NRL News

Actor Martin Sheen’s Powerful Testimony For Life on Irish Television

by | Apr 14, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Actor Martin Sheen is an anomaly in many ways. His most famous role, as uber-liberal President Josiah Bartlet in television’s “West Wing,” appealed to many of my most conservative friends, even though they did not agree with virtually any of the policies this imaginary President promoted. (One time a friend actually talked back to Barlet as we watched a repeat on television one night at the office.)

Martin Sheen

But Sheen is also unusual in that he has long been an unapologetic pro-lifer. A tip of the hat to the pro-life website for alerting us to an interview Sheen gave to Gay Byrne on “The meaning of life with Gay Byrne.” It was released April 3 on RTÉ, the website of Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster.

The nearly 40-minute-long interview with the 71-year-old actor is fascinating from beginning to end, but especially (for us) when Byrne delves into Sheen’s “anti-abortion” views at the 30 minute mark.

“The liberal causes that you espouse are readily identifiable with people in the movie business, but your anti-abortion stance is very strong indeed,” Byrne says. “And tell me what you told me on the late late show in 1987 as to why that is.” From this initial question, the conversation moves in many directions.

“Well we had pregnancies with our grandsons, three specifically.  And we welcomed these children and encouraged the mothers to have the children and gave them support. The lads [his sons] were not happy at the time but they came to love these children. We have three grown grandchildren, two of them are married, they’re some of the greatest source of joy in our lives.”

Byrne notes almost by way of passing that there was no “judgment” made about their children’s unmarried status at the time, to which Sheen shrugs as if to say, “why would there be?” saying simply, “no.”

Byrne traces this back to Sheen’s wife, Janet. Sheen concurs and they move  into an even more personal discussion.

Sheen explains that he and his wife began to have children when they were a young married couple. When suddenly Janet discovered she was pregnant with their fourth child, she “didn’t quite know what to do.”

So, she went to a therapist who said, “Well, you have children, you have three very healthy children. How do you feel about them?” And his wife responded, “ Oh, I love them to bits.”

“Well then,” the therapist answered back, “that’s your choice, isn’t it. You know what you’re giving up.” Sheen adds, “And that was all she needed, She knew, and she had the child,” Renée , their youngest daughter.

Byrne immediately seques to something they had talked about on a previous show, evidently a long time ago. Was his wife “not born because of a rape?” Obviously uncomfortable, Sheen responded that his wife had not been pleased that he’d talked about this publicly. But Sheen nods in agreement when Byrne follows up, “so you reckon if there had been an abortion she would not exist.”

Sheen added “She even found out later that her mother really thought about  dumping her in the Ohio River”  after she was born. Instead she took her back to Kentucky where she was raised by two aunts, whom she loved dearly, until she was six.

A powerful, powerful pro-life testimony. I would encourage you to watch at

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Categories: Abortion