A local hospital system uses the slogan, "Because there is no routine (procedure)," inserting mammogram, cancer, heart disease - etc., as appropriate.
The same could be said of the days at Greater Columbus Right to Life, because it turns out that there is no such thing as a routine crisis, so the ways in which we help are not exactly routine.
Today brought us three different women in need of help. The first woman we met on the sidewalk, we will call Juliana.* Juliana has limited English skills and found herself thrust into the workforce after several years as a stay at home mom after separating from her husband. Then, she got pregnant. With several children at home who she is already struggling to provide for, Juliana went to Founder's, where she met one of our volunteers before her appointment.
Fortunately, our volunteer spoke some basic Spanish, and after the mom decided to walk to the pregnancy help center, I was able to meet them there to help with translations - grateful I'd brushed up on my pro-life Spanish earlier this year!
While I was still in the counseling room helping Juliana to sort through her situation, our volunteers met a second mom who turned away from the clinic. Mom number two, who we will call Katie, was a teenager herself, and she already has one infant at home. Thinking she was not up to the task, she turned to abortion as a way out, but upon meeting our volunteer, she needed help, support, and encouragement, not abortion.
After a grueling few hours of translating, a real translator showed up just in time for Juliana's ultrasound- fortunate, because my knowledge of medical terminology could be better. Still, I had formed a bond with Juliana, so she asked me to go with her for the ultrasound.
By by the time we left and grabbed some lunch, I was learning about the details of what happened earlier at OSU. There were multiple received calls and texts asking if I was ok. All in all, it was a long, exhausting, and certainly not routine kind of day, but it was not yet over.
At 4:45, just as I was battling a serious headache and about to call it quits for the day, we were contacted by a third mom. This young woman, we will call her Malika, had aged out of the foster care system and given birth to twins in the last eight months. Today, she found herself homeless -living in her car, pregnant again, and facing the news that she would not be able to qualify for a residential program helping with the transition from foster care to independence because of her pregnancy. So, we got to work with a referral to a family shelter for tonight and an appointment with a pregnancy help center tomorrow, and tomorrow we will reconnect with her to make sure she gets the resources she needs. No woman should be made to feel like she must choose between the life of her unborn child and having a roof over her babies' heads.
So many women cross our path every day. Each of them is facing a very real problem, often they have problems that we cannot fully grasp. All of them see abortion as a perceived solution for a very real problem. Frequently they refuse our help, many of them talk to us and consider what we are saying, and a few make the immediate decision for life by turning away from the abortion clinic. Whatever the circumstance, we pray for them, and we offer them hope.
There is no routine crisis and no routine day at Greater Columbus Right to Life. There are, however, regular volunteers and regular needs. This year, we have distributed thousands of pieces of literature to women seeking an abortion, their partners, and their support people. We do this because we care, because women and their children deserve better, and because we are compelled by our faith and the moral laws to stand against this supreme injustice.
Today we met and prayed for and helped three women to make a choice for life and to turn away from the clinic. There is no routine day at GCRTL, but there are routine expenses.
Tomorrow (Nov 29th) is #GivingTuesday, a national day that kicks off the year-end giving cycle. Americans have spent billions from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, and we will give millions to charity on Giving Tuesday.
Like many nonprofits, between twenty and twenty-five percent of our budget will be donated between now and the end of the year. We must raise a minimum of $15,000 to continue our work. In fact, that is what I intended to work on today, but Juliana, Katie, and Malika took precedence.
Please, consider the work that we are doing and the women who we are helping. This #GivingTuesday, I would ask that you consider a gift of at least $75 - that is less than $3 each day between now and Christmas. If you cannot donate $75, a gift of just $10 each month will go further than you can imagine. Because while there are no routine days at GCRTL, together we can show the world that life is always precious and it always takes precidence.
Click here to donate online today.
*Names changed to protect confidentiality.
The 5 Most Egregious Things to Happen at City Council Tonight:
Tonight was the "Public Hearing" on 1548-2016. Thanks to everyone who came out. For those who missed it, here were the five most egregious things to happen...
5: Teeny Tiny Room
Seriously, did they look for the smallest room possible? There was room in the hearing, counting standing room, for maybe 60 people.
4: Dozens Locked Out
Because City Council choose such a small location, dozens who wanted to attend were locked out of the building.
3: City Police Officer Lied
Columbus police officer Nicole, who occasionally worked as a private duty police officer at Founder's, told city council members of her experiences with volunteers. One anecdote that she shared was that volunteers would lie to women by telling them that the abortion clinic had employed a known sex offender, when that was not true. Except, it was true. Read all about it here: http://www.gcrtl.org/blog/abortion-provider-indicted-on-child-pornography-charges
Note: updated post includes a link at the bottom of this entry to the full hearing. You can watch Officer Nicole lie about this at the 1:05:27 point.
2: Public Testimony Limited
Although billed as a public hearing which would allow proponents and opponents of the proposal to testify for/against the law in 3-minute, alternating witness statements, City Council filled the time with member statements, a presentation from their attorney, and the statements of one officer mentioned above. In total, only about fifteen minutes of the 5:30-7:00pm hearing were allotted to opponent speakers.
1: It Was All A Farce
It was all a farce anyway, and it was obvious that this was little more than for-show hearing. City Council already showed its hand that it intends to act on this proposal next Monday.
We aren't going to let it happen without trying to stop it, though.
In in less than a week, we have gathered thousands of postcards from opponents of the proposed law, and more than 500 have signed our petition (www.gcrtl.org/city-council). Join us!
Watch the full hearing. To skip to the part where Officer Nicole lies about an abortion doctor being charged as a sex offender, forward to the 1:05:27 mark when Councilwoman Brown asks her about her experiences.
Today’s sidewalk snapshot comes to you courtesy of M, one of our Saturday stalwarts! She shared three interactions from passers-by. The first one was that a man stopped by to thank the group for praying, but he also noted that there is a need for more people to pay attention to the injustices throughout life, especially those that occur in the black community.
A while later, a second car pulled up. The woman driving said that she had been wanting to come to thank our group for a while. She said that she showed up for an abortion about a year ago and after speaking to “ladies praying a rosary” she left. She then introduced us to her one-year old son. According to M, “She was glowing and had tears of joy. At the time she was thanking us, a car drove by and yelled that we should be ashamed of ourselves. So ironic.”
That is a lot for one day, but here are my thoughts. First – praise the Lord! It is a rare (and joyous) day that we get to meet the children who were born because someone cared enough to have the courage to come pray in front of the abortion clinic. Our efforts are focused on empowering women to turn away from the clinic and seek help from a pro-life pregnancy help center. Because both we and the pregnancy help centers take privacy very seriously, we often do not see or hear much in the way of follow-up.
Second – we are not entirely sure who the “ladies praying the rosary” were – but it could have been one of our dedicated sidewalk counselors, one of our frequent prayer partners, or even someone participating in the spring 40 Days for Life campaign last year. Whether you have an hour a month, an hour a week, or an hour a day, we can use your help, and most importantly – God can use your efforts to change a heart and save a life.
Third – we agree that there is a need for people to pay attention to the injustices throughout life, especially those that occur in the black community. As our friend Bryan from Stand True says, social justice starts in the womb. While a popular narrative is that pro-life folks have a “fetus fetish” (yes, that is an actual accusation of our work), the reality is that pro-life people are engaged in a whole continuum of care. They are the people caring for ill family members, they are the families serving in soup kitchens, and they are the churches that take seriously the efforts to care for those society has turned its back on. In fact, it is our position which is consistent. The reason that black lives matter, the reason that we should care for the sick and house the homeless and help out the needy is because all human life has intrinsic value – value which is not determined by age, income, ability, wealth, or any other thing which changes over the course of a lifetime. We do not get to pick and “choose” which lives matter – because they all do. Ok, so sometimes we have a debate about the best way to help protect the dignity of that life. It is also a reality that we sometimes fail. We aren’t claiming that we are perfect- merely that we seek to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.
Lastly, to the car driving by yelling that we should be ashamed of ourselves – oh, the irony coming from the crowd whose mantra is the pseudo-biblical and out-of-context, “thou shall not judge.” In a sense, however, he or she is not entirely wrong. We should be ashamed of ourselves. We should be ashamed that we live in a society where women see abortion as their best and only option. We should be ashamed that in the year 2016 we think that there is something magical about the birth canal or a C-section that conveys both personhood and basic human rights. It is a shame that in a metropolitan area with a population of a little more than two million, where almost half a million people identify as Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, our efforts are carried out by a core of volunteers that number in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands. We should also be ashamed that our efforts are often hamstrung by our own egos and the petty bickering that comes from differences in strategy or creed. Daring to stand up for life in the public square? Daring to pray in public? Hearing the thankfulness, seeing the joy, and understanding the love of a mother who chose life for her son, and having the rare occasion to meet the fruits of our work? There is nothing of shame there, only joy and grateful hearts.
Thanks for all of the “Love” for our new “sidewalk snapshots” – short vignettes that share our tales from the sidewalk! Are you a GCRTL volunteer who would like to share your story from the sidewalk? Let us know! Are you ready to join our efforts in your own way? Join our prayer team today.
I got a call yesterday from one of our volunteers, M. She started by saying, “I have to tell you the most blessed story. I was praying at Founder’s today, and it was such a grace-filled day. God just used my stupidity. I didn’t have any literature, I didn’t say the right things, and yet somehow, in my conversations with a Dad, he had a change of heart, went in to talk to his partner, and they decided to choose life for their baby!”
As M went on, she explained that the gentleman approached her and explained that they already had three children and that his partner couldn’t have this one. Because of some confusion, M thought that the woman was pregnant by another man and that they had decided to abort this one. In the course of explaining things, the father said over and over again, “No, this is my baby. It is mine. I am the father.” Then, as M said, something clicked in the father. He realized that this was his baby. She went on to say, “His tone then changed from justifying it to me to justifying it to himself. Finally, I looked at him and said ‘You have three other children? You must be exhausted. She must be exhausted.” He then looked at Maureen, a little overwhelmed, and said, “I am. We are.” M then looked at him and said, “It is hard, but it gets better, and there are people who want to help you.” The father then said to himself one last time, “I am the father,” and he went inside. In a few minutes, he and the mother of his child came out, both of them absolutely elated. M encouraged them to go to the nearby pregnancy center where there is hope and help, waiting for them.
There are a few takeaways from this conversation. The first is that M kept saying, over and over, “It was such an amazing blessing. God used my stupidity in the moment to bring about great goodness.” For whatever reason, M didn’t quite understand the nature of the relationship, and for whatever reason, the man felt he needed to explain. In doing so, he repeated again and again, “I am the father. It is my baby. I AM THE FATHER!” Eventually, it just clicked with him, and in a way that it may not have happened if her confusion hadn't led him to clarify. I think M was being a bit hard on herself. It wasn’t her stupidity, just a little confusion on her part. That however, brings me to my second takeaway, which is that so many potential volunteers stay away because they do not know what to say; they fear that they are not sufficiently skilled in apologetics; they think that they will say the wrong thing and make it worse; or they just let their doubts and fears keep them away. One of the things that we emphasize in our trainings is that our volunteers are not called to be successful; they are called to be faithful and loving and committed. Our job is not to save babies, but to plant seeds. If we do that and keep doing that, we can eventually step back and see how God has woven even our missteps into a beautiful tapestry. Sometimes it is immediate – like in the case of the turn-away, sometimes it takes a bit longer – like when one of our volunteers gets a text message with a photo of a baby six or eight months down the road, and sometimes we may never fully see it with our human eyes. Even if we never, ever, ever see the fruits of our efforts in the world, we have faith that they are there. In fact, I frequently hear our volunteers say, “I started doing this because I wanted to save babies, I kept doing it because I saw the opportunity to help women, but what surprised me the most of all is how my own faith has deepened – how my life has changed.”
While there are probably a few more takeaways from this conversation, the last one that I want to focus on is how critical it is to build communities that support the dignity of human life at all stages. We often have a picture in our head of what a woman who is abortion-minded looks like. It leads us to make assumptions about who is and who is not at risk of an abortion. In this day and age, every pregnant woman is a little at risk of abortion, because at some moment we all face a crisis. Maybe it is financial. Maybe it is substance abuse. Maybe it is a bad relationship and a woman who wants out or desperately wants to stay in. Perhaps it is school, work, or lack of work. It could even be a desperately wanted baby with a devastating diagnosis. It might even be an incredibly loving family that is just so very tired and a little overwhelmed.
Today I’d like to ask you to lift up this father and mother and their four children – three on the outside and one in the womb. Let’s pray that they are strengthened and fortified, not only by God who is our greatest consolation, but by a community of people whose faith affirms the dignity of all human life, every day.
Thank you M, for being out there with #TeamThursday! You are amazing.
PS: To further illustrate this point, M and her prayer partner had a second turn-away on Thursday, this one in spite of a language barrier. Once again proving that you need not be perfect in order to change someone’s life!
Things are not always easy on the sidewalk. Over and over again my volunteers share that there are two kinds of days that are extra tough. The first is an average Thursday. Thursdays tend to be less busy days at the abortion clinic, probably because that is the day that Accu-Medical comes to pick up and dispose of the past week’s aborted babies. While there has been much discussion of Stericycle as a national aborted tissue disposal company, both of the central Ohio abortion clinics (Planned Parenthood and Founder’s) have contracts (or in the last six months have had contracts) with Accu-Medical. Our Thursday volunteers do triple duty. They sidewalk counsel women going in, they pray for them and their unborn children about to be aborted, and they also serve as mourners at an anonymous funeral procession for unknown numbers of children as box after box of fetal remains is carted out of the building. Thursdays are tough days.
The other tough days are those when they encounter someone who is a professing Christian who agrees that abortion is wrong and persists in doing it anyway. That is what happened last Wednesday with R, one of our Sidewalk Counselors.
On this particular Wednesday, R had a tough day; a lot of hard hearts. There was also one very joyful turn away. But what really stuck with her was talking to the mother of a girl going in to have an abortion. The mother reported that her (very young) teenage daughter was an excellent student and an aspiring athlete and that they knew abortion was wrong, but that God would forgive them, because this is what they “have” to do. More than you might imagine, we hear, “I know that this (abortion) is wrong, but God will forgive me.” Folks, if we could just get prolife people to stop having abortions, the abortion rate would plummet overnight.
As R described it to me, the mother tearfully acknowledged that she was going to leave the abortion clinic to go to church to pray for forgiveness for the abortion. Do not be confused, as I was at first. The mother was not indicating that she would be leaving the appointment to pray about what they almost did. On this Wednesday, the mother of the teenager and the grandmother of the unborn child was, before the abortion, already planning to leave the clinic to ask for forgiveness for what they were doing. She explained that her daughter, a young teenager, was a good student with a bright future ahead of her who made a mistake. The mother indicated that she had too many kids to also raise her daughter’s child and that they knew that abortion was wrong, but that this is what they had to do so the daughter could continue to do well in school, compete in athletics, and get into a good college and have a career. All of our volunteer’s pleading and comments were not enough to sway them from this course of action.
A blog post is not enough to get into the intricacies of what it means for our society when we compartmentalize our beliefs so that on one hand we “do what we have to do” and on the other “believe what we ought to believe.” Nor is this intended as a vehicle to beat up on women who were in incredibly difficult circumstances and chose abortion not fully realizing the ramifications of that choice. It is also not intended to imply that grace and forgiveness and healing are not available to anyone who is truly sorry for what they have done and seeks forgiveness. We enter into this work in the reality that we are all broken people living in a broken world and that abortion is but one manifestation of this brokenness.
But here is the thing, the very definition of sin is to do something of your own free will with full knowledge that doing it is wrong. To do so while presuming God will forgive you is extremely problematic for a few reasons, but two specifically come to mind. The first is that genuine repentance means feeling genuine sorrow. Why do something knowing that you will be sorry for it? Remember, we were not talking to a scared pregnant early teen-aged girl here, but to her mother – who was fully complicit in and encouraging of the abortion. The second problem is that we often forget that while God’s forgiveness is unending, there are consequences in this world for our actions. There are physical complications from abortion and many women express psychological and mental and spiritual consequences. Why willingly take on all of this, and why willingly let your teenage daughter take on all this?
Sometimes it is incredibly tough, as our volunteer out that day, R, will tell you, and it starts to feel like we are being outmaneuvered by a character in CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. If you are familiar with the book you may remember the seventh letter, where Screwtape explains to his protégé that God wants men to be concerned with what they do, but that evil wants them to be preoccupied with what is happening to them. If you are not familiar with the book, you should put it on your reading list sometime.
This is why those days are so hard, because you know that the remorse and the sorrow will come for the mothers, and you wonder if you could have done it better – maybe you should have been gentler or brought more tough love. Again, this is where we must remember that while we seek to get better every day, our job is not to be successful, but to be faithful, and to plant the seed.
I sometimes describe our volunteers as the last sign of hope for a woman entering the abortion clinic and the first sign of mercy for those walking out of it, and we will continue to be that. In many ways, that is part of the role of our Sidewalk Volunteers – we serve as advocates for the unborn children and we serve as witnesses to God’s Truth – from the perspective of both the law and the love. I also hope that as frustrating as this situation is, how often do we presume God’s mercy in forgiving our own sins, especially those that are less visible?
So I ask you today, to pray for this Mother and Grandmother, pray for her daughter’s lost motherhood, pray for the unborn child and others like it at risk for abortion. But also pray for your fellow Christian brothers and sisters that we continue to grow in faith and that we reject the empty promises of the one who wants us to stop thinking about the nature of what we do and start thinking about the situation that we are in.
 And if you decide to buy it on amazon.com, be sure to go to smile.amazon.com first and support GCRTL with your purchase!