By Dave Andrusko
Her family and friends—and I am privileged to say I am one— quickly grasped that Jean Garton’s symptoms likely meant this pro-life tower of strength would not live long. Early yesterday morning, the author of the classic “Who Broke the Baby?” died at the same hospice where her beloved husband Chic had resided his final days and where Jean volunteered.
I am rushing to put together these remarks the afternoon of Christmas Eve and they will neither be polished nor the last thing we will have to say about Jean. Were Jean to see them, she would find the typos, the less-than-finely made points, the sentence structure that merited at best a Gentleman’s ”C,” and roll her eyes in pretend mockery before gently suggesting I might like to take another pass.
As a writer and as a speaker, Jean’s demanded perfection of herself. Her essays were always stories. The narrative thread that held so many together was that as a people, we are better than abortion.
Her stories were always in furtherance of community—the community in which the powerful take care of and protect the marginal and the powerless. She would use illustrations from everyday life and incidents that were not so common to make this fundamental point.
For instance, she would often link graciousness and kindness under pressure when a baby was ‘wanted’ to what pro-lifers do for women in crisis pregnancies when the woman is, at best, ambivalent around the fate of the child she is carrying.
One of my favorites was about “Matthew Dulles de Bara whom I came to know only through national news reports,” Jean wrote.
The story told of a young couple bound for Disney World with their 3-year old in tow. A short time into the flight, the woman–7 months pregnant––went into labor. A flight attendant used the P.A. system to locate a doctor on board while other passengers relocated so the woman could stretch out across a row of seats.
Within minutes the baby was delivered but, with the cord around his neck, he wasn’t breathing and was turning blue. A nearby paramedic shouted for a drinking straw which she used to suction fluid from the baby’s lungs.
A man gave his shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord. Other travelers took turns amusing the mother’s three-year old daughter while the remaining people stayed in their seats in order to keep the aisle clear.
The plane finally landed; the passengers cheered; and the baby was stable. The parents named the little boy, Matthew, which means “Gift of God.” He was given the middle name of Dulles after the airport where the plane made its emergency landing. On the birth certificate where it states “Place of Birth,” little Matthew’s reads “In Flight.”
Matthew landed safely because of help from a lot of people who contributed whatever was necessary to help him live – from medical skills and child care to a shoe lace and drinking straw. Life is intended to be like that, and when human beings live out a sense of community, as we do in the pro-life movement, that is much more reflective of the history and heart of the people of America than of the heartless individualism inherent in abortion.
Jean was forthright about where her own journey started.
My involvement in the abortion battle began on the “choice” side back in 1968 when I found myself pregnant at 40. We already had three children and number four was definitely not on my agenda. “Every child a wanted child” claims the pro-choice slogan, and this child wasn’t.
The “practical solution” was an abortion. However, where I lived the state law prohibited abortion so I joined an abortion-rights group to help change the law.
What changed, however, was me. That “unwanted pregnancy” became a very wanted child.
I eventually became a convert to the pro-life position and, in 1973, found myself speaking at a U.S. Senate hearing because, as the old line says, “Once you see, you can’t unsee.”
Jean took enormous care in describing and great pleasure in detailing who it is that makes up our Movement. She once wrote in one of her many essays for NRL News Today
Pro-Life is a mighty association of individuals, groups, churches, and organizations with people of all ages, colors, religions and nationalities. Pro-Life is a worldwide movement that has no counterpart.
Other movements in the past have been similar, but never before, in a so-called civilized society, have people united together – in a strong, public counter movement to a violent killing force – simply to say that you may not kill the smallest, the most defenseless, the most innocent among us.
Last summer Jean was the featured speaker at the annual NRLC Convention’s Prayer Breakfast. I reposted her speech—“Where there is Life, There is Hope”—and it was as wonderfully received by our readership as it was by the enraptured audience.
On a more personal note, 3 ½ years ago I persuaded a reluctant Jean to join myself (as moderator) and two articulate pro-life spokespeople at a convention workshop we called “The Art of Pro-Life Persuasion.” In one sense it was hilarious. Our two friends spoke so fast Jean and I (as the two senior citizens) would look at each other in stunned bemusement and laugh.
Then Jean would arise. In that deliberate, nuanced and carefully crafted manner that characterized her speaking style, she would just wow the audience. They loved the combination, which Jean I privately dubbed, “The Tortoises and the Hares.”
Final thought about my friend. While adults can pretend not to know that the unborn is one of us, children know differently. Indeed, the origin of the title of Jean’s memorable book goes back to when her then-three-year-old son walked into a room where Jean was reviewing slides of aborted babies.
He took one look and asked, “Mommy, who broke the baby?”
Jean was and will remain for people like me, the ultimate pro-life warrior. Her “weapons” were her faith (as Lutherans we shared a special bond), her unwavering commitment to the cause of the little ones, and her magnificent capacity for friendship.
I often signed my emails to Jean with, “Your Friend for Life.” I would add now, “Your Friend for Life and beyond.”
Someday when Lisa and I join Jean and Chic, I expect she will smile, roll her eyes in pretend mockery, and say, “You know, Dave, you could’ve dropped that extra comma.”