopes and dreams. While I was able to complete my education, it came at the cost of my unborn child’s life. No aspiration is ever worth becoming the mother of a dead child.
Abortion is still illegal in Ireland today. My grandfather’s mother gave birth to 18 children. Had she been born in a nation where abortion was legal, would she have borne so many children? Since my grandfather was her 17th child, clearly he was the most likely to have been aborted. Obviously, I’m grateful my great-grandparents did not have such a choice because I may not have been born!
Many immigrants arrive in America from nations where abortion is not only readily accepted but enforced. These first generation Americans often feel great pressure from their families to achieve a much higher potential due to the opportunities afforded them through receiving the American dream.
In her book, Unnatural Selection,2 Mara Hvistendahl outlines the situation since abortion has been legal in Asia, “There are over 160 million females “missing” from Asia’s population. That’s more than the entire female population of the United States.” Abortion’s impact will have stark implications on future generations, regardless of the global location.
The scientific discovery of microchimerism3 outlines that women harbor cells that, “originated in their children even decades after birth.”3 Microchimerism also outlines that the mother’s own cells are transferred to their children. Through DNA mapping, we also know that our bodies contain the genetic codes of our ancestors.
Abortion is never the answer to an unplanned pregnancy. Clearly, had this choice been available to our ancestors, many of us would never have been born. I will never know the impact my aborted child, whom I named Jesse, would have had on the world. He would have turned 34 next month and I miss him still.
The Bible outlines in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV), This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
If you’ve chosen abortion, please know there is no sin that God cannot forgive. The problem may be you don’t forgive yourself and you may need help. An abortion recovery program, available through your local pregnancy center, can begin the process of restoring peace to your heart. Regardless of our genetic origins, I’m so happy that the hope of God’s healing is available to all of us.