When I was in middle school my father took me to my first Pro-life conference. This planted a seed that gave me a passion for defending the unborn. In college as a musical theater major I had no idea how God could use me. My first year out of college I was a part time music minister and part time pregnancy center counselor. Then I spent two years as the Coordinator of the Life Center in Brian, TX.
This front of the pro-life battle is beautiful and heartbreaking. During my time in pro-life work there were many uneventful days. I came in and folded baby clothes, filled out paperwork, taught classes about prenatal development to expecting mommies and gave pregnancy tests.
At our pregnancy center, the woman and I would sit down to chat about the possibility of being pregnant and I would try to assess her needs in case she was pregnant or see if there was any support or guidance we could give her if she wasn’t pregnant. She would go to the bathroom to get a sample of urine in a cup and come back and do the test on the table between us. Usually I could tell just by her face if she was abortion vulnerable or if she was hoping to be pregnant or just anxious. Sometimes the woman was married but low-income and just trying to save money on pregnancy tests and needed the material support (diapers and baby clothes).
It was so special to see the look of fear and excitement when I showed the mom approximately how her baby was growing according to her last menstruation. I informed each woman of the services we provided, let her know that she was always welcome to come by and talk or take a class. I tried to reach out to her where she was and sometimes she would reach back. It was so much fun to hand a mom her very first baby gift. We had little booties, gifts for the unborn, to show we cared and give her something to hold for her baby.
The best part was when they came back. When we got to walk that journey with them as they went to classes on pregnancy and parenting in preparation for the big day and see the joy when they brought the baby to show us. I don’t know if any of those brave mommies even considered abortion. Most of them had decided already when they came to us. But I know they appreciated the love and support we were able to give them.
It was wonderful when a pregnant mom or mother with a little baby gave that look of grateful relief after I handed her that pack of diapers.
Then there were the bad days. Because of these days, I felt emotionally exhausted many days coming home. It was hard carrying the stories and hurt of the women who were suffering. Some chose life and some did not. Some had husbands who could barely make ends meet and didn’t know what to do with another baby. Some had terrible medical conditions that made pregnancy unbearable. Some were in abusive relationships but didn’t know how to get out. Some were young girls with dreams of getting married but needed to finish high school.
There were so many beautiful souls with so much love for their partners and families and friends and a baby… a baby was not what they had planned. At least one woman told me she knew it was a baby but she couldn’t handle it. No amount of help from me could overcome her anguish. More than one young girl told me that she couldn’t imagine giving her baby up for adoption but would consider abortion. She couldn’t imagine someone else raising her baby. These days were so heartbreaking.
It was hard to deal with the ungrateful women, the rude women who felt entitled to any help I could offer and had no intention of even being polite. Any attempt to connect with her was seen as prying and intrusive. Some women would say “is this all? ” when I brought them free clothes or baby items.
Especially hard were the phone calls asking if we offered abortions. We all stopped and prayed immediately whenever that happened but it was just heartbreaking every single time.
When I would go to pray outside the abortion clinic I was terrified I would see someone I knew from the center. I rarely went because I was so afraid I would start crying just thinking about those sweet women who I knew loved their unborn babies but for whatever reason felt compelled to hit the escape button no matter the consequence. I hope they knew I cared for them. I always told them, even if they had the abortion they could always come back to talk or for help with their other children.
Another difficult aspect of non profit work is the money. The money had to come from somewhere. The center I worked for was run by the diocese and they were very generous but there were so many things we couldn’t afford. So we applied for a government grant. This was such a godsend! Now some of the money which would have gone to Planned Parenthood could actually help women who chose life! It allowed us to offer classes and buy new items for moms in need like swings, strollers and bouncers which we never could have afforded before. However, the government also has rules they have to follow and when you take money from the government you have to follow their rules. For example, if a woman wanted to talk about God or her faith- it had to be a different counselor at a different time who spoke to her and not the “government provided” counselor. Many days we felt so hindered by this restriction. There were not many times when it came up but when it did, for example if a woman said “I don’t think God could ever forgive me”, it broke our hearts to say “We have someone else who would love talk to you about that”.
When I quit my job at the life center to stay home with my daughter, it felt like a relief. The weight of all those hurting hearts was lifted- the responsibility I felt to those mommies and babies born and unborn was gone for now. I felt I had earned a break from this emotionally draining work. In addition to the fact that my daughter would be one year old soon and my own hands were full. I stopped being involved with pro-life work except for teaching NFP introductory classes, which is only tangentially prolife at all. I avoided the topic of abortion and gave myself a free pass to stop worrying for a while. I put my time in.
Now my daughter is four and I still avoid volunteering, marching, even praying for an end to abortion. Those years had hardened my heart. Until recently when I watched a 30 minute video that renewed my fervor. It is called 180. I almost don’t want to recommend it because it is so moving and powerful. The images and facts are shocking. It made me think once more – I have to DO SOMETHING! Sometimes I feel so helpless. There are days when we pro-lifers wish we could chain ourselves to the doors of the abortion clinics so no one could go in. But we know this would be unwise and ultimately fruitless. That is why it is so beautiful the way Stand and Pray works. We need to BE there. We have to stand outside that death camp as a statement that something is happening there that is wrong. We can’t stop it. But we can stand up against it- literally.
There are so many ways to defend the unborn. We each have to use the gifts God gave us to discern where we are being called. For me, giving diapers and a hug, if she’ll allow me, was where I was called to defend life. For someone else it could be stuffing envelopes for any number of pro-life organizations or writing letters.
I hope that taking a peek into a pregnancy center has shown you the special role that the Gabriel Project Life Center plays and I hope you will take an opportunity during Respect Life Month to reevaluate your commitment to defending the unborn. Gabriel Angels are paired up with mothers in need of material and emotional support throughout the diocese. This is a very flexible role as it is different for each mom. Sometimes its only delivering baby items. Or maybe you have some baby items sitting in your garage you could donate. The Gabriel Project is a beautiful ministry that uses person to person contact to reach out to those who without that support could become abortion minded. Walking though a pregnancy with mom can be very rewarding, especially if you get to hold the baby.
So please don’t give in to hopelessness wherever you are in the pro-life battle to defend the unborn. Sometimes a caring hand is all it takes. Here is some more encouragement that really helped me after watching 180. Simcha Fisher’s Hope for Pro-Lifers