By Holly Gatling
Editor’s note. This appeared in the February digital edition of National Right to Life News. This guest presidential column is written by Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, and Secretary of the National Right to Life Board of Directors.
My brother Laddie is adopted. It is a fact that was never hidden from either of us. Our parents told us there are two ways that families have children. One is by birth and the other is by adoption. It made perfect sense to me and nothing could ever make Laddie not my brother.
Laddie was nine months old and I was almost three when he joined our family in Versailles, Kentucky, around June of 1953. Our older sister was 17 when I was born and there had been no children in between. My birth had been very difficult for my mother. She and I both almost died. Subsequently, she lost a baby at five months and her doctors told her and my father that they should think about adoption if they wanted another child. Mama was 36 when she had me and 37 when she lost the baby at five months. The chances of my mother giving birth again were not good.
My parents applied to adopt through the Kentucky Department of Social Services, but the news was not encouraging. They were told adoptions were taking up to five years. God had other plans. In short order my parents learned that a nine-month-old baby boy was available immediately. Now here’s where things get really interesting. My older sister was born on September 10, 1933. My dad was born on September 12, 1910. When Mama was pregnant with me, they wondered if I might fill in the gap on September 11, 1950. But I was not about to share my birthday cake with anyone. I was born on August 29.
The day arrived when we picked up my brother at the Department of Social Services. Although I was not yet three years old, I have a very distinct memory of the first time I saw my brother in an office with large windows. The social worker handed my parents his birth certificate. The birth certificate information stated simply Caucasian male, date of birth September 11, 1952. From the beginning, Laddie was meant to be ours. God proved it to us.
Laddie and I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, in the relatively idyllic 1950s when we could go as far as we liked on our bicycles as long as we were home by dark. Laddie was an extraordinarily handsome and athletic teen. By the time he was 22, he had married the red-haired beauty and love of his life, Lynn. At his first high school reunion, he and Lynn won the prize for having the most children – three at that time. Laddie once told me that after the third child, he and Lynn couldn’t imagine life without a baby in the house. They ended up with 11 children. Now they have 11 grandchildren and number 12 arrives in April.
Meanwhile, I followed a career path, first as a newspaper reporter for 20 years and then as the executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life. So, here’s my point. I had been with SCCL for a number of years when one day I began to contemplate the wonderment of adoption and my brother’s amazing family.
All of a sudden, the thought struck me like a meteorite. If my brother had been aborted, his would not be the only life lost. My 11 nieces and nephews would not exist and their children would not exist and generations as numerous as the stars would not exist – all because one baby was aborted. Think about that when you contemplate 61 million abortions in the United States alone. I cannot wrap my mind around the number of lives that will never exist from just one abortion –let alone the number of lives lost from 61 million abortions.
One of the many reasons I have such tremendous hope for the future is that pro-life people like Laddie and Lynn are raising pro-life children who are raising pro-life children. Our side is winning because we are having children. On the other hand, abortion supporters are killing their future. The abortion mentality cannot survive much longer.
There’s more. My brother was famous for telling people he didn’t worry about Social Security. He’d point to his growing family and say, “Here is my Social Security.” His words were prophetic. My brother is completely disabled now by the devastating auto-immune disease Multiple Sclerosis. Two years ago, he had an accident in which he was thrown from his wheelchair and broke two vertebrae and deflated one lung. Because my family is pro-life, we are acutely aware of the discrimination that people with disabilities face – and we saw it first hand with my brother. In the hospital, there was resistance to treating his injuries because he has MS and is in a wheelchair. If he had not been disabled, there would have been no question about treating a collapsed lung and broken vertebrae. He would have been sent – no questions asked – to a rehab facility for treatment. But not only was that not offered, it was resisted by the hospital staff.
I am so proud to say that the hospital staff didn’t know what hit them when my brother’s red-headed wife, his 11 children, and myself pushed back and pushed back hard. We fought for him to be admitted to a hospital in North Carolina that specializes in treating and rehabilitating disabled people who have injuries that are not related to the disability, but complicate the disability. In the end, he came home in better shape than he was before the accident.
Yes, life is tough sometime, but life is beautiful. The ancient wisdom of Deuteronomy 30:19 has never been more relevant than it is today. “Choose life so that you and your children may live.” My brother and sister-in-law are setting the powerful example. Laddie is alive now because he chose life for his children and they chose life for him.