Culture of Life
Grief Gave Way to Advocacy
BY Marybeth T. Hagan
November 30-December 6, 2008 Issue | Posted 11/24/08 at 12:15 PM
The towering businessman knows the value of offering choices.
Shoppers like having lots of those as they wheel through the aisles of the 10 Zallie Supermarkets that he co-owns in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The other “choice” — as in whether to have an abortion — “is not that simple,” George Zallie says flatly in between bites of lunch at the Point Diner in Somers Point, N.J. “Nobody ever talks about what happens afterwards.”
The fact that many women find themselves in varying degrees of trouble after having abortions will become common knowledge if this father of three has his way. Zallie and his wife, Linda, want women with post-abortion related problems to know that they are not alone and that there are places where they can find help.
That’s why he and Linda co-founded The Stacy Zallie Foundation and the Post-Abortion Comfort Portal, a nonprofit organization where women find compassion and sources of assistance after abortion.
This successful businessman seems an unlikely spokesman for women who experience life-altering sadness, guilt or depression after having abortions. Zallie never planned to assume this advocacy role. His firm commitment to publicize and prevent post-abortion problems is personal.
“If this was talked about, I’d still have a daughter,” Zallie explains.
A year after her graduation from New Jersey’s Cherry Hill High School East, where she was homecoming queen and a member of the soccer team, Stacy Zallie asked her parents if she could see a psychiatrist. Stacy, then a student at Camden County Community College, began therapy in September 2001.
“If Stacy was a 16-year-old, we would have gone with her to see the psychiatrist,” Zallie says. Instead, the Zallies tried to give their 20-year-old only daughter some space and privacy.
Stacy stopped seeing the therapist by January 2002. Instead, the young woman, whom one high school acquaintance described as “a girl who seemed to have everything … so beautiful, so popular, so talented,” spent most of her time at home behind her closed bedroom door. There, the secret of Stacy’s abortion on July 6, 2001, kept her company.
Stacy ended her own life at age 21 in the autumn of 2002.
After her death, says her dad, “I knew something extraordinary had happened to Stacy.”
As much as he tried, the executive who knows what it takes to keep a family business running could not pinpoint the “something” that led to his strikingly lovely daughter’s out-of-character behavior and death.
Stacy went from being the girl whose favorite song had long been “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” to one whose heart was filled with darkness. Her moderation in alcohol consumption morphed into heavy drinking. She could no longer be counted upon to arrive home on time.
Stacy’s father learned the nature of the beast with which his daughter wrestled several weeks after her funeral. A friend of Stacy’s told her brother Michael about the abortion. Michael revealed his late sister’s buried secret to the family.
Three months later, George Zallie stumbled upon an enlightening article in the The Philadelphia Inquirer headlined “Going Beyond the Politics of Abortion.” It told the stories of several women who had suffered after having an abortion.
Zallie dialed 411 and tracked down the lead source in the article, a woman named Leslie Graves. She confirmed Zallie’s suspicion that the “something extraordinary” that tragically affected Stacy was abortion.
After helping the grieving father to understand his deceased daughter’s post-abortive desperation, Graves put Zallie in touch with the psychotherapist Theresa Burke. Burke is the founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, an international post-abortion healing program, which she co-directs with her husband, Kevin Burke. (See “Ripe for the Healing Harvest” in the Sept. 28 Register.)
“George Zallie was a father in deep grief when I met him,” Burke recalls. “Rachel’s Vineyard opened the window into understanding his daughter’s feelings. At Rachel’s Vineyard, George learned that he was not alone, that his daughter’s situation was not some freak thing which Stacy did to herself. He really represents a lot of parents. Stacy’s story is many a girl’s story and many a parent’s story.”
Susceptibility to post-abortion syndrome affects women in all walks of life, according to Burke. “It is a natural human grief reaction to feel this pain,” she adds. “Suffering after the death of a child due to a violent, unnatural act is universal. It transcends all races, religions and nationalities.”
Stacy’s father wishes that more in the mental-health community would dare to address abortion’s side effects so openly. In 2007, Zallie encouraged the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association to provide better information about the risk of abortions via advertisements he placed on the pages of USA Today, The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“The politics of abortion are getting in the way of post-abortive healing,” says Zallie, who adds that he does not wish to be “pigeonholed as a pro-lifer.” He simply wants to help those negatively affected by abortion so that they do not suffer as Stacy did.
People adversely affected by abortion from across the United States, Canada and England contact the Zallies via the website StacyZallie.org. Like the Zallies, they know that even legal abortion can have unanticipated consequences.
Stacy’s abortion permanently changed her plans for life. One choice led to another. What her parents did not know about their daughter’s abortion transformed their lives. This mother and father bear permanent pain. Their family life with two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren — plus knowing that they help women through The Stacy Zallie Foundation — eases the hurt. But it never goes away.
“By the time I’m 25, I’ll probably be married with two kids,” Stacy told her father on more than one occasion.
Stacy would have turned 27 last August. “If only she had used her Stacy logic and come to us about the pregnancy,” Zallie says. “In my heart, I know what Stacy would have done.”
Marybeth T. Hagan is the author of Abortion: A Mother’s Plea for Maternity and the Unborn (Liguori, 2005).
ONLINE The Stacy Zallie Foundation StacyZallie.org
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