Steven Tyler, the "screamin' demon" of Aerosmith, who currently exercises critical sway over hopes and dreams as an American Idol judge, hides a sensitive heart under that scruffy exterior. At least according to his recent autobiography, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? which echoes certain confessions in an earlier memoir of Aerosmith, Walk This Way.
As his fans probably know, Tyler caused a minor scandal in the mid-1970s when he convinced the parents of a 14-year-old girl to appoint him as her legal guardian and moved her into his Boston apartment. When she got pregnant, "friends" convinced the couple to get an abortion. "It was a big crisis," Tyler admitted. "It's a major thing when you're growing something with a woman, but they convinced us that it would never work out and would ruin our lives." Some sense of responsibility (or curiosity?) compelled him to watch the procedure, with an unanticipated result: "[T]hey put the needle in her belly and squeeze the stuff in and you watch. And it comes out dead. I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I'm going, Jesus, what have I done?"
Ray Tabano, one of the friends who advised the procedure, put it more succinctly: "[Steven] saw the whole thing and it messed him up big time." That might be an understatement-the abortion was likely not the only factor in Tyler's accelerating plunge into sex, drugs, and alcohol, but it played a part. By his own admission, and Tabano's, he experienced an emotional trauma resulting in horror and regret.
Of course, it's a matter of debate whether post-abortion trauma even exists, and mixed messages from such venerable institutions as the Royal College of Psychiatrists don't help. Three years ago, the UK organization warned about possible mental distress from abortion. Now, the group says the psychological risk of aborting a child is about the same as bearing the child-even though reading past the headlines often turns up alternative interpretations, as well as other studies that come to opposite conclusions. The link between abortion and physical health (such as increased risk of breast cancer, reproductive trace infections, and subsequent premature births) is relatively clear, and becoming clearer all the time, even though the research is often explained away. Mental, emotional, and spiritual stress is more difficult to pin down, but at the same time more compelling, because a majority of us can relate to it.
Self-destructive behavior due to intense regret is not unheard of (see Oedipus). In fact, it could be argued that anyone who didn't respond so to a death for which he was responsible would be a little less than human. Stories like Steven Tyler's are anecdotal, true. But they speak to places in the heart that studies and statistics cannot.