He is the oldest abortion survivor we are aware of, he has told his story publicly only once, to a pro-life rally on the steps of the state capitol in Sacramento, California. Jim Kelly is a surviving twin. His twin sister, Katherine Marie Kelly, was killed by his mother in a self-inflicted abortion 50 years ago, in 1949.
Although he did not suffer his sister’s cruel fate, Jim Kelly’s life has not been an easy or cheerful one, by most standards. His mother was a troubled woman who had nine children (including the aborted Katherine Marie) by five different men, only one of whom she ever married. Jim Kelly never met his father. Although he was too young to remember, Mr. Kelly told The New American he was physically abused by one of the men his mother lived with (his ankle was broken and his hands burned). His mother placed him in foster care while he was still very young and he was raised in a series of foster homes and institutions, where he also suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
The greatest pain for him, however, was the lifelong feeling of rejection and the craving for his mother’s affection and approval. Jim learned of his mother’s abortion and the death of his twin sister when he was 27 years old. He had become a Christian several years earlier and had intellectually forgiven his mother for abandoning him and for her continued rejection of him, but he still struggled with feelings of anger, resentment, and loss. He worked untiringly to bring his dysfunctional family together and succeeded, in large measure, with his brother and half-brothers, but was unable to break through his mother’s estrangement toward him. “I always tried to be the good son, and to help her and win her love,” but she would not allow that, he says. “I think her cold, unloving attitude toward me was a projection of the guilt she felt over the abortion, and her expectation that I would feel negatively toward her because of it. But that was never the case; I just wanted to be loved and accepted by her.”
Although he did not hold it against his brothers, it compounded his grief to see his mother extend affection to them while continuing to keep him at arm’s length. In the final hours of her life, however, Jim Kelly says he thinks his mother “finally found resolution.” She died in February of 1999 from cancer of the throat. “My brothers and I were there and I held her hand and she held mine,” he recounted, his voice swelled with emotion. “She couldn’t speak, but there was a difference in her eyes and the way she looked at me. I think that at the threshold of death she realized that I did love her, and she really did have some love for me.”
Does Jim Kelly ever wish that he had been spared his tumultuous and painful life, that he had also been aborted with his sister? Although he did try to commit suicide once as a teenager, while in an institution, he says he is glad to be alive. And, he adds, “Thank God there were no Planned Parenthood abortion clinics at the time I was born or I wouldn’t have survived; they would have finished the job.”
According to Jim Kelly, his life is proof of the truism that God works in mysterious ways. “As negative as so many of my life experiences have been, I wouldn’t trade any of them now,” he says. Those experiences have given him compassion and psychological insights that are invaluable to his vocation as a social worker. “I can build bridges, I can reach people who can’t be reached by your so-called ‘professionals,’ because I’ve been there, I know what they’re going through. And they can see that I’m not just relating something I read in a psychology textbook.”