"I will never forget"
Dear VSM LifeSharers, October 2014
“You know, I understand what you’re saying. And you’re right, I know you are. And I appreciate your being here and all that you’re offering to help me and my baby. Really, I do. But you just can’t get around my immediate problem and so I’m afraid I don’t have any choice. That’s not how I want it and I wish I could undo some stuff but I can’t. So, yes; I know this is sin, a very serious sin, and I hope somehow, somewhere my baby will forgive but I have to do this. Because if I don’t go through with the abortion, I’d never fit in to my prom dress. So, again, I’m sorry but I’ve got to get in there. I’m already past my appointment.”
I will never forget the closing remarks of that conversation, one that had been going on for about 20 minutes on the Lil’ Willy’s parking lot next to the abortion mill then located at 49th and L Streets in south Omaha. It was a day on which I was standing alone in pro-life witness and I carried a very large sign with a beautiful black and white photo of a baby. As I paced along L Street (always busy) and prayed, I looked for opportunities to talk to abortion clients directly – to tell them the facts about the humanity of their child, the dangers of abortion, and the wide range of assistance we could offer to both women in unexpected pregnancies and new moms.
This young high school student had been one of those going in. She was polite, genuinely appreciative of the concern I had for her and her preborn child, and even contrite about what she planned to do. But it was a very superficial contrition and, in the end, her desire to go to her upcoming prom and wear the “killer dress” she had already purchased overcame her child’s right to life.
The conversation took place in 1984 or 1985. You do the math. That young high school girl is now in her mid-forties. What does she think now about the fateful decision she made that day on L Street? Has she mourned the baby’s cruel death for all these years? Has she despised her shallow, stupid self-centeredness? Has that sin led her into others, creating more heartbreak and shame? Or has she effectively submerged it all, daring not even in her unconscious mind to re-visit that dark day? Perhaps she tries to glory in the deed, coldly embracing the new feminist ideology as, like others nowadays, she holds a sign that reads “I’m proud of my abortion.”
Or maybe this woman has found something else in the aftermath of that horrible surrender of her unborn baby. Maybe she has found forgiveness by accepting Jesus’ gracious sacrifice on the cross to pay for her sins – all of her sins. Maybe this woman now walks in the joy of that forgiveness, holding high not a banner of feminist arrogance, but of humility and gratitude before a merciful God. Of these various possibilities, I can only wonder. And hope. And pray. But one thing is certain, I will never forget her.
Why does this one conversation so stand out from the hundreds and hundreds of abortion clients I have spoken to over the years? Well, it was fairly early in our sidewalk counseling ministry. Claire and I had only begun in January of 1983, taught by Winnie Kaipust, Kandi Labedz, Toni Lenagh, Chris Schlesiger, and Bob Whelton. Also there was the unusual nature of the conversation itself. It was, for instance, unusually cordial. The young woman was earnestly listening to me and I had time to expound many truths relevant to her situation. But the most riveting thing was how powerfully it exposed the mythical nature of some of the pro-life movement’s convictions.
For didn’t pro-lifers often maintain that if there was “a window to the womb” there would be no abortions? That is, if women truly understood the facts of fetal development, if they knew that what they carried was not merely a clump of cells or a blob of tissue but a living member of the human family with little eyes and ears, little fingers and toes, and a heart beating on its own – why, then, they wouldn’t let an abortionist come within a mile of them, would they?
But this girl knew all these truths. She didn’t have access to an ultrasound but she understood the basic scientific realities about her child that “a window to the womb” would have illustrated. She also knew the moral realities. She understood the risks of abortion to her own health and future. In particular, she believed me as I laid out the facts about this particular abortionist’s frightening record. And finally, she knew that the help I offered her was legitimate…and plentiful. She knew it all.
And yet she still went into that abortion clinic and paid that seedy doctor to dismember and kill her baby. All because she just had to make her prom entrance in that gorgeous, expensive “killer dress.”
Now does this incident mean that women always have the same degree of knowledge (and therefore, heartlessness) as this young woman did? Of course not. And I myself have encountered many women and men over the years who have changed their minds about their abortion appointment simply by seeing a photo of a baby 8 weeks in utero or by learning that their preborn baby’s heart is beating or by discovering that there are people who truly care about them who are offering wholesome, practical and far-reaching alternatives. This is why (in part) we continue to do sidewalk counseling, support pregnancy aid ministries, engage in pro-life education efforts, and pray that God grant courage for men and women to find answers, find help, and find Him.
Yet, with all of this said, every experienced pro-life activist understands that there are men and women who know the truth and deliberately, callously disobey it. Even people who are “in the know” choose abortion. For instance, do you think that Planned Parenthood and other abortionists are ignorant of the facts of embryology or are unaware of how damaging abortion is to women? Of course not. They know but they don’t care. They love profit and cultural degradation more than truth, more than integrity, more than women’s health. As the apostle Paul writes in Romans, rebels against God “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
My point? Pro-life advocates fight ignorance…but not ignorance alone. We also fight against knowledgeable, entrenched enemies. We must be acutely cognizant of this solemn reality; namely, that we are in a spiritual war. Courage, tenacity, honesty, wisdom, a willingness to sacrifice -- all of these virtues are required of faithful soldiers. But, most important still, is the fundamental understanding that those who serve the Lord must do so in His Name, by His Spirit, and submitting both their methods and motivation to His Lordship.
Remember the exhortation from Ephesians 6? “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
As we enter into autumn, exactly 32 years after the Omaha Christian Action Council (now Vital Signs Ministries) was legally incorporated, we pledge to honor the commands in the above passage every bit as much as we have during these long years of struggle against the culture of death. Some of the
ministries we eventually took on involved things we hadn’t even dreamed of in the early 1980s: the radio programs; all of our cyberspace outreaches, including a Russian-language page; the Methodist Hospital protests which were translated into a hugely effective national campaign; and the international speaking engagements, including the first pro-life conference ever held in Belarus. However, other ministries that we were doing in the early 1980s we are still doing: sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics; peaceful protest and public witness; speaking and teaching; writing; letter parties; personal advocacy; networking; personal discipleship; and our “Mercy Ministries” in nursing homes and senior centers, which nowadays focus on the incredibly popular “When Swing Was King” program, presented in12 presentations different facilities every month.
In all of these things, faithfulness to His agenda is still the order of the day. Therefore, we will continue to minister to the “least of these,” those the culture degrades and dismisses. We will continue to expose and oppose the evil schemes of the devil. We will continue to teach and live out the sublime virtues of Christian orthodoxy. And we will continue to elevate the sanctity of life over everything else which is base and trivial in comparison….like prom dresses.
And speaking of faithfulness… let me close with our abiding thanks for your faithfulness in helping Vital Signs Ministries continue its work over these many years. Your prayers and support have been of immeasurable worth and Claire and I and all of our Board members want to again express our gratitude to you. It has not been an easy journey. And, in many ways, it is tougher than ever before. But, with your assistance and encouragement, we know we will finish this good fight together for His glory.
For Christ. For His truth. And for life.