By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D.
Though I deal daily with a lot of data and statistics and issues as NRLC Director of Education & Research, my work–our work–is hardly theoretical. It isn’t about numbers or groups or even laws. It’s about people.
Real lives, real people.
When we pass laws or share factsheets or speak out at our local church, it isn’t on behalf of some abstract cause, but for the sake of the real moms and the real babies that they carry.
That was driven home to me yesterday by several moms and babies I met at a luncheon with Heartbeat International. These folks are part a network of pregnancy help centers all across the country and around the world.
Heartbeat International brought seven of those moms and their babies to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators. They were there not to lobby on behalf of any particular piece of legislation, but just to let lawmakers, of both parties, of both opinions on abortion, see just who it was that their policies are affecting.
Pro-life lawmakers and their staffers welcomed them with open arms. They were making connections with some old friends, some new to the Hill with just-hired staff still unpacking the furniture.
Other lawmakers known for their support for abortion were a little more leery, but they were polite enough to welcome visiting delegations from their states.
And this is where it gets interesting.
One of the table hosts said that when the Heartbeat staff, in their suits and ties, spoke, many of the pro-abortion lawmakers and their staffers were largely disengaged. But when the moms spoke, and brought out their babies, they had their full attention.
That makes sense. No matter what the pro-abortion activists and their allies in the media are telling you, it is exceedingly hard to dismiss the humanity of a baby that looking right at you, or a mom who is telling you that, despite whatever you’ve been told, she doesn’t want abortion.
One of those young women, Janai, sat at my table with Marz, her two- month-old baby. Talking to her, and reading more of her story on-line, I learned a lot.
Growing up in one of D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods, Janai was a student at Texas Southern University in Houston, just one more semester away from graduating with a degree in marketing. Then, about a year ago, she found out she was pregnant, the result of date rape.
If Janai had gone to her local Planned Parenthood in Houston, they could have offered her their all-purpose solution–abortion–chemical or surgical. If she wanted to keep her baby, there wasn’t much help she could expect, certainly not from the largest abortion provider in the United States.
Fortunately, Janai went to the Houston Fifth Ward Pregnancy Help Center instead.
The staff confirmed her pregnancy and helped to address her very real fears about disappointing her family, not finishing college, and ending up homeless. The case manager at the Houston Fifth Ward Pregnancy Help Center listened to her concerns with sensitivity and helped her to find practical, realistic, and life affirming options.
Janai told me it was that connection, that care and compassion, that solidified her decision to let her baby live. The staff helped with birthing and childcare classes and found her a spot to live at Lifehouse, a maternity home where she was able to live the last four months of her pregnancy. There she received counseling, and began the healing process.
The people at the center and at the maternity home “changed my perspective on life and people by making me feel loved and appreciated,” Janai said. “It allowed me to learn to love myself again and have room to also fill the heart of my child with love.”
Janai has since graduated and calls Marz “the most precious gift I have ever been blessed with.” Janai says she connected with all those who helped her and she will continue to keep in contact with them throughout her life.
Today, Janai and Marz attended the March for Life. Speakers talked about helping mothers in crisis pregnancy situations. Many in the audience were and are living embodiments of the millions of pro-life people who daily live out their love for unborn children and their mothers.
It’s the smile on Janai’s face and beautiful little Marz’s grip that I’ll remember each time I need a reminder of why it is that we pro-lifers do the things we do.
It’s not theoretical. It’s very, very real.