Monday, February 23, 2009

An American Miracle

A friend of mine told me an incredible story that can teach important lessons. I will try to relate it with the same honesty with which it was told to me.

The events in this true story happened in January and February of 1973, shortly after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. It is shocking how fast the State took advantage of the new law to advocate and even order the killing of innocent people.

This is the story of a miracle. Like all miracles performed by our God, the non-believer just sees a series of unrelated events. That is because God has decided that He can only be known through our faith in Him. I pray that non-believers have the opportunity to need God so strongly that they let their pride fall away, admit their weakness and ask for new life.

Leanne was the first-born in her family, and she grew up with her stepfather, her mother and 5 or 6 stepbrothers and stepsisters in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her real father showed her the value of education, and he instilled in her a reverence for books, but she only met him a few times that she can remember. He worked for the railroad and at one point he left Michigan and didn’t go back.

School and church and family gatherings filled Leanne’s childhood. She was always a good student and a devout Catholic like her mother. She would have been happy but for the constant criticism and the meanness of her stepfather. Leanne feared taking her report card home to be signed, not because the grades were bad, but rather because her stepfather felt threatened by Leanne’s love of learning. He would look at her report cards full of As and Bs. “You tink you’re bedder’n the rest of us, doncha?”, and he would toss it on the floor.

He was an abusive man and he would beat Leanne’s mother violently when he was drunk. She was taken to the hospital on many a frozen night, bleeding from the nose and mouth, the car pushing through the drifting snow. The Parish priest spoke with the man and he was always contrite and repentant when sober, but he just got meaner the next time that he was drunk.

Leave it to say that Leanne’s childhood wasn’t sparkling, but she had big plans. She dreamed of studying English at the university. She was going to be a teacher and maybe write a book or two.

Her dreams were not fulfilled. There was no money for college, so she got a job and did what everyone does in the UP. She started to hang out in the bars in the evening although she never drank alcohol. She looked for hope and a future among the denizens of the dead-end world of drunks and their unrealized dreams. She met a man that impressed her and she had two children with him right out of high school.

Because of the terrible abuse that her mother suffered at the hands of her drunken stepfather, Leanne had decided to never marry and she did not marry the father of her two boys. They lived together and she was trying to make a happy home, but he followed in the footsteps of Leanne’s stepfather and drank his way through life, finally disappearing for a couple of days with another woman. Leanne decided that she was not going to repeat her mother’s life and she and the boys moved out.

Work was scarce for a single mother with two kids, and although she made every effort possible, she could not find a job that would either pay for a baby sitter or would allow her to take her kids to work. All she could find was work part-time at a bar. She could not make ends meet. So she went to Michigan Social Services and they helped her sue the dad for child support. They also signed her up for AFDC, At that time the child support checks were paid directly to Social Services and the agency would give the mothers their child support money and money from AFDC each month after they came in for a scheduled interview.

Leanne was living in a cheap apartment over the bar where she worked part-time. One night after the bar closed she was sleeping in her bed with her older son who was four while her one year old was asleep in his crib. A loud knocking came at the door. A voice that she thought she recognized said that it was an emergency and that it was terribly cold outside, please open up. So she unlocked the door and looked to see what was wrong. The man, who was a wealthy businessman from town, was drunk and he slurred that he needed to come in and he just wanted to spend some time with her. She tried to shut the door, but he had his foot in it and he overpowered her. He pushed the door open and came in. She didn’t want to frighten her boys so she didn’t scream. The apartment had no phone and no close neighbors. He sat down at the kitchen table and said something incoherent and then looked around and said he just needed to lay down for a bit. She went to her bedroom and carried her four year old to his bedroom and tucked him into his own bed, then told the drunk to go to sleep in her bed. She figured that he would be passed out soon. It was an uncomfortable event, but no harm done.

She lay down to sleep with her boy and was woken by the drunk. “Come ere. Come on” He took her hand and was pulling her out of her bed. He grabbed her leg and began to haul her physically from the bed. Her son started to awaken. “Either come with me or we’ll do it right here in front of the kids”. She followed the man to the other bedroom. He left before dawn.

The next morning she called a friend who was married to a police officer and the police officer drove over to Leanne’s apartment. Leanne told him what had happened, and said that she wanted to file charges for rape. He listened to her story, then he told her: “Leanne it’ll just be his word against yours. You’ll never make it stick. You’re just gonna have to learn to live with this. Put a chain on your door. I’m sorry, but you won’t win.” That was that, the man raped her and walked away, still a pillar of the community. And there was Leanne; all alone and now she was pregnant again.

One of the questions that Social Services asked her every month was whether she was pregnant, so after being raped and missing her period she told the lady that interviewed her that she was expecting and also told her about what had happened. “Well Leanne, it is too bad what happened to you, but you’re just not going to be able to keep that baby. Now that abortion is finally legal, we have a solution to your problem. You can’t take care of the two that you have, so you are just going to have to have an abortion”. Leanne said that she didn’t want an abortion and she was told that if she didn’t get an abortion she wouldn’t get her monthly check from the state. “But why do I have to have an abortion?” “Because if you don’t the state is going to determine that you are unfit to be a mother and will take your other two boys away from you. Now don’t you worry about this. It will all be paid by Social Services, even your travel”.

Leanne felt completely helpless, trapped like a little mouse in a mousetrap. The lady from Social Services became more insistent. While Leanne was sitting there terrified of losing her children, the lady from Social Services made an appointment at a clinic an hour away in Marquette for Leanne to get an exam prior to her abortion. “You are going to do this Leanne and it is all for the better. You can’t raise another child.” Leanne went home defeated and waited to go get her exam the next day.

Leanne had no idea that the lady from Social Services didn’t have any authority to do or say the things that she was doing. Leanne knew another single mother, also separated from an abusive drunk, who had just been forced to have an abortion because she was taking State aid and according to Social Services she already had too many children. But it never occurred to either Leanne or her friend to doubt whether Social Services really had the authority to force them to kill their unborn babies. Leanne had lived all of her life, like most Americans, with respect for any official of the government. Like most Americans she just did what she was told.

She went home and told a couple of friends. She cried and suffered and finally convinced herself that the State knew what they were doing and that her pregnancy wasn’t really a baby yet, that it was just some tissue that would be discarded, that the Catholic decree against abortion was old fashioned and that she would be forgiven anyway if she confessed her sin. She woke up numb in the morning.

The drive to Marquette, watching the white fields and leafless woodlots slide by, felt distant as though it was happening to someone else. Nothing seemed to matter. Upon arriving in Marquette she was admitted into the clinic and the doctor came in and examined her. He said that her pregnancy was about four weeks along, which coincided with the night that Leanne was raped. The doctor said that everything looked good and he explained that the procedure would be done by vacuum aspiration. He explained that the tiny fetus would be sucked out painlessly and she would be on her feet and back home. He stressed that this was not a baby, just a little mass of tissue. She shouldn’t feel any guilt at all.

But, he said, there were no facilities for the procedure in the UP as yet; she would have to drive down into Lower Michigan to Grand Rapids. Could she do it the next day? Yes, Leanne nodded, let’s get it over with.

Going to Grand Rapids involved an eight hour drive around the north shore of Lake Michigan and then south about two hundred miles. It would have been a lot closer to drive down to Green Bay, but that was Wisconsin, and the State of Michigan was going to pay the bill. Since Social Services was going to pay for the gas, a friend agreed to drive her the next day. She went back to her apartment to spend another horrible night waiting, but by now she felt resigned to her fate. She felt as though she were in a fog and watching uninterested what she herself did.

The next morning long before dawn, Leanne dropped off her boys at the house of another friend. She got in her friend Billy’s car for the long drive. She says that she doesn’t remember anything from the long trip, not even going over the Mackinac Bridge. Some time in the afternoon Billy parked across the street from the abortion clinic. Leanne says that she remembers walking across the street and a little way up the block to where a gate gave entrance to the abortion clinic, hiding back behind a fence of tall steel bars. There was a small group of protestors dressed in white near the fence, but away from the gate. Before she entered, two of them, a man and a woman approached her and asked if they could pray for her. She was so numb that without even thinking about it she nodded and they took her hands and said a short prayer.

This was early February in Michigan. It was not terribly overcast, but the day was cold, freezing cold. Leanne says that when she opened the door to the abortion clinic instead of feeling the blast of warmth that one expects when entering a building in winter, she suddenly felt a deadly chill. She says that she still remembers the shock of that cold that entered deep into her body upon entering the building. As she walked into the clinic her numbness began to recede. It was as though she were slowly waking from a dream. She began to see clearly again.

The waiting room was large with four or five sofas upon which waited a number of women and two young teenagers that were there with their mothers. There was only one man in the waiting room; he was accompanying a young woman. There was a very heavy air to the room. No one looked up. No one spoke. Each was an island floating in her own misery.

Leanne made her way to the reception window and gave her name to the nurse. She was told that they had been waiting for her; please take a seat. The heavy, cold feeling deepened and Leanne’s numbness began to change to fear and revulsion.

The nurse called and Leanne got up and followed her down a long hall with four recovery rooms on the right, in each of which she a saw dour-faced woman in a hospital gown. None looked up.

After the fourth recovery room the hall turned left and Leanne brushed up against a laundry cart. A towel fell off the mound of linens in the cart and opened as it hit the floor. It was saturated with blood and held a couple of masses of coagulation or tissue. Leanne stopped dead and could not lift her eyes from that towel.

“It hit me at that moment. I saw clearly that here was death. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t, I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t have it in me to turn around and walk out of there. So I closed my eyes and prayed to God and asked that He send a miracle to stop this because I couldn’t.”

The nurse led Leanne into the abortion room in which there were a couple of machines and a gynecologist’s table. Now she felt revulsion and panic but she still could not muster the will to walk out. She prayed in her mind’s voice. “Dear God, this is wrong Lord. Forgive me for coming here Lord, but end this Lord. Please end this now.” The nurse had her take off her clothes and put on a gown and Leanne kept praying, praying for a miracle. She was told to lie down on her back on the table and a doctor and two more nurses came in wearing gowns and caps and surgical masks. Leanne remembers thinking “Is that for sanitary reasons or because they don’t want to be seen?” Her mind had cleared, but she still couldn’t sit up and stop the process, so she prayed.

The doctor began by taking the chart that Leanne had brought from her exam the day before in Marquette. He set the chart across her stomach and read it and then kneeled down and examined her. Within a moment he stood up rapidly and spoke with anger. “What the hell is this? This woman has an enlarged uterus already. She is at least eight weeks along, probably more. Dammit.” He looked at a calendar. “The way her uterus is enlarged I’d say that this baby is due around the end of August. Who is this idiot in Marquette anyway? Damn!” He pulled off his gloves made a note on the chart and told the first nurse to get Leanne dressed and take her to the psychiatrist to plan the next step. The doctor and the two masked nurses stomped out.

A tremendous weight evaporated from Leanne and she felt the warm caress of the Holy Spirit. She felt that she would float up off the table. The colors and sounds were crisp and clear. “Thank You Lord, Thank You Lord, Thank You Lord, Thank You Lord,” All she wanted to do was to get out of the horrible abattoir, but the nurse waited for her to dress and told her that she had to see the psychiatrist. She followed the nurse but inside she thought, I don’t care if I lose all the money from the State, I don’t care if I have to work three jobs Lord, I am not going to kill my baby”. The hand of God was upon her and her fear disappeared like the frost when the morning sun hits it directly.

And praying great thanks in her mind she was led into a small office with a desk and couch. She sat in a chair in front of the desk. She sat straight up and looked at this doctor right in the eyes. “Well Leanne, apparently you were wrong about the date that you became pregnant.”

She answered directly, not with sarcasm but completely without fear. “I’m so sorry, but I’m not wrong, as you can see from the chart that I brought from Marquette. Also, I am not going to forget he date when I was raped.”

“Hmmm, well, be that as it may, we are going to have to schedule you for a saline solution abortion, because you are too far along for the suction evacuation. Now listen, you have to follow through, because otherwise you will lose custody of your children” Leanne said nothing but held the psychiatrist’s eyes, so she continued. “We are not equipped for this procedure as yet so you will be sent to New York State.”

“And what is this saline abortion please?” Asked Leanne.

“Well, when the uterus is enlarged the suction method cannot be used, so we inject saline solution into the fetus and then induce labor.” Leanne just looked at her, feeling stronger, feeling more resolve with each moment. The psychiatrist seemed intimidated by Leanne’s gaze and continued. “The baby will have died with the saline solution and will be stillborn. You will recover quickly and go home.”

“I was told that abortion doesn’t kill a baby, that it is just tissue, that it isn’t human and now you are talking about labor and dead babies. I am going now.” Leanne stood up and so did the psychiatrist.

“Leanne if you don’t go through with this you will lose your two children”

“No, I won’t” Leanne opened the door walked out of the abortion clinic a completely different woman than when she had walked in. The afternoon sun shone and the patches of snow sparkled, the wind caressed her face. She walked out of the gate and the two protestors who had prayed with her asked if she was OK.

“I didn’t do it. I still have my baby”

One shouted to the other protestors a ways down the sidewalk, “Hey! She didn’t do it! God be praised!” They all shouted and smiled and hugged each other.

Leanne walked to Billy’s car. “Thank you Lord, Thank you Lord, Thank you Lord, Thank you Lord,” She saw Billy and he came over to her with an inquisitive look on his big face.

“That was pretty quick Leanne”

“They didn’t do it Billy!” He grabbed her in his big doofus arms and spun her around the parking lot. Haleluyah.

The ride back was long but beautiful and Leanne made a promise to her Creator. “I will not abort this baby Lord. I will work all day every day because when I asked for a miracle, you gave me a miracle”

When she got to her friend’s house to pick up her kids she found a group of eight or ten there who whooped and shouted and jumped around when they heard the news They all hugged Leanne and she found out that they had been there all day praying for her and her baby.

A week later she went back to Social Services and abortion was never mentioned again.

Leanne’s third son, who was saved from abortion by Divine intervention, was born on October 11th 1973 and is now a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy. He won the Bronze Star for saving other sailors’ lives in Iraq. He is happily married and has two beautiful teenage girls..

Question authority, live as virtuously as you can and have faith in God.

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