As the cars and Tarc buses rushed passed us on Market Street, Ed Harpring’s voice could be heard praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with mw, my principal and forty seniors from Holy Cross. We were standing in front of the abortion clinic downtown listening to Mr. Harpring, with the prolife ministry of the Archdiocese of Louisville, inform us of the 3,500 abortions that are performed at this clinic each year in Louisville, KY. He told us that 20 mothers changed their minds during the prayerful 40 Days for Life campaign and how prayer is the most powerful tool at our disposal. Our students huddled together and recited, “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” It was a very powerful experience.
We boarded the yellow school bus which normally takes children and teens alike to fieldtrips to theaters, libraries, and other institutions of knowledge. We went to Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center on West Oak Street. Ellen Wickman, the director of the nonprofit organization, waited at the door and guided all forty-two of us into the beautiful center. We listened as she told us of the stories of teens who just needed guidance and pregnancy tests, and feared telling their parents of their unplanned pregnancies. We watched an educational video of the choices these pregnant women have to make and the realities of abortion, parenting, or adoption. Some of our students were moved to tears when they learned of the procedures of surgical abortions. We left armed with knowledge of an organization filled with people who sincerely want to help the women make an informed decision instead of a decision out of fear or coercion.
With heavy hearts we again boarded the school bus, this time bound for St. Anthony’s gym, a place used by Catholic Charities for many great resources for our local refugees. Melanie Bishop reserved the gym for our students so that she could teach us about the option of adoption. Melanie represents A Caring Connection Kentucky Catholic Charities Adoption. She divided our students into groups with several written scenarios of women who had unplanned pregnancies, some of whom were married with children and financially unstable, others had no spouse and no family, still others had families that were financially stable and were supportive. In each scenario the students were asked to discuss what options the mom had in the situation. Many of our students chose either adoption or raising the baby. When we gathered back together we learned that each scenario was in fact a reality that had occurred. Melanie explained that only 1% of unplanned pregnancies result in adoption. She explained that adoption is born out of loss, loss of fertility for the adoptive parents, and loss of the baby for the birth mom. However, the child has everything to gain. The number one reason that a birth mom gives up her child is not because of financial issues, or lack of family support; it is because that woman wants what is best for her child. Melanie said it is the most selfless choice ever made, to allow your child to be raised by other parents so that he/she can have a better life. It was shocking to hear that the majority of those giving children up for adoption are college-age women and only a few in the past 7 years have been high-school-age teens. She said the women range from ages 19-42, many single moms who are struggling to take care of the needs of her other children give up their babies for a better life.
In a bit of shock we traveled to another side of town down by the River Road on Riedling Road to Life House Maternity Home to meet Joan Smith and Shannon Zimmerman in what looked like a lovely home from the road. The interior is beautifully decorated with warm colors and peaceful art. It feels like a home, and it is, for up to 12 pregnant women and 12 women who have had their children and are trying to rehabilitate their lives and lead a good life as a family. Joan Smith, a former labor and delivery nurse, and the founder of Life House, gave our students a history lesson about Maternity Homes here in Louisville, KY. She said that prior to 1973 there were four maternity homes in Louisville. An unwed woman would live at the somewhat sterile home and give birth to the baby; the adoptive parents would pay for the medical expenses and pay the maternity home a fee, then they would take their new child home and the unwed mom would be on her way. It was a profitable business.
In 1973 all of that changed with the legalization of abortion; all four of those maternity homes shut their doors and went out of business. Joan, a strong Catholic woman, felt called by God to start a nonprofit maternity home. She had a vision to help these women with unplanned pregnancies to reform their lives, to bring them to Christ, help them have their babies while still in school or in some type of job training, and then to aid them in learning how to be a responsible mom who could care for their children and live in the real world. With God’s help she made this vision into a reality. One in forty women enter the program, Life House opened its doors in 2008. 56 babies have been born there and 6 have been adopted. The woman can stay up to 4 years if she follows the program. It is not a homeless shelter for pregnant women but a place to go if the woman wants to change her life for her child and to have a good healthy future.
By the time we climbed the steps of the yellow school bus for the last time our minds were overloaded, our hearts were aching, and our spirits were filled with hope for life. Our students said they learned so much and are very happy that they now have these resources in case one of their friends ever encounters this decision. It was a heavy day of information and experiences they will not soon forget. It is safe and easy to teach our students from a textbook in the classroom, but if there is no emotional connection to the material it is usually lost in days, sometimes minutes. When one walks in the path of another to the door of the abortion clinic, but instead prays, passes the room with the ultrasound machine that reveals a beating heart, explores what they believe to be stories, but were truly the saddest reality of giving up a child so they would have a better life, or climbed the stairs into the apartments of the women who are trying to learn how to give their children a good upbringing, those moments penetrate one’s heart, soul, and mind, hopefully never to be forgotten.
That is my prayer for my students: that they learn from this experience and if put in the situation they will be armed with knowledge, have stood in the places that can help, have talked to the voices on the other end of the hotline, and knows that there is help and a reason to choose life in a desperate time of need.
Copyright 2015 Lori Hadorn-Disselkamp
About the Author
Lori Hadorn-Disselkamp - mom of 4 teens/wife for 20+ years. Lori has been writing at her own website Faith Filled Mom. She writes about the journey of faith we live daily and the ability to recognize God. She is a retreat director at Sacred Heart Academy HS. She just earned her MA in Pastoral Ministry as well as a certification in spiritual direction.