Death Threats, Hate Mail for 'Abortion Addict' Author

Following publication of "Impossible Motherhood," anti-abortion voice bellows.

ByABC News
September 16, 2009, 4:41 PM

Oct. 14, 2009— -- Pro-life groups have been appalled and infuriated by a controversial book by Irene Vilar that chronicles her life as a self-professed "abortion addict," having had 15 abortions in 16 years.

Enraged critics have reacted on the Internet with death threats and Vilar says she's received hate mail. One blogger demanded that Vilar be jailed.

In her book "Impossible Motherhood," Vilar said she "unconsciously" forgot to take birth control as an act of rebellion while married to her "controlling" husband, Syracuse University literature professor Pedro Cuperman, who didn't want children.

"Getting pregnant brought a strange feeling: I could bring it on with nobody's permission and I could interrupt it with nobody's permission," explained Vilar recently in a personal essay on Huffington Post. "Of course this did not mean that I wanted to do it again and again -- a druggie also wants to stop every time."

The book was so controversial that it was rejected by 51 editors before being published by Other Press.

Read an excerpt from "Impossible Motherhood."

"Her story is just so tragic," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, a public interest law firm that opposes abortion and focuses on constitutional issues related to life issues.

"It really underscores everything we always say in the pro-life movement, that abortion is part of a very sad story for women."

"The really important thing about her story is how dramatically it illustrates abortion as the tragedy of her life," Yoest told

Yoest agrees that Vilar's story is unusual, but she said more "survivors" are speaking out about "how much abortion hurt them personally."

"It generates visceral emotions in people in terms of stimulating conversation and looking at the negative side," she said. "We are always looking at ways to get women more information. Frequently, abortion makes problems worse."

One blogger on "Second Hand Smoke" said Vilar's story was a "matter of morality and willing self restraint," not just whether abortion is legal or not.

"It's her body and she can do whatever she wants, including repeatedly getting pregnant in order to abort," the blogger wrote. "Or is this an awful morality tale of our times? I know this: I hope she doesn't make a dime off the bodies of her aborted offspring."

A blogger on the site "Aging Catholics" said the backlash against Vilar's book raises "uncomfortable questions."

"The story goes on to say that she is receiving death threats," the blogger writes. " If this is the case, anyone who would threaten her life is not pro-life in any way. She needs our prayers. A lot of prayers."

Pro-choice backers have been conspicuously silent.

"I can completely understand the discomfort that some feminists feel," feminist author Robin Morgan, who wrote the book's forward, told the Los Angeles Times. "There is a perfectly human tendency to say we can't afford ambiguity, we can't afford nuance. I am afraid it comes from years of being pummeled by the extreme, anti-choice right. The truth is that it's a complicated issue."

Vilar, herself, admits she "let down" feminists. "They risked their lives to give me this, and I abused that right," she said. "But thanks to that right, I'm alive."

The author, who is now in a second marriage and has two children aged 3 and 5, anticipated the accusations that she is a "baby killer" might follow publication of the book.

She scheduled only closed-door interviews and would not do a book tour. At the urging of her husband, they have made sure all public property records did not reflect her name, so she could not be targeted at their home.

Today, the Latina author's troubled past continues to haunt her.

She grew up in the shadow of her notorious grandmother Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebron, who stormed the Capitol steps with a gun in 1954. Lebron served 25 years in jail for the crime until receiving a pardon from President Carter in 1979.

Her mother committed suicide before her daughter's eyes by throwing herself from a moving car when Vilar was 8. Two ofVilar's brothers were heroin addicts.

Vilar's story is set against the backdrop of the American-led mass sterilization program in her native Puerto Rico from 1955 to 1969, a fitting symbol for her struggle with her own reproduction.

By 1974, 37 percent of all Puerto Rican women of childbearing age had been permanently sterilized in that experiment.

"Women tend to repeat behaviors," Vilar said of herself. Her mother's forced hysterectomy without hormone treatment at the age of 33, led to depression and a Valium addiction.

Vilar attended boarding school in New Hampshire and was just 15 when she left for Syracuse University, where she fell in love and later married Cuperman, a tyrannical 50-year-old professor.

With a predilection for young women, he bragged that his relationships had never lasted more than five years and that having children killed sexual desire.

She says their emotionally dependent relationship was riddled with shame, self-mutilation and several suicide attempts.