an After abortion

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Monday, April 3, 2006

In yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, there's a very long story about the Stacy Zallie foundation:

Dispassionate compassion: In the polarized realm of abortion politics, Cherry Hill's George J. Zallie has established an oasis just for grief and counseling. It's in memory of his daughter.

The billboards are striking - a dark silhouette of a woman with haunting eyes focused on the boldface words beside her.

No judgment. Just support. Not pro-choice. Not pro-life. The Stacy Zallie Foundation.

The foundation is the force behind, a Web site where women can find nonpolitical counseling after having had an abortion. And providing that help has become a mission for George J. Zallie of Cherry Hill, whose daughter Stacy killed herself in 2002 at age 21, about a year after secretly having an abortion.

Zallie, 53, is convinced that Stacy, a graduate of Cherry Hill High School East and a student at Camden County College, felt conflicted about her decision to end her pregnancy, and was searching for the right person to talk to.

"We lost our baby and we wanted to know why," he says, speaking not only for himself but also for his wife, Linda, the cofounder of the foundation, who chose not to be interviewed for this article. "We found out through some of her friends that she'd had an abortion. And I think it may have precipitated all of this."

Before his daughter's death, Zallie says, he struggled with his feelings on abortion.

"I can kind of understand both sides. If you believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, that's what you believe. But there are so many social, economic issues involved, too. It's very complex. At any rate, I didn't know what to do."

He was, however, determined to accomplish at least one thing - make sure his daughter's death was not in vain.

So Zallie, who owns eight ShopRite stores in the Philadelphia region, decided he would put his time and his money into the development of a Web site with no political agenda.

By taking that step, Zallie became a leader in what is emerging as a common ground in the polarized national abortion debate: More groups seem willing to help women cope with residual doubt or guilt, regardless of their political leanings.

It's a quiet voice in the contentious rhetoric that has raged since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, and that shows no signs of receding. Last month, the governor of South Dakota signed into law a near-total ban on abortion, setting the stage for even more court, legislative and political battles on the issue.

For Zallie and others involved in this new realm of reproductive rights, politics takes a backseat to personal forums where struggling women, such as his daughter, can have their needs heard.

"I look back now, and I can see there was something she was trying to say to me. I think she was trying to find a way to reach out," he says, his voice still tinged with pain.
There's a lot more, including reflections on whether post-abortion grief counseling can be thought of as "common ground" in the debate about abortion.

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