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A Difficult, Inspirational Choice

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AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

"I'll sue you if you don't provide her medical care." That was Lidia's response to the reckless doctor who botched her abortion at 26 weeks. "Her" here refers to Lidia's newborn daughter, the one the doctor was supposed to abort.


"Your daughter will be a mental vegetable incapable of having a normal life. You should leave her to die on the table," he said. Lidia was an immigrant living in poverty in New Orleans, and no doubt had no idea how to follow through with her threat of a lawsuit if the doctor didn't comply. But a mother's instinct kicked in, even though she had intended on walking out without a baby on that day in January 1990.

Sarah Zagorski, Lidia's daughter, writes about her earliest moments in a chapter of the new book "Choose Life: Answering Key Claims of Abortion Defenders With Compassion."

Zagorski's mother was wise enough to know that neither she nor the doctor she'd sought out "was qualified to make life-and-death decisions, to adjudicate permanent determinations" about the baby's future. Whatever was going through Lidia's heart and mind (she died in 2010), Zagorski is eternally grateful.

Zagorski's gratitude is perhaps all the more compelling because her early life is not a happy story. She lived in poverty with siblings who were all suffering, even starving at times. As she writes: "My mother was afraid my ... birth father would abandon her -- he did. She was afraid her depression and mental illness would prevent her from providing for my basic needs -- it did. She was afraid her sexually perverse husband and abusive sons would prey on me -- they did. She was afraid that in the end she would lose me -- she did. Her fear was grounded in reality."


Zagorski now works for Louisiana Right to Life. I most recently spent time with her at a working group on adoption at the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law, discussing ways to better help women, children and families survive and thrive.

Zagorski was adopted at 9 and was given the stability and sanity she needed. It's a reminder that no matter how bad things can get, there's always hope. Better things, better people, are always nearby, as long as one doesn't give up looking for them.

About her heroic birth mother, Zagorski writes: "My mother's oppressors did not get the last word, and her mistakes as a mother did not have final authority over my life. I escaped death's grasp because of her courage, and I found that on the other side many pro-life people were waiting to help me and my family."

Zagorski wants to say to every pregnant woman feeling hopeless and desperate to know that they don't have to be paralyzed by their circumstances. There are people who will help them, as they helped her.

In these post-Roe vs. Wade times, both pro-life and pro-choice people need to band together to make sure women who want their babies can flourish. Zagorski is a witness to what is possible. Let's make the next generation's early lives better by paying more attention and providing more opportunities for women to be freed from oppression and difficulties -- before abortion is the only option that they feel they have.


(Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book "A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living." She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan's pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at


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