Published February 1, 2007
Alveda King doesn’t believe that abortion is a right that empowers women.
The niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told youth gathered at a “Rise Up for Life” program held Jan. 21 at the Cathedral of Christ the King that she suffered depression, guilt, and other distress after experiencing two abortions. She said she had difficulty bonding with the children she eventually bore.
“I went in a downward spiral for years,” she told the youth. “I was self-destructive, depressive.”
She credits her grandfather, the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., with turning her away from abortion and a student with leading her to fully embrace Christ. Now King, a consultant, speaker and author, is a pastoral associate with Priests for Life and encourages young people to live chaste and holy lives.
She was the keynote speaker at an overnight “lock-in” for middle and high school students of the Atlanta Archdiocese held the night before the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated Mass at the Cathedral for the gathering before her presentation.
Teens rose early the next morning and visited their state legislators, and then attended a Mass for the Unborn at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and a rally and silent march sponsored by Georgia Right to Life.
King is the daughter of A.D. King, the civil rights leader’s brother, who was killed a year after his brother was assassinated in 1968.
She said that when she became pregnant in 1970 shortly after giving birth to her first son, her physician, without her consent, induced an abortion. Then her medical and marriage problems began, she said.
Three years later, trying to reconcile with her child’s father, King conceived again and opted to have an abortion, which by that time had been legalized by the Supreme Court decision.
King said she told the abortion providers she was experiencing a sense of emptiness. They told her these feelings would soon lessen. But she continued to suffer problems for the next few years, including memory loss, guilt and depression.
She told the teens that she later began dating another man and conceived a child. In her abject state she considered having a third abortion. It was her grandfather, “Granddaddy King,” who slammed his hand down and told her, “No one is going to kill a child of mine,” she said, and her boyfriend also rejected the idea. Through their words she came to her senses and had the child.
Years later, after serving in the Georgia legislature, she became a professor and a student questioned who Jesus truly was to her. The question led her to accept Christ as her Savior.
“Every day I learn a little more about Christ,” she told the attentive crowd of about 250 teens, youth leaders and other adults.
King founded King for America, Inc., to assist people in enriching their lives spiritually, personally, and economically. She holds a master’s degree in business management and a doctorate. She is the author of two books, including “Sons of Thunder: The King Family Legacy.”
A calm, soothing stage presence, she said that while it is a blessing that in the United States women have a right over their own bodies, they don’t have a right to kill the completely separate human being that is growing within them.
Just as Elizabeth rejoiced as the future prophet, John the Baptist, leapt in his mother’s womb, “The baby is not our body,” she said. “It’s another person.”
King said that most of her family is pro-life but that she feels a special call to advocate for the cause. She believes that ministers and others in the African-American community, which has a rate of abortion that is disproportionately high, are gradually awakening to the insidious ramifications of abortion and the need to build a culture of life.
“In the African-American community we’re finding people are repenting and turning to the truth,” she said.
The rate of abortion is determined by correlating the percentage of women of childbearing years with the number of abortions. In the year 2000, according to National Right to Life, 13.7 percent of women of childbearing years in the United States were from the African-American community, but more than 31 percent of the abortions performed that year in the country were upon African-American women.
King asserted that even when a woman has suffered from such heinous violence as rape and incest she doesn’t need to experience more damage through the violence of abortion, but can instead choose to have the child.
“Abortion not only removes the baby but also the evidence” of violence against women and girls, she said. “Most of the time the person who takes the girl to the doctor (for an abortion) is the person who committed the incest. They want to get rid of the evidence.”
King emphasized chastity as the best means to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, and assured youth that they don’t need to engage in premarital sex despite the pressures besieging them. She encouraged them to focus on personal growth and development and wait for real courtship leading to marriage.
“The best way to prevent abortion is to live a holy and pure life. Don’t date. Court and allow the Lord to give you babies when they are supposed to come.”
She also disputed the assertion that legal abortion is safer than the “coat hanger” procedures women reportedly experienced before 1973, saying that the risks of death are higher today through unsafe and improper sanitation practices at abortion clinics.
And she pointed out the incongruence that children are taught it’s wrong to murder but that it’s only OK when that person is very little.
“Protest is good, your lock-in is wonderful,” King said. “It’s each of us doing our part and admitting we have fallen short of the glory of God.”
As a pastoral associate with Priests for Life, she agrees with the director, Father Frank Pavone, that America will not reject abortion until people look at the horrible reality of abortion, comparing it to how people of conscience, regardless of race, were awakened to the injustices against American blacks when they saw images of them being beaten and attacked during the civil rights struggle.
She added that she doesn’t even like to use the word “race,” as people use it to create divisions that are discordant with God’s desire for one human family of diverse colors and cultures united in Him. She prefers the words of King and his dream of the “beloved community.”
Father Kevin Peek, chaplain at Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, presented her with a red-hooded Rise Up for Life sweatshirt and thanked her for speaking in Atlanta before traveling to Washington, D.C., the next day for the national March for Life.
Father Peek, who planned the event along with a committee, rallied the teens for their visit the next morning to the state Capitol, informing them that 44 million unborn children have been killed through abortion since 1973, and that every day 4,400 babies are aborted.
“We don’t think about it. We are not as stunned as we should be. Forty-three percent of women under age 45 have had an abortion.”
Georgia Rep. Jerry Keen, R-179th District, thanked teens for their support of pro-life legislation and said the next bill to be considered in the Georgia House of Representatives is the Ultrasound Full Disclosure Act (H.B. 147) that would require that women going to an abortion clinic be given the option of seeing an image of their child. He noted how he has six grandchildren and the first picture he sees of them is a sonogram. “It moves you to understand that baby is in there.”
Youth at the lock-in wrote letters in support of this legislation, which they presented to their legislators.
Keen believes that as technology becomes more advanced and babies born prematurely are increasingly able to survive, “we’re going to see it’s harder and harder to deny what you and I have known all along.”
“Our forefathers drafted a document that we’d have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and it’s not an accident that life comes first,” he said. “We want to create, we want to protect, and we want to enhance the culture of life in this state.”
“Politically we want to do everything we can in our laws to make (abortion) as difficult as possible … and to make sure that every girl and woman in this state knows that there is a viable alternative,” he said.
Later teens, with parental permission, visited a “truth room” displaying graphic images of abortion and browsed through tables with pro-life literature and resources, pins and bumper stickers.
Ida Proctor-Baker appreciated King’s willingness to share her personal experience of abortion.
“It took a lot of courage to stand up and say what she did and talk about the aftereffects. Some people I’ve heard said it affects them psychologically and I think Mrs. King has made a strong comeback,” said the parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur. “My only regret is not enough young black kids attended because it is dominant in our community. A lot of young people are dealing with it. It is happening now in our community. We’re becoming more aware of it.”
Sts. Peter and Paul parishioner Joyce Hardwick doesn’t believe that African-Americans are generally pro-abortion. The argument that abortion is a civil right, and the strong pro-choice stance of the Democratic Party, have had an influence on some people, she said.
“(But) at Sts. Peter and Paul, our mission is to educate, nurture and mentor men and women and show them life should be supported from conception to natural death.”
Pinecrest Academy sophomore Sarah Kelley appreciated the archbishop’s message. He told the teens that despite facing intense pressure to be as physically beautiful as possible they should remember the unseen beauty within themselves and within even the smallest child, which God knows and has designed.
The student journalist wore a T-shirt stating, “Chastity is for lovers” and “Stand true, Christ-centered, pro-life.”
“A lot of women feel pressured to have an abortion because they don’t think they have any support or are not married,” she said. “One of the big answers to the abortion problem is to be chaste and save yourself for marriage.”
Mary Beth Pieczynski, president of Pinecrest’s pro-life club, said, “It doesn’t make sense how so many innocent are being murdered every day.”
Last year she had her first experience working as a page in the Georgia General Assembly.
“My dream is to go into Congress after college and work for an end to abortion,” said the freshman at the Cumming private Catholic school, attending her fourth March for Life.
“It’s a lot of teenagers from around the state. We are all pretty interested in it. It’s cool to have different talks and testimonies. It’s really uplifting and inspiring.”