The Clinic

foot-1357881__480Please don’t abort your baby; I’ll adopt your child…  REALLY? As I talked to these young women facing so much turmoil with their choice to abort their baby, I would often repeat the line that I had heard so many other pro-lifers say. On this particular day, as I stood outside the doors of the abortion clinic, those words hit me and I thought, Wow, would I really adopt her child? That is quite a commitment.

That’s how the journey, for me, into the world of adoption began.

I was raised in Central Wisconsin, the seventh of eight children in a hard-working farm family. We were not given to sophisticated speech; as a matter-of-fact, my vocabulary was quite plain until I met and married my husband, Dale. My family actually practiced a simple biblical principle, even though at the time we could not have quoted the verse. Jesus said, Let your yes, be yes and your no, no (Mt. 5:37). It simply means that if you say something, then mean it; do it or don’t say it. Growing up, it really bothered me if people would say things they were going to do and then never do it. I prided myself on being a woman of her word. Well, as I found out, pride can get you into trouble.

Standing there that day on the sidewalk outside the downtown Milwaukee abortion clinic I began thinking about what I had just said to this young woman being so rapidly escorted into the clinic. The nice sounding name for this particular abortion clinic was, “Women’s Health Center,” even though the baby’s health was in grave danger in this Center. The reality was each mother’s soul would be forever marked by the decision to destroy the life God had placed in her womb (Psalm 139:13-16[1]), and the child that God created would never fulfill the destiny He intended for him or her.

As a young person in high school my first encounter with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision came through my friend at school. She never told me directly, but through another friend, I person-409127_1280.jpgfound out that she had an abortion. I didn’t know much about prenatal development, or abortion for that matter, but I sensed a dark foreboding when this informant told me. I felt sad for my friend. At that time I knew the church my family attended would have taken a strong stance against abortion and, therefore, I would have known it to be a major sin and very wrong. Because our family was devoted in our faith, I supposed this was the reason my friend never told me about it.

Now, here I stood some 17 years later, well informed about abortion and so convinced of the destruction upon the soul that I was willing to intervene and speak to the women headed for the clinic doors. I know that many women suffer the after-effects from abortion and walk through life with self contempt for having chosen this “medical option” to solve their immediate problem. The sad reality is that the medical establishment isn’t able to truly minister to the soul; only God can do that. And He is looking for Christians to extend His love and forgiveness to those needing it. This was my goal as a sidewalk counselor. The problem was, by the time they were on the sidewalk, with green-vested escorts around them, little could be said to stop the rapid push toward the clinic door.

Battle lines

The summer of 1992 in Milwaukee was a major Pro-Life summer. Being the largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee had eight abortion clinics in operation. That summer, with the help of the local Christian Radio & TV station, a group called Missionaries to the Preborn became well known in our county. Organized in 1990, they were committed to abolishing abortion. The mission was launched with such enthusiasm and zeal and it brought a broadly based coalition of people from various churches and diverse individuals to the cause. While motives in the hearts of people in any movement vary, for the most part, the focused goal and mission was to protect the lives of pre-born children in their mother’s womb; and to share viable options with the women involved. Like any new movement, with the variety of people involved, it became at times a mish-mash of experience, theology, and practice that at times clashed on the front lines. How to carry out this daunting task with unity was a constant struggle in the midst of our single objective and purpose to rescue of pre-born infants from death, and minister to their mother’s needs spiritually and physically. This needed to be a movement of God’s love expressed — yet misunderstanding and fear manifested itself in our actions at times. Gaining the mind of Christ (II Tim. 4:5) was a daily challenge in the midst of the brutal reality of abortion.

Many would liken our battle to that of Dr. Martin Luther King’s in the arena of civil rights; working toward liberty for all regardless of skin color.  He faced many challenges trying to convey God’s way of non-resistance in a world of violence and prejudice, often by civil authorities. So, like Dr. King, we too had to teach what Christ taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount; to love our enemies. This theology when put into practice proved to be a wonderful testimony of God’s grace, but it was not easily understood or played out in this raw and ugly environment. Emotions flared and it was difficult to portray righteous anger and loving grace in the many heated battles on these front lines.

It took months, even years, for this group to coalesce into an effective “ministry” out on the streets. Through it all, God taught us many lessons and after a few years a synergy developed that made for effective ministry. Our goal to minister was realized for the babies who were saved from death, the women who were in need of immediate help, ongoing assistance and later soul-healing after abortion. It was rewarding to hear the stories from the Mom’s who gave birth and the adoptive parents who were thankful to welcome these babies into their homes. In the end, six planned-parenthood-storefroof the eight clinics closed. Focusing on the remaining clinics became a more manageable task, allowing for more focused ministry to those in need. And some Moms found the blessing of becoming a part of a larger family, God’s Family, through coming to know Jesus in a personal way.

Planned Parenthood vs. Pro-Lifers

We came to meet many wonderful people through this difficult battle for life.  At the height of this localized war, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, along with the two other remaining clinics, filed a federal lawsuit naming 51 people as conspirators/defendants in the complaint. Some involved were people who had an effective ministry speaking to women; they faithfully stood on the sidewalks through very extreme weather conditions to offer their assistance. Some were preachers who would preach as people passed on the way to the clinic doors. The group of pastors was called, “ Pastor’s Emergency League” (PEL), following the name, example and efforts of German pastor, Dietrich Bonheoffer, who spoke out against the atrocities of the Nazi’s during World War II. Our friend, David Liebherr, founder of the Milwaukee area PEL and my husband were part of this group.  So when the lawsuit was filed, their names were included as defendants. Through this legal action we became acquainted with Attorney Patti Lyman and her associates.

The lawsuit allowed PEL to put on paper and verbalize what their mission actually was. At the time, the lawsuit seemed threatening, but it turned out to be beneficial in that it helped to clarify and establish the mission and purpose for our actions. With God nothing is wasted; as Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”, we saw that happen.

Patti Lyman, and her husband Frank, became good friends to us. With the many proceedings involving this lawsuit, Patti often needed to travel from their home in Fairfax, VA to Milwaukee to handle legal matters for Dale and David and others. Dave and his wife, Karla, had eight children at this time, and the Lymans loved being a part of their family. Like Dale and me, they were unable to conceive children and while they did not pursue adoption as we did, they have been “parents” to many along the way. Patti has long been a defender of legal rights for those without a voice. In the end, the clinics lost their lawsuit and we gained legal standing with guidelines for being on the public sidewalks. Additionally, the proceedings provided a good avenue for the voice of the unborn to be heard.

Other Front Lines

During this time period Dale and I also became involved in attempting to deal with an adult porn outlet that had suddenly cropped up in a residential area near our home.  It seemed we were always engaged in some type of battle… they seemed to be everywhere! Because of this, we were also involved with public media outlets and especially the aforementioned Christian Radio station, WVCY in Milwaukee. This station was very active in informing the public, especially the Christian base of listeners about what was happening locally and nationally concerning moral issues in our country.

The mid-nineties were a busy time for us. We were attempting to be a part of healing and hope in three areas of need. First, was our involvement in the prolife movement, second, we pioneered a new church in our suburb of West Allis and third, we were engaged in a battle against a porn store that had opened in a residential area of our community. Back then, even though pornography was available on the internet, the average person did not access porn on-line as is common now. This particular store not only sold “adult” material, but they also installed private viewing booths allowing patrons to view the videos while masturbating. This became a public health issue that we used to attempt to close the store down. With all of this on our plate, the adoption focus took a back seat for some months.

baby-718146__480Then in October of 1997, my friend at the radio station, who was an advocate for adoption, mentioned to me twin girls with special needs that needed adopting. I had told her that if I am going to become a stay-at-home Mom, I would prefer to adopt several children at once. This prompted Dale and me to seriously consider beginning the adoption process — and we did. As it turned out the twin girls were adopted by another family, but the circumstances were used by God to get our paperwork going to begin our adoption process.

Continue to next Chapter Domestic vs. International

[1] For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.