Kay: “Michael, you are blind. It wasn’t a miscarriage. It was an abortion. An abortion, Michael. Just like our marriage is an abortion. Something that’s unholy and evil. I didn’t want your son, Michael. I wouldn’t bring another one of your sons into this world. It was an abortion, Michael. It was a son. A son. And I had it killed. Because this must all end. I know now that it’s over. I knew it then. There would be no way, Michael, no way you could ever forgive me. Not with this Sicilian thing that’s been going on for two thousand years.”
(The Godfather Part II)
Toward the end of Part II, Kay announces to Michael that she is leaving him and taking the children with her. He refuses to let them go, they fight, and as their argument escalates, she launches this verbal attack at him. Kay’s chilling confession about the abortion is one of the trilogy’s most dramatic moments. But Kay’s words do more than just reveal the truth behind her “miscarriage.” They are a vicious attack on Michael and all he stands for. The attack is personal. Michael is blind, Kay charges, so consumed with his business of being a Godfather that he doesn’t even see what is going on in his own family. The attack is also directed at the entire institution of the Mafia, what she refers to as “this Sicilian thing that’s been going on for two thousand years.” Kay has decided that the Mafia is so destructive that she refuses to participate in it even indirectly. She will not give birth to a child who might in any way become part of this world of killing and retribution. In Part III, when she supports Anthony’s desire to quit law school and pursue a career in opera, she ensures that their surviving son will never participate, either. She cannot, however, protect their daughter, Mary, from Mafia violence.
In the previous scene, Michael was able to manipulate testimony at congressional Mafia hearings, destroying the state’s case against him. Michael had just defeated the United States Congress and seems at the height of his powers, but Kay’s words bring him back to earth. She mocks her husband for his powerlessness, both within his family, where he obviously has no control, but also in the larger world of the Mafia. What is his power against two thousand years of history? she asks. She dismisses his desire to become “legitimate” as a pipe dream. “You’re caught in something much larger than yourself, something over which you have no control—and there is no way out,” she says, taunting him. As if to add salt to the wound, she enunciates the word “Sicilian” with the derisive hiss of a bigot. The abortion is Kay’s assertion of control over Michael. At the same time, the fact that she must resort to such a desperate measure is proof of just how powerless she feels. But at least in this one instance, she gets to act as the protagonist, gets to be the victimizer, not the victim. In the twisted logic of the film, the abortion can also be seen as one more link in the chain of retributive killings. Were the son to be born, he might be killed, as Mary will be killed, and Michael would be responsible. Kay exacts preemptive revenge by killing him now.