The former US President, Ronald Reagan, once said that he found it strange that all those who are militating for abortion have already been born. They were given a chance to live but are now depriving others of the wonderful gift of life from God Almighty, who creates us all in His own image (Gen 1:27). Life is sacred from the moment of conception till natural death, and willfully interrupting human life, even in the mother’s womb, can bring untold agony to the woman.
The long-term, tragic consequences of abortion hit me forcefully a few years ago at the International Airport in Douala, of all places. Not that I was witness to an abortion in progress, mercifully, but I ran into a woman who had aborted her daughter well over thirty years ago, and was still suffering from the consequences of her action.
I was waiting for my daughter, who was coming back home on vacation. I saw a woman who looked familiar staring at me, a smile on her face. She saw that I had not recognized her and she walked up to me: “You probably don’t recognize this old face. I am Mrs. Medjo.” I protested that she did not look that old at all, although it was obvious that age, in its pitiless march, had carved out rings around her eyes that were clearly visible despite a thick coating of meticulously applied make-up.
Her name did not ring a bell until she called her maiden name and reminded me that we had attended some joint courses at the University of Yaoundé in the mid-seventies. Oh, yes. It was then that I remembered her. She was an English major, and I was in the Bilingual (English-French) degree program. We had had a few classes together. We had not met each other since leaving university well over thirty years earlier.
I was with my son and she greeted him with a gentle tap on the head, saying what a handsome young man he was. As she was talking to him, asking him what school he attended and how he found his studies, my daughter suddenly appeared, pulling a big bag behind her. My son immediately rushed to welcome her and help her with her hand luggage. As I hugged her, the woman suddenly exclaimed, “Martin, you already have such big children, a handsome young man and a beautiful daughter?” That question took me by surprise because yours truly is far from being a young man! I would have thought that she would be asking how many grand children I already had! I reminded her that the grey on my hair was not a result of some powder someone might have taken delight in sprinkling on my head and beard while I snored contentedly away, but that it was truly the result of age coated with wisdom.
As my children were going towards the car, I noticed that Mrs. Medjo looked quite sad all of a sudden. I did not know what to make of her sudden change in mood, but then she turned to me abruptly and said that if her own daughter had lived she would have been almost thirty years old. I said I was sorry to hear that she had lost her daughter. Had she been ill? I asked, not quite knowing what else to say. “No, she wasn’t ill, I aborted her!”
I was taken aback by what she said. Her frank admission of her role in killing an unborn child was unsettling, to put it mildly. If her daughter had died a natural death, I would have expressed my condolences to comfort her. But there she was, openly admitting to being the author of her daughter’s own death nearly thirty years earlier!! I was frankly lost for words. But then, was I right to pass judgement on her? I wondered.
When she saw how taken aback I was, she looked at me, tears glistening in her eyes, and spat out the name of her daughter’s father, someone I knew well, who had just retired from a lucrative job in one of the United Nations’ structures abroad. In those days in high school, we saw them as an ‘ideal’ couple, real high-school sweethearts, at a time some of us were even scared to ask a girl out in case she said ‘Yes!” and you would not know what else to talk to her about.
“Yes, you know him, don’t you?” she asked. I said I did. “Yes, he forced me to kill my daughter, then abandoned me for someone else whom he married. Now, he’s had children with her and I have none. Why should I ever forgive him?” Was that question for me? I wondered uneasily.
“But, aren’t you Mrs. Medjo?” I asked. “Oh, forget that one,” she said dismissively. Even though I married him, we’re no longer together. Not divorced, though, but separated and I still bear his name. I don’t want to go through the torment of a divorce. You know how our courts are, don’t you? Once a woman goes in there, they find her guilty even before she opens her mouth.”
“Even before we separated,” she continued as I listened uneasily, “he was already cheating with multiple women left and right. He is now with a much younger woman, who has given him two sons. I couldn’t bear him a child.” I just stood listening to her in silence, not knowing what to say. I usually avoid meddling in other people’s lives, especially their family lives.
“Well,” she suddenly looked up as if realizing that she might have inadvertently revealed a huge chunk of life to someone who was a total stranger to you.
“But,” she was back again, “at least I have a good international job in Nairobi, Kenya. I am here on holiday.” I wished her well and followed my kids to the car. That was a woman who held an enviable position in a foreign bank in a foreign country, but she still carried the guilt feeling about an act committed when she was still very young and vulnerable to the whims of a notorious womanizer. It has been punching the edges of her conscience ever since. How sad!