Monica Migliorino Miller released Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars through Saint Benedict Press in 2012. It tells the story of how, as a college student in the 1970s, she became involved in the pro-life movement, through 1994, when the blockading of abortion clinics through Operation Rescue effectively came to an end.
While many Americans describe themselves as pro-life, few have dedicated themselves wholly to the cause as Miller has, devoting countless hours on the streets in front of abortion clinics “sidewalk counseling,” or trying to persuade abortion-minded women entering abortion clinics—or “abortuaries” as you may hear her call them—to choose life. Her aggressive, on-the-street action has included the photographing and displaying of the bodies of aborted children collected from the dumpsters behind abortion clinics, to painting over or covering the contact information on subway advertisements of abortion clinics, to being arrested for linking arms with other pro-lifers in front of the entrances to abortion clinics. (It is important to note that she and her fellow pro-life activists never used any sort of violence as a tactic, and that violence used in the name of the pro-life cause is rare and quickly denounced by the leaders of the movement.)
While some Americans may be turned off by her activism, to Miller it is more than justified by the atrocities that occur every day in the nation’s abortion clinics. Such atrocities, she believes, are tantamount to those of Hitler’s extermination camps or Stalin’s gulags, and it is her role (and should be that of any pro-life American) to stand in solidarity with the unborn child threatened with abortion, and employ all morally acceptable means to save that child.
In a recent interview with CWR, Miller discussed her new book.
CWR: Why did you choose to write Abandoned?
Miller: I wanted to tell the truth. I’ve been in a position as a pro-life activist that has given me a unique and incredible experience to see what 40 years of legalized abortion has brought to our country. I’ve experienced the tragedy of abortion in a profound way. I wanted to share that experience with everyone.
The book covers a specific 19-year period, from the 1970s through the 90s; I wanted to preserve this important moment in history and share it with future generations. We’re fighting the most important social justice issue of our time, and it is important for us to explain what it is and what it meant. I wanted to tell the story as someone active in the pro-life cause, so we don’t have to rely on scholars and journalists to tell it. In the 19th century, by comparison, in the fight against slavery, it would have been a tragedy if we didn’t have the writings of the abolitionists themselves, and instead had to rely only on the interpretations of historians.
Also, while I tell the story from my own perspective, I hope people will see that the real main character of the book is not me, but the unborn child. He is the hidden victim of abortion.
CWR: What reaction has Abandoned received?
Miller: We’ve had a good reaction; I think Saint Benedict Press is very excited. I’ve written other books that have been published, but none has achieved the success Abandoned has. We’re still in the early stages of promoting the book, and we’ve already sold 6,000 copies.
CWR: What is the most effective way to save babies from abortion?
Miller: I believe it is sidewalk counseling, being outside of the clinics and talking women out of abortions, that is most successful. It’s a fact that if I and other pro-lifers had not been out there, many babies who were saved would have died. We’ve had the opportunity to drag some of those victims out of the fire and save them.
I also thought the rescues [where pro-lifers physically block the entrances to clinics, violating trespassing laws] were enormously effective. They delayed the abortions, and gave some women the time they needed to change their minds.
I also believe in doing educational and awareness-related work, to awaken our culture to the tragedy of abortion. When we held public burials of the aborted babies we’d recovered, for example, I thought it was an incredible teaching moment. When we held these burials in 1987 and 1988, we received a lot of media attention. Judging the response we received from our enemies, these burials were very effective.
CWR: What gives you the most satisfaction when you think about your years of involvement in the pro-life cause?
Miller: I’m most pleased when I think about all the babies we’ve saved from abortion, by standing in the gap between the expectant mother and the abortionist. I’ve personally been a part of saving hundreds of babies; if I hadn’t been there, those babies would be dead.
Pro-life activism continues to be a major part of my life. I’ve always tried to do my best, and leave the rest up to God.
CWR: Has your Catholic faith been an important factor in keeping you motivated to do your pro-life work?
Miller: I would not do what I do if I were not Catholic. It is the foundation of my pro-life commitment.
I also keep motivated by remembering that someone needs to be at the clinic advocating for the victims of abortion, no matter how aggressive the opposition may be. The unborn child threatened with abortion is an abandoned human being. If someone isn’t out there, standing in solidarity with the unwanted unborn, it would be sad. We have to do it.
CWR: Have you seen many non-Catholics convert to Catholicism due to their involvement in the pro-life movement?
Miller: Yes, we have seen many convert. I guess they start rubbing elbows with Catholics and they find out that we are Christians after all!
CWR: How was the support of the Catholic bishops during the 1970s through 90s?
Miller: It was awful. Church leadership was nonexistent. We had difficulties with the Archdiocese of Chicago; my bishop during part of that period, Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, was also unsupportive. In fact, he seemed to sympathize with the other side. He was not our friend. We did have some priests involved, but, by and large, we were on our own. We just continued on to do what we had to do despite the lack of support.
But, I’m glad to say, it’s a whole new Church today. There is a much deeper awareness among both priests and bishops of the injustice of abortion. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Bishop John Quinn of Winona (Minnesota), Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing—my bishop—are just a few examples of bishops who have been supportive. They listen to us. It’s completely different than 20 or 25 years ago. We have a new set of bishops who are more on fire for their faith, and realize that the Church is in a crisis situation in our culture.
CWR: Are you discouraged by the Obama Administration’s support of legalized abortion?
Miller: I think it’s despicable, and a sign of the tenor of American society itself. In 2008, he said of his two daughters becoming pregnant out of wedlock: “If they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” I can’t believe that someone could have said that a generation ago and had gotten elected.
CWR: Why do you think the work of Operation Rescue ceased?
Miller: First of all, I think Operation Rescue was an important witness to what is going on inside abortion clinics. What I think effectively ended it was when, in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.” It made it a felony to even block the door of a clinic. You could go to prison for months, and when you leave, you have a felony record.
CWR: Have you ever been afraid for your safety in front of clinics?
Miller: Not usually. My greatest fear is fear of failure, failure that our work saving babies would be thwarted, that our message would be misunderstood or rejected, or that during rescues the police would take us away too quickly.
I originally had a chapter in the book about police brutality against pro-life people, which was a big problem in the 1980s. I myself experienced some police torture. I had to cut the chapter out because the book was too long, originally 600 pages. [It’s currently 298 pages.]
CWR: How do you think the pro-life movement is doing today?
Miller: We’ve made some progress at the state level, with the passage of some pro-life legislation. Some polls show a shift in public opinion about the Roe v. Wade decision [in 1973, striking down the nation’s abortion laws], with most Americans not supporting the original decision. We’ve won the argument about late-term abortions on demand; most Americans are opposed to it.
CWR: Who are some of the pro-life activists whom you admire the most?
Miller: Certainly Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago is my mentor. In defending life, he’s been fearless and willing to do the hard things to confront the abortion practice. He’s always called a spade a spade, saying that abortion is murder and abortionists are committing an act of murder.
Fr. Paul Marx (1920-2010), founder of Human Life International, was outstanding, as is Judy Brown of the American Life League. Fr. Norm Weslin (1930-2012) founder of The Lambs of Christ, who would also block the doors to abortion clinics, was a great man. I’m impressed by Joan Andrews Bell, who is prominently featured in my book, and also Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.
CWR: What are you doing now?
Miller: I’m married to my husband Edmund, whom I met through the pro-life movement. We have three children. We live near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am an assistant professor of theology at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. I teach both undergraduate and graduate students.
I am also director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society (www.prolifesociety.com). I’m pleased to say that, after an intense battle, we managed to keep a Planned Parenthood “mega-clinic” from opening in Auburn Hills, Michigan. We did this by talking to surrounding businesses and members of the city council and other local politicians; we also picketed and fought them through the courts. If we hadn’t done anything, they’d be open.
I’ve also been busy, too, with a lot of speaking engagements related to the publication of Abandoned. People have called me and emailed me to say that while they’re pro-life, they’ve been sitting on the sidelines and haven’t been active in the movement. My book has inspired them to get involved, and be a part of it. That has been one of the book’s most important fruits.
• To purchase a copy of Abandoned, visit www.prolifesociety.com