As the 39th anniversary of the controversial landmark decision over abortion rights in the United States, Roe v. Wade, passes today, one woman with a unique perspective on the subject is prepared to share her story with a national audience in Washington, D.C., and residents in Scranton over the next several days.
Julia Holcomb, a resident of Texas, is expected to speak at the March for Life event on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on Monday, Jan. 23. On Saturday, Jan. 28, she will be the keynote speaker at the annual Respect Life Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Scranton Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life at St. Mary’s Center, 310 Mifflin Ave., Scranton.
Holcomb is somewhat of an unintentional pro-life advocate, having stayed silent about her experience with abortion for more than 30 years.
In 1973, the then-16-year-old girl found herself working her way backstage at an Aerosmith concert in Portland, Ore.
“When I was 16, that sounded like a fun time. I didn’t have to think too hard about whether or not I wanted to go to a rock concert and go backstage,” she recalled in a phone interview this week.
After seeing photographs of lead singer Steven Tyler and hearing the song “Dream On,” Holcomb said she was intent on meeting the front man.
She did, and a three-year relationship that would inevitably end with the abortion of their son began that night.
Shortly after the relationship began, Holcomb said her mother signed guardianship over to Tyler. About a year after the two discussed having a child together and Holcomb stopped taking the birth control pill, she became pregnant at age 17, but she said she did not received prenatal care for Tyler’s baby.
After surviving a fire in their Boston apartment in 1975, Holcomb was taken to an area hospital for treatment to check on the baby who was approximately five months old. During that hospital visit, she said Tyler suggested that she have an abortion because of smoke inhalation she suffered during the fire.
“He said I needed to have an abortion. He was very firm,” Holcomb said. “He intended for me to have that abortion before I left that hospital, and that’s what ended up happening.”
Doctors injected her uterus with saline and told her that her baby was dead when it was delivered. Some time after the procedure, Tyler, who was in the room while she was in labor, told her that the baby boy was born alive. Holcomb said it is not unusual for babies to be born alive following an attempted instillation abortion.
Tyler wrote about the relationship “in a very inaccurate way” in the Aerosmith autobiography “Walk This Way,” Holcomb said, but used a fake name to protect her.
“I felt like I didn’t have to respond because no one would know it was me,” she said.
That changed in 2011.
Following the publication of Tyler’s “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?” in May and his rekindled fame as a judge on “American Idol,” a Star Magazine article used a photograph of Holcomb and Tyler from the 1970s along with her real name. Her adult son came across the article on the Internet and spoke with his mother about it.
“I didn’t want to burden them. That was such a dark passage of my life. I certainly didn’t want them to know about the abortion because I regretted it so much,” she said of her children. “I did see in them a surprising level of maturity, and they responded with a very graceful forgiveness towards me, but they also grieved to know that they had a brother and his life was taken from him.”
Now in her 50s and married for 30 years with six sons, a daughter, and three granddaughters, Holcomb has moved from the quiet pro-life message that she actively shared in church ministries to speaking publicly about her brush with celebrity and post-abortive life.
“My motive in telling my story is, first, to give thanks to God for his goodness in helping me rebuild my life… I have a very full life as a Christian, as a mother, as a student, and I’m very happy to say that God has helped me to rebuild my life,” she said.
“I’ve been put in a position where I really needed to respond to the things that Steven had said for the sake of my own children. They needed to hear their mother’s voice respond to the inaccurate accounts that Steven had given.”
Holcomb’s message will be shared on the same day as an event that has brought the abortion debate to the forefront of some minds in Scranton. The University of Scranton will hold a “Ready to Run” event aimed at educating women on how to become involved in politics.
The pro-abortion rights views of keynote speaker and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies drew criticism from Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph C. Bambera late last week, but Margolies told The Times Leader that her views would not be part of her discussion at the university.
“I have not been asked to come and speak on the choice issue,” said Margolies, 69, who served from 1993 to 1995 in the U.S. House of Representative as a Democrat from Philadelphia.
A teacher at the University of Pennsylvania in media and women’s studies and a former journalist, Margolies said she will talk about how different it is for a woman to run for office compared to a man.
“We bring something that’s different to the equation and running is different for us,” said Margolies.
Bambera supported the purpose of the conference, but opposed having Margolies participate at it.
“Although a forum such as this, designed to support and encourage women to engage in public service, is by its nature good and noble, for a Catholic institution in the Diocese of Scranton to invite a pro-abortion advocate to speak at a University sponsored event is dismaying and personally disheartening to me,” he said in a prepared statement.