October 14, 2005

Pro-life sign changes a woman’s life,
saves a baby’s life

(Editor’s Note: This article tells the story of a pregnant woman who turned away from an abortion through the ministry of archdiocesan Catholics. She asked to have her name withheld because some of her family members either do not approve or do not know about her choice.)

By Sean Gallagher

Although she knew it was murder, a 30-year-old woman went into a Planned Parenthood facility at 5430 E. 21st St. in Indianapolis on May 26 for an abortion.

“At an earlier age, I was heavily into youth group and into my church,” said the woman, who is a member of the Church of Christ. “And I spiritually knew that [abortion] was murder to me.”

At the time she considered having an abortion, her life was on a downward spiral. Her divorce had been finalized six months earlier, making her a single mother of two young children. Two months earlier, she was the victim of a date rape that resulted in the conception of a new life.

Although her religious upbringing told her that abortion was murder, other factors, including the fact that the child was the product of a sexual assault, led her to consider it as a viable option.

“That was the only thing that made me feel like maybe I didn’t need to have this child because I did not have a connection to that person,” she said. “My other two children have a loving father that they’re connected to. How can I bring a child into this situation when my other two children have this loving father and [he or she] doesn’t have that?”

She also acknowledged that some pressure was applied by her own father, whom she described as “not spiritual,” to consider abortion. He offered to pay for it if she chose to have one.

Finally, the difficult economic situation that resulted from her divorce was weighing on her mind.

“I did not have an income,” she said. “I was a student. I lived off of my child support that I received from my ex-husband.”

But despite the array of challenges that lay before her, her conscience kept speaking to her, even when she was in the waiting room of the facility.

“I was really shameful about even going in there in the first place,” she said. “I was in a battle in there. I was tormented. I came out, and went and got something to eat [then] came back. It was emotional stress, especially when you know it’s wrong.”

Three hours after arriving, she went out to the parking lot. Her attention was caught there by a sign on a wall facing the center that read, “There is a better choice. For real help, call 1-877-734-2444.”

The sign was painted in late August 2004 by a group of Catholics and other Christians. The telephone number on the sign is for the Gabriel Project, a network of parish-based pro-life volunteers who seek to give help and support to women who are experiencing crisis pregnancies.

After looking at the sign three times, she called the number on her cell phone. No one answered.

As she was making her way back to the facility, her phone rang. Eileen Hartman, executive director of the Great Lakes Gabriel Project and a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, was on the other end.

By the end of their hour-long conversation, Hartman had given the woman enough encouragement to stay true to her convictions that she turned away from abortion, and chose to carry her baby to term then place him or her for adoption.

“That sign saved my life,” she said. “It saved not only my life, but the life of this baby, this child, this soul that God has ownership over, because he is the one that created this life. I didn’t have a right to take it away.”

When asked how she felt afterward, she said, “Relief. R-E-L-I-E-F. I was relieved. Her voice was so soothing. She was just like an angel.”

In fact, Hartman soon assigned her to a Gabriel Project angel, the organization’s term for the person who keeps in contact with mothers and arranges for the aid they need.

During the past few months, the woman who called Hartman has been helped by Catholics across the archdiocese who are members of St. Théresè of the Child Jesus (Little Flower) Parish in Indianapolis, Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood and St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus as well as members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

Teresa Heffernan, regional coordinator for the Gabriel Project in Indianapolis and a member of Little Flower Parish, arranged some of the aid she received.

Heffernan described what can happen in the Gabriel Project when a pregnant woman in need calls the help line.

“It’s a snowball effect,” Heffernan said. “It sets a lot of other things in motion. People really step up to the plate.”

In the time since she made her call, the woman’s outlook has changed for the better. She has found a job that allows her to continue her education.

Although the woman who made the call and turned away from abortion has benefited from the multifaceted pro-life ministry of many Catholics, Hartman was quick to acknowledge her admiration for the woman with whom she has bonded during the past few months.

“To me, she’s a superhero,” Hartman said. “I think of all the women who turn away—who are walking into that abortion center and turn away—I think of them as heroes.”

(For more information about Project Gabriel, call 877-734-2444.) †


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