WANDA FRANZ'S odyssey to the leadership of the nation's largest
anti-abortion organization began in post-Nazi Germany.
While living there soon after World War II, says the new
president of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), she saw
what happens to a society when it chooses to eliminate an entire
class of people.
"It became pretty clear that when you lose respect for any life,
you lose respect for life in general," Dr. Franz told the Monitor.
"I think that's what we're doing today. We've chosen a class of
people to eliminate, and it affects the whole culture."
But, Franz says, her stand against abortion didn't crystallize
until 1971 when, as a developmental psychologist, she was asked to
address an anti-abortion group.
Looking at information from countries where the procedure was
already legal, she did research on the emotional, psychological,
and physical effect of abortion on women who have had them. Her
"intellectual decision," she says, was that "this is not healthy."
Early in her own first pregnancy, 22 years ago, her doctor told
her she was miscarrying. The diagnosis proved wrong, but Franz
learned something: that she had already formed a strong bond with
the baby, and that the thought of losing it was devastating. Yes,
this was a wanted child - but, she argues, regardless of whether a
woman wants to be pregnant, she knows that a new life is forming
inside of her.
When a woman decides to abort, "it's an intellectual decision
she makes based on all kinds of issues, which is not necessarily in
touch with her emotions and with the fact that she is a mother,"
says Franz. "I think we have got to start recognizing that we
become mothers from the time we conceive that child."
Thus, Franz builds her case against abortion not on a religious
basis - though she says she is religious - but as a PhD in
psychology. When a woman, even a teenager, is faced with a crisis
pregnancy, abortion is the most psychologically perilous option she
could choose, Franz says.
Franz cites researchers who have concluded that some time after
an abortion, often as long as five to seven years, a woman can
suffer from something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder, an
affliction usually linked to war veterans. As a result, a woman can
experience nightmares, flashbacks, crying spells, depression,
anxiety, and sexual dysfunction, which can result in substance
abuse, according to Franz.
Abortion-rights advocates vehemently dispute this conclusion.
Franz herself acknowledges that not enough research has been done,
exactly what C. Everett Koop concluded when he was surgeon general
of the United States in the 1980s. Dr. Koop recommended a
definitive study examining the psychological effect of abortion on
women, but it hasn't happened.
"Our opponents don't want to know," Franz asserts. "They're
trying to put this under the rug."
The financial and political power of NRLC's opponents comes up
often in discussion with the new NRLC president. …