In what has to be a very odd coincidence, in 1973 Ursula K. Le Guin, a prominent sci-fi author, published “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” a short story with a horrifying point.

She depicted a utopian paradise where the general well-being came at a very high price: the harsh confinement of a mentally retarded child who could never be set free.

At a certain age, every citizen was taken to its bare cell and shown the cost of their happiness. Most ended up justifying sacrificing the child for the benefit of the city.

But every so often, people left the cell and just walked away from Omelas (the name is Le Guin’s home city of Salem, Oregon, spelled backward), never to return.

Interestingly, though Le Guin denies any link, 1973 is also the year in which the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision, which permitted the killing of unborn babies for any reason whatsoever.

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony Fund, the United States is one of only seven nations that allow elective abortions past 20 weeks of gestation. China, North Korea and Vietnam are among the others.


Last September, Jamie Wilson wrote “Our Summer of Omelas” for the PJ Tatler website. Based on the recently released videos of how Planned Parenthood offers selected baby parts to researchers, she suggested America might adopt a policy of disclosure parallel to that of Omelas.

She wrote, “Every child in America, when he or she reaches a certain age, must go to an abortion clinic. There they will observe the oldest fetus aborted that day. … Its death, the children are told, is necessary and good. … And then the children leave, understanding the foundation that their land is built upon, the sacrifices necessary to preserve our way of life.”

Roe’s 43rd anniversary is just a week away, and I spoke this week with Teresa McCann-Tumidajski, head of the Maine Right to Life Committee, about her movement’s status.

She has a “glass half-full” view of it, which is natural considering her position and her viewpoint, but she said some interesting things. Abortion may not (yet) be illegal, but the number of abortions is declining, dropping from 1.2 million annually in the 1980s to about 800,000 today across the nation, and from 4,767 in 1987 in Maine to 2,021 in 2014.

Different people give different explanations for the drop, but McCann-Tumidajski is fairly confident that the wide availability of ultrasound machines, particular the “4-D” type that show motion and deliver color pictures, are vastly influential.

They’re not just in hospitals, either. Three of Maine’s crisis pregnancy centers now have ultrasounds (in Portland, Lewiston and Waterville, paid for by such groups as the Knights of Columbus).


“These machines capture the beautiful unborn child for everyone to see,” the MRLC head noted. “It’s become very common for ‘Our First Baby Photo’ in albums to be an ultrasound, and I see them on people’s refrigerators all the time.”

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, revealed in its annual report in December that its clientele is declining, along with the number of abortions it provides. While its private funding has fallen off a bit, its government subsidies are rising, going from 40.5 percent to 42.7 percent of its income.

When asked about the claim that Planned Parenthood offers “irreplaceable care,” McCann-Tumidajski pointed to a Lozier report that noted there were just four PP clinics in Maine, all in Cumberland and York counties, that served only about 10,000 people in 2015.

But there were 19 Federally Qualified Health Centers with 135 service sites that served more than 182,000 clients statewide last year.

And there are 19 crisis pregnancy centers and other pregnancy support agencies all over the state, McCann-Tumidajski said, where “women and men can go to get a whole range of services, including pregnancy tests, pregnancy, birth and child care classes, baby clothes and diapers, and get adoption aid if needed. And these centers don’t get a cent of government money.” (Get their addresses at

Note, too, that a bill to halt federal grants to Planned Parenthood made it to the president’s desk last week for the first time. He vetoed it, but it won’t be the last such proposal.


On Saturday, hundreds of Mainers will gather in Augusta for the annual Hands Around the Capitol ceremony to support the right of the unborn to live. And next Friday, on Roe’s anniversary, hundreds of thousands will gather in Washington and around the nation for the same purpose. (I mention the March for Life here in case the national media fail to cover it — again.)

But, no matter. Unlike the fictional residents of Omelas, pro-life Americans aren’t walking away.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: