October 16, 2009

Speaker says pro-life supporters must promote adoption

Father Kenneth Taylor, pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis and director of the archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry, discusses a story in Newsweek magazine, which addressed the question, “Is your baby racist?” He said people need to understand the reality of certain aspects of other cultures. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Author, columnist and TV commentator Michael Reagan of Toluca Lake, Calif., speaks during the 27th annual “Celebrate Life” dinner on Sept. 15 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Author, columnist and TV commentator Michael Reagan of Toluca Lake, Calif., promoted adoption then courageously shared painful experiences from his childhood and how he coped with them during the 27th annual “Celebrate Life” dinner on Sept. 15 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

The adopted son of the late President Ronald Reagan and Academy Award-winning actress Jane Wyman was the keynote speaker for the Right to Life of Indianapolis awards dinner.

His speech focused on promoting adoption as a loving option to women who are experiencing a crisis pregnancy.

Citing national statistics on abortion, he said 27 percent of the teenage girls who get abortions profess to be Catholic, 43 percent say they are Protestant and 13 percent claim to be a born again Christian.

Those statistics indicate that “83 percent of young women who get abortions profess a belief in God or to being raised in a home where there is a belief in God,” Reagan said. “So the question is why?”

Fear of parental disapproval and peer pressure are the reasons that many teenage girls choose abortion rather than adoption, he said, and their decision to abort becomes a painful, life-changing secret.

“How do we change that fear?” he asked, then emphasized that parents must teach their children that “every life is precious, every life is important,” and help them choose life during a crisis pregnancy.

At the fundraiser, Right to Life of Indianapolis members honored St. Bartholomew parishioner Eileen Hartman of Columbus and Cathy Price of Indianapolis for their distinguished service to the cause of life.

Hartman received the organization’s 2009 Respect for Life Award for founding the Great Lakes Gabriel Project, a Midwest pro-life ministry that helps women who experience a crisis pregnancy.

Price was the recipient of the 2009 Charles E. Stimming Sr. Pro-Life Award for her extensive volunteer service that fosters the protection of unborn babies.

Reagan’s candid talk about his childhood years included an emotional testimony about his adoption three days after his birth, and the revelation that he was sexually molested by a day camp counselor when he was in the third grade.

The man who molested him gained his trust through friendship, attention and gifts, Reagan said, and “did for me what I hoped I would get more of from my family. [But] they were very busy [with their careers]. … People like [him] … take advantage of young boys or girls who, in fact, are looking for something that maybe they’re not getting somewhere else.”

His molester took graphic photographs and later threatened to show the pictures to his parents if he told anyone about the sexual abuse.

“… At that moment in my life, my relationship with God, my relationship with my father and my relationship with my mother ended because [of] fear,” he said. “… That’s one of the reasons that I ended up going to fifth grade twice and my junior year in high school twice—because I really didn’t care that much.”

In 1987, 12 years after his marriage, he finally told his wife, Colleen, about the abuse, and she helped him embrace Christianity and begin the road to healing from his childhood trauma.

As a way to cope with his sexual abuse, he founded the Michael Reagan Center at the Arrow Project for Neglected and Abused Children.

Reagan’s inspirational speech included many events that he wrote about in his book, Twice Adopted, which recounts his life story and Christian beliefs.

He is active in fundraising, advisory board leadership and other public service for numerous charities, and has raised more than $1.5 million for the U.S. Olympic Team, Cystic Fibrosis, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and Statue of Liberty Restoration Fund.

“Young people are going to ultimately help cure this nation and make people understand the pro-life issues,” Reagan said. “I say in my book, ‘There are more things caught than taught with young children.’ … The high school students here are [learning] how important it truly is to celebrate life, and to do what you do each and every year.

“That’s why it’s such an honor and a privilege for me to be here tonight and be able to speak with you and to celebrate life,” he said. “I happen to be one of those lives saved because I was adopted. Along with being pro-life, we really need to be

pro-adoption as my birth mother, Irene, was and as my father, Ronald Reagan, and my mother, Jane Wyman, were.”

At the time, his 3-year-old sister, Maureen, asked her parents for a baby brother, he said. In those days, many Hollywood actresses adopted babies so they could become mothers without a pregnancy interrupting their careers.

His biological mother moved from Ohio to California, where she placed her baby for adoption with his celebrity parents in 1945.

“My sister, Maureen, was certainly pro-adoption,” he said. “I thank God for that.”

She adopted a girl from Uganda in 1992, and died of melanoma in 2001.

Reagan said he has “a great heart for children” because of trials and tribulations that he experienced during his childhood. He and Colleen have two children.

“With what’s going on in the world we live in today, I don’t think anybody is surprised by … [pro-abortion legislation] in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “… The issue is what we do about it. Do we look to Washington to help us or do we look within our own communities, within our own selves, and say, ‘What can we do to truly lift up life?’ … So often, we will quote the Bible, but we won’t live it.”

There are 513,000 children living in foster care in America, Reagan said, and “73 percent will end up on the streets or in jail. We need to be pro-adoption and pro-life, and give those kids in foster care a chance at living a wonderful and full life.” †

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