This was the scene at North Dakota’s only abortion facility on Wednesday — abortion day.
Along with the regulars, there was a large group of young people keeping watch and singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Their presence seemed a powerful statement of where the pro-life movement is heading, with more and more fresh-looking faces among us. In other words, far from dwindling, we’re gaining momentum.
Last week, I wrote about my decision to start hanging out at the sidewalk in front of the abortion facility here in Fargo, ND, to pray and, when possible, talk to the girls and women and their significant others entering the clinic. It’s an effort that is sort of a last-ditch approach, but if one child is saved, if one mother’s soul is kept from being wounded, the effort is worthy of my time.
A few readers called me “courageous” after learning about my new, bolder stance. But I have to be honest. This latest step, like all the others, was part of a process. It’s taken me years to feel comfortable about being on the front lines of this battle. And even now, I approach my new place on the sidewalk with a measure of hesitancy. That said, my conviction about being more active is growing, and my timidity diminishing as I consider what is at stake, and how my silence and absence on the sidewalk will most certainly ensure nothing will change.
So how did I get from there, a college student absorbed in the pro-choice environment, to here, a wife and mother of five firmly planted in the pro-life camp?
Here are the five major steps that led me to the front lines of the prolife movement:
1. Becoming a mother. Though I was already starting to come around to the pro-life side prior to motherhood, experiencing the process of co-creation, carrying that life within me and working hard to make sure it was sustained and brought into the world really did change everything. And once my firstborn was in my life, I could no longer look at any topic with the same eyes as in my pre-mothering years. A thought became a flesh and blood reality. The profundity of this was transforming.
2. Losing a child. Miscarrying my third child, Gabriel, in 1999 gave me an even greater appreciation for life than I’d known before that loss. When my little one prematurely left this world, even before I’d been able to meet him, I allowed myself the truly feel the heaviness of empty arms, and I realized even more how precious it is to be gifted with mothering. Discovering I was pregnant three months later brought my world to life again, gave me a burst of renewed gratitude and appreciation for life.
3. Meeting post-abortive women who had lived to regret their decision to kill their children. Listening to a panel of women two years ago who had moved through the grief of killing their children, and all of the implications that had been introduced to their lives as a result of that decision, was a life-changing experience. Up until that point, I’d never really heard anybody talk about abortion in such an open way; not their own abortion anyway. The courage of these women to publicly share their experiences lit a flame within my heart that was previously quelled due to lack of knowledge, limited experience and ignorance. Boy did those gals set me straight on the spiritual warfare taking place at each and every abortion facility. They also reminded me of what post-abortive women need: love, healing and forgiveness.
4. Meeting Abby Johnson and reading her book, Unplanned. These two events are what really gave me the courage and fortitude to take up this cause in a more direct way. If Abby, a staunch pro-choice abortion-facility manager, could change, then anyone could. Along with her public witness, other crossings through the years have influenced me. I still remember what someone said to me when I was midway through my first pregnancy: “That little child within you is as much a human being now as he will be when he’s an adult person.” The words of this blue-collar man who looked at life in a very matter-of-fact sort of way struck me then and stayed with me all these years, continuing to impact me.
5. Recognizing the protective mantle around me. I’m not being overly naive here. I realize that when one enters a spiritual war zone, one is taking a risk. But staying near God in these last years, including by regularly partaking in the Sacraments and meeting with a spiritual director, has helped remove my fears. Reminding myself that the Giver of Life will always be on the side of life, I have felt more and more assured I have ample spiritual protection, and that I needn’t let fear keep me from moving into the heart of the battle. God will provide the spiritual armor. My main job is to simply be present. After all, Christ is the head, we are the body. He is in charge, but it is our legs that must do the walking, our arms that must do the embracing.
Again, this journey has not come in one fell swoop, but through a series of small (and sometimes very subtle) steps that have helped inch me closer and closer to the entrance of the place where babies enter but don’t exit, and mothers (and fathers) leave with a scar on their souls.
I’m still not exactly certain what God has in mind for me in this calling. All I know at this point is that I need to show up.
Q4U: Where have you found yourself unexpectedly showing up this summer?