"He was practically a John Bircher," Unruh says, groaning. "But he was so cute!" As for his right-wing politics, "I thought I would straighten him out," Unruh says. One might assume it was Allen who pushed her politics to the right, but Unruh insists she reacted to the behavior of her feminist friends, who’d begun "acting like men." Also, Unruh confides, she’s the kind of woman who "needs eyeliner," and late-1970s feminism in South Dakota was "awfully hippieish." Still, she says, she continued "buying feminism’s lies" — particularly the one about abortion being an important right for women. Unruh says that when she became pregnant with a fourth child, her obstetrician, Buck Williams, MD, recommended she abort.
Unruh recalls him telling her that the pregnancy might aggravate her Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition which can cause rapid heart rhythm, fainting and, occasionally, cardiac arrest. She also felt that "the doctor thought he was doing me a favor," since another baby might be overwhelming — an idea Unruh now considers absurd. "I don’t remember feeling stressed out," she says. "I nursed my babies. I had my garden. I had natural foods."
And yet "in 1978 or 1979," she had the procedure. "I guess I wanted to believe there was something wrong," she concedes. But she is convinced she would never have aborted if the doctor had not (according to Unruh) lied about the facts of the process. "He called it a premenstrual extraction," she continues. "A D&C. There was deception." Williams, now retired and living in Arizona, won’t comment except to say, "Well, she would say that. I hear she’s a big antiabortion activist now."
Unruh says she immediately regretted ending the pregnancy (she would later have two more children). She says Allen’s anger about the abortion — which she told him about soon afterward — is not what inspired that regret. Remarkably, she also insists she had no idea at the time that Allen Unruh had been giving antiabortion speeches throughout South Dakota, sometimes with John Wilke, MD, founder of the National Right to Life Committee and the International Right to Life Federation.
"He did it behind my back because it was such a volatile issue," Unruh says. "When I found out, I was furious."
When I ask how the abortion affected her marriage, all she will say is "It was the most painful time." But every couple that survives a serious strain comes up with a restoration narrative, and the Unruhs’ is captured on a mini DVD produced for Leslee’s Vote Yes for Life campaign. On camera, Allen Unruh says, "God was calling her to use the worst thing that ever happened in her life for good. God can take you from where you were and use you."
WHERE SHE WAS, EXACTLY, can be maddeningly difficult to pin down. A 2003 Washington Post article reported that Leslee and Allen married in 1972. "Five kids, two of my sons are doctors," she told the paper. "Abstinence works, people. My daughter saved her first kiss for her wedding day. I’m here to tell ya." But according to Clark County, Nevada, marriage records, her name was Leslee Joy Kutzler (not Bonrud) when she married Allen Dale Unruh in a Las Vegas elopement. The recorded date of that marriage is November 17, 1978 — five years after Nathan, her oldest, was born. Daughter Nakia and son Chace were born in 1974 and 1976, respectively.