Mary Rose Doe ~ April 28, 1983

“A perfect little bud ~ clipped before she blossomed.”
In memory of those lives lost through abortion

By Jacki Ragan, Director, National Right to Life’s State Organizational Development Department

On April 28, 1983, a baby girl was found, “legally aborted,” and tossed into a drainage ditch off Cantrell Road in Little Rock, Arkansas. She weighed 5 pounds, was 7 months gestation, 16 inches long, had a full head of auburn hair, brown eyes, and ivory skin.

She was beautiful, and she was perfect.

Her life had been cut short by abortion. Forty years later, I often wonder how many Mary Rose Does died without ever being acknowledged as having lived. But her abruptly and cruelly ended life changed my life forever.

At that time, I was the President of North Pulaski Pro-Life which morphed into Arkansas Right to Life. Having gotten involved in 1975, there were moments that I naively thought I had witnessed it all. 

I should never have underestimated the depths to which abortion will drag us.

I learned of Mary’s death on Mother’s Day, May 8, 1983, from a newspaper article that Mike Masterson wrote. In 1983 Mike was an Investigative Reporter and today he is an Independent Columnist and Correspondent at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  I contacted North Pulaski Pro-Life and asked if we could work together to provide a Christian burial for her. Everyone immediately got on board.

As I learned more about Mary’s short life, her sweet grip on my heart tightened, and the more I felt I had to make sure someone realized she was here, however briefly.

Mike’s story explained that Mary was found by an 8-year-old boy playing near his yard. Her little body was wedged between two large rocks with lots of trash, paper sacks, beer cans and other garbage.

Little Rock police officer Jim McDaniel was first on the scene. He sadly speculated that she might have been tossed into the ditch somewhere upstream and washed down along with the other castoffs.  Officer McDaniel also said it was the toughest call he had ever received to that point.

The Medical Examiner said she was still warm when he received her.

When North Pulaski Pro-Life decided to arrange a burial for this child of God, things just seemed to fall into place. We assumed guardianship of Mary’s remains a few days after she was found, and we managed to get what we needed for her burial donated.

My friend, Kathy Nauman, donated a bonnet one of her daughters had worn as a newborn, along with a pair of infant socks. Our treasurer, Mark Reilly, and his wife Judy donated a dress for Mary. This was an especially poignant gift for it was the dress that all four of their daughters had worn home from the hospital after their deliveries.

The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock provided the burial plot for Mary and the North Little Rock Funeral Home donated her coffin. It was lined with pink rosebuds and daisies. Each item donated for Mary’s burial was not only special in a significant way, but meaningful to the person who had donated it.

And on Saturday afternoon, May 16, 1983, about 100 people gathered at a graveside service for Mary Rose Doe at Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock. There were two ministers, men and women who came to pay their respects to this tiny baby girl, and lots of children.

That day, we were given the privilege and honor of naming her and providing her with a Christian burial.

Mary Rose touched our hearts. None of us will ever forget her. She made abortion a very personal, a very real issue. She represents all the babies that the right to life movement continues to this day to work so hard to protect. She was not refuse. Mary Rose was a gift of everlasting significance.

Arkansas Right to Life created the Mary Rose Doe Award that has been given to a few dozen wonderful and deserving men and women.

Her tombstone reads:

Mary Rose Doe ~ April 28, 1983
“A perfect little bud ~ clipped before she blossomed.”
In memory of those lives lost through abortion

It is not likely anyone will ever know her real story, except for her mom. But Mary, your life mattered. We are so sorry you were not allowed to grow up and help change the world.

Your 40th birthday is today. You are still remembered, you are still thought about, and you are still loved.

Your sweet little life mattered.