Julia Holcomb, whom Steven Tyler impregnated and eventually abandoned in the 1970s, is telling her own story for the first time. LifesiteNews published it, touting her pro-life stance, but we were most struck by one thing: Lord, Steven Tyler is an asshole. Surely this can cross political lines.
Holcomb's story is a sad one from start to finish, and it only becomes sadder in these 5,000 words. Long before Holcomb met Tyler at 16, Holcomb had been in a tragic car accident that killed her brother and grandfather and injured her. Holcomb's mother was abandoned by her unfaithful father and her second marriage was to an alcoholic who was committed to a mental institution. All of which sheds some light on how it was that Holcomb was hanging out with a much-older friend whom she says encouraged her to seduce a rock star — and her mother signing away guardian rights to Tyler, a man in his late twenties who also happened to be a drug user.
Of that staggering move, Holcomb writes,
I remember my surprise when Steven told me she had signed the papers and trying to take this in mentally. A sense of vulnerability came over me, knowing that I was his ward, but we were not married. He had not expressed his intentions of a long-term relationship with me. He had mentioned that he wanted guardianship papers so I could travel across state lines when he was on tour. I had told him my mother would not sign me over to him. I asked him how he had got her to do it. He said, "I told her I needed them for you to enroll in school." I felt abandoned by my mother as well as my father and stepfather. Steven was really my only hope at that point.
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In fact, the pregnancy wasn't unplanned: Holcomb says Tyler wanted children, and she agreed:
I wanted children, and began to believe he must truly love me since he had made himself my guardian and was asking to have children with me. He threw my birth control pills off the balcony of the hotel where we were staying, into the street far below.
But she soon became keenly aware of the profound power inequality between them and her naivete (she was no more than seventeen at this point), particularly when he essentially reneged on a plan to get married. "His guardianship of me complicated things further," she writes. "I was subordinate to him as in a parent relationship and felt I had little control over my life. I had trusted him and now was the moment of truth."
A few months into the pregnancy, Tyler left her in Boston while he toured. "I was alone and pregnant in the apartment with no money, no education, no prenatal care, no driver's license and little food," Holcomb writes. The apartment caught fire, and Holcomb barely made it out alive. She suffered significant smoke damage, but there was apparently no damage to the fetus.
Here's what she says about the doctor who saw her then:
The doctor was kind and supportive of my decision. He did not pressure me in any way. He asked me if I had taken drugs while I was pregnant. I said, "Yes, sometimes." (I did on occasion use cocaine but not to the degree that Steven was abusing.) The doctor told me that drugs were bad for me, and bad for the baby. He said I must not take any more while I was pregnant. I was so ashamed because I knew he was right. I said, "OK" and intended to stop.
By her account Tyler pressured her for over an hour to get an abortion anyway, at roughly five months, apparently a week within the limit at that time. Terrified about what her future would look like, Holcomb reluctantly acquiesced. In case this needs to be said: Being pro-choice also means standing against reproductive coercion, to any end, and Holcomb is unequivocal on her desire to have carried to term, even if her drug use would have almost certainly damaged her fetus.
She describes the procedure as traumatizing and painful. This was 1975, and abortion had only recently been made legal.
The doctor did not explain what the procedure would be like. Steven watched when the doctor punctured my uterus with a large needle. Then I was taken to a room to wait for the contractions. Steven sat beside me in the hospital until it was over. When the nurse would leave the room he was snorting cocaine on the table beside my bed. He even offered some to me once, but I just turned away, sick inside.... Steven watched the baby come out and he told me later, when we were in New Hampshire, that it had been born alive and allowed to die. (I was not allowed to see the baby when it was delivered.) Steven told me later that it had been a boy and that he now felt terrible guilt and a sense of dread over what he had done.
We're checking with medical sources about whether this could have taken place as described; it sounds highly irregular, but it's possible that Holcomb saw a bad or unregulated provider. She says she lived with Tyler another year but "felt cheated and betrayed, and angry with myself for agreeing to something that I knew was wrong. I felt deep anger and almost hatred for the doctor who performed the abortion." By that time, Tyler was already cheating on her, including with Bebe Buell, who also got pregnant, but ran away from Tyler without telling him rather than raise a child with an unstable and narcissistic rock star/addict .
What happened to Holcomb is made sadder by the fact that Tyler continues to make her feel disrespected in his public descriptions of their relationship. She disputes his account of them having sex in public places and says, "He has talked of me as a sex object without any human dignity. I have made a point over these long years never to speak of him, yet he has repeatedly humiliated me in print with distortions of our time together. I do not understand why he has done this. It has been very painful." Indeed, Tyler has mostly expressed regret that there was an abortion, not that he treated his teenage girlfriend so badly.
Holcomb is now married and the mother of seven children, six of whom she gave birth to, and converted to Roman Catholicism. She concludes in part,
"Our nation's young girls, especially those like me, who have experienced trauma and abuse, and are vulnerable to exploitation should not be used as sexual playthings, scarred by abortions to free their male partners from financial responsibility, and then like their unborn children, tossed aside as an unwanted object.
No one reasonable would disagree that young women should not be sexually exploited by older men. But I'm genuinely confounded by the right-wing line that abortion enables sexual predators. We saw it in the elaborate (and failed) setup of Planned Parenthood, which anti-choicers seized on as evidence that the organization was somehow partnering with pimps by ostensibly providing medical care to sex workers or minors. Given how much abuse and sexual exploitation persists even among men who are fathers, anyone seriously believe that the "financial responsibility" of a child carried to term would make the difference? That a child is some sort of punishment, even a deterrent, to men who abuse women?
Holcolb has the right to her own views on her experience, but forcing other women who don't want to bear their abusive partners' children to do so is hardly the answer.
I don't come away from this story thinking that abortion should be illegal because Holcomb had a tragic experience with a very bad partner. I come away from it thinking that this is actually a discussion about sexual exploitation, bad parenting, reproductive coercion, possibly a terrible provider — and a giant asshole who clearly has no respect for women and is still very much famous and on your television nightly. Fuck you, Steven Tyler.
Mother of Steven Tyler's Aborted Baby Breaks 3-Decade Silence - Is Now Pro-Life [LifesiteNews]
The Light Of The World: The Steven Tyler And Julia Holcomb Story [LifesiteNews]
Earlier: Right Wing Co-Opts Steven Tyler's "Post Abortion Trauma"