by Emma Ladwig, Communications Manager, St. Joseph County Right to Life
A neatly typed Bible verse, James 3:17, currently occupies the top left corner of the calendar hanging above my desk. It serves as a reminder that God’s wisdom and His plan for His people must always intimately influence my work for the pro-life cause. All that I and my colleagues at St. Joseph County Right to Life do to educate our community, reach out to the vulnerable, and advocate for true respect for every person must reflect the fruits of God’s own wisdom, as referenced in the verse: “The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.”
It is in our ability to draw from God’s wisdom that our successes in the pro-life movement stem, and more than ever recently, those successes can be marked by the fruits of God’s wisdom mentioned in this verse: purity, peace, gentleness, compliance, mercy, constancy, and sincerity.
Recent months have brought many threats against life in our community. Threats that incense me as a pro-lifer, and threats that cause great ire to well up in me as a woman. Even with such a guide as James 3:17, choosing to draw upon God’s wisdom instead of reacting emotionally in a split second can prove difficult.
Take for example, the intrusion of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance (WWHA) into the public sphere of South Bend and the surrounding area. WWHA is a Texas-based abortion chain, which purchased a building on Lincolnway West. Their intent was to begin operating as a chemical abortion facility, where women seeking abortions could take a series of pills to kill their child in utero then expel the infant by triggering contractions.
WWHA’s encroachment on our community deeply upset me. South Bend had just shut down the Women’s Pavilion abortion clinic only two years before, and now a new facility was trying to sweep in and wreak destruction? Particularly frustrating to me was the fact that WWHA, even simply with its name, presented itself as a place of health and completeness for women. In reality, it could not be further from that standard.
I was distraught for my fellow women of northern Indiana. Women who would be deceived by the operators and administrators of WWHA. Women who would be told that killing an innocent child would benefit their lives. Women who would be fed lies that abortion is the best solution for them to achieve their dreams when undergoing an unplanned pregnancy. Are women too weak to continue seeking their goals when unexpected circumstances arise? I say no. WWHA suggests otherwise.
Despite the strong convictions and antipathy for WWHA that many members of our organization maintained, Right to Life decided to follow God’s wisdom when formulating a plan of action. Our organization and our members acted peaceably but constantly, gently but sincerely. Right to Life reached out to the community, beginning a campaign, and calling others to action at NoAbortionsSouthBend.com. Right to Life acted not with hostility, but with love for our area and its people. The goal aligned perfectly with the wisdom of God: keeping South Bend as pure as it can be in regard to the life issues and the prevalence of abortion.
And then, when WWHA was denied its license by the Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, there was a moment of victory, followed by the knowledge that the fight was not over. Indeed, it only grew from there, and again demanded our constancy and sincerity. WWHA appealed the denial—an appeal that is still in consideration today. WWHA began a media campaign, with a slogan that again riled me as a woman: “Women in South Bend need abortion care without shame or stigma.”
My question for WWHA is when did abortion become care? When did a politically-motivated, Texan abortion corporation earn the right to tell women in South Bend, like myself, what we need? When did the pro-life community shame or stigmatize women who were betrayed by abortion? Never.
In truth, abortion is the absence of care, going against the nature of women’s bodies and taking lives of genetically complete human beings at their most vulnerable stages. Also, the idea that women must be told what they need is despicable. I know how to educate myself about what I need, and I have no doubt that other women in my community share my convictions that they know what is best for them without interference from an organization that only seeks to politicize and pull profits.
Also, women who procure abortions are not the victims of shame or stigma, as WWHA would have South Bend believe. Pro-life groups pride themselves on providing healing for women who feel betrayed by abortion, showing the mercy of God as it pours forth from His wisdom. Pro-life groups seek to love women of all experiences and backgrounds, realizing that abortion often preys on those who feel they have nowhere else to turn. The vast majority of pro-lifers do not condemn women for having an abortion but instead provide support for them. We do not mark women with a scarlet letter—we show them that they are loved and respected despite anything that has happened in their past.
If the words shame and stigma are to be used regarding abortion, then they should be applied appropriately. Abortion and its advocates shame and stigmatize single mothers, suggesting it is better for them to abort their children than raise up their own flesh and blood with the help of their community. Abortion and its advocates shame and stigmatize adoption, suggesting it is better to abort a child than give him or her a chance to live and grow with another family. Abortion and its advocates shame and stigmatize large families, suggesting a family with many children is somehow bizarre, wrong, or deleterious to society. This is the truth about shame and stigma regarding abortion.
The misinformation spewing from WWHA about shame, stigma, care, and need necessitated a strong response from our organization. What response could be stronger than turning to God, who in His wisdom can set all things right? With that thought in mind, Right to Life created a promotional video for a recently-launched, statewide prayer campaign, “5 @ 5:00,” which unites our Hoosier community in five minutes of prayer at five o’clock daily for specific intentions surrounding the WWHA appeal and the battle to keep South Bend pure and free from abortion. God’s wisdom has blessed us at St. Joseph County Right to Life in formulating a response to WWHA that will bear good fruit and promote life in a spirit of peace and in compliance with God’s own plan.
Our struggles to protect and respect life will likely never end, as evidenced by recent struggles like the case of the veto of the rezoning of the Women’s Care Center property by Mayor Pete. But the bottom line upon which all our work at St. Joseph County Right to Life is structured is to work with the wisdom of God as our catalyst, and to promote life in our community through the fruits of that same prudence and erudition from above.