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Four decades of legalized abortion have not snuffed out the American conscience

Thinking it Through

W hen a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices decided against natural justice, the Constitution and science that aborting unborn children was a heretofore unacknowledged right, it hit Americans like a tsunami. The majority opinion was even written and supported by Republican members of the Court, effectively neutralizing it as a partisan issue. Nevertheless, opposition to it has grown over the last 41 years and it is more precarious than ever.

It has been said that “all politics is local.” In the case of abortion, while opposition to it has had few successes nationally, a multitude of local efforts have helped turn the tide.
Pro-life organizations have helped to place Congressional bans on federal funding of abortions in the 1970s and more recently bans on “partial birth” abortions and protections for babies who survive abortions, efforts have been going on all the while to reach out to young women to offer them alternatives to abortion. These are the work of the crisis pregnancy centers.

Barstow’s crisis pregnancy center first began functioning a quarter of a century ago when Molly Ulm, her husband, the Rev. Vaughn Ulm, my late wife Patricia, the late Stephanie Curran and others in this area responded to the need. The organization marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade last Saturday evening at the Knights of Columbus Hall, featuring the testimony of three persons who experienced abortion and subsequently turned their lives around.

Gwen Patrick, herself the wife of a pastor, told the dramatic story of her long but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bury her youthful past. As a high school girl, she was “sexually active” with her boyfriend. Both were serious students and she even held the title of Miss Watts. When she gave her young man the frightful news that she was pregnant, he shocked her when he said that he was not prepared to marry her and urged her to get an abortion.

That was not her preference, but she decided to “get her revenge” by aborting the child.
She thought no more about it for more than 20 years, by then married with children of her own and leading a middle-class life. But an article she read about a baby that had been aborted and given a name by its mother hit her with incredible force. Suddenly, she was on the floor of her home in the fetal position, unable to speak and writhing in pain. The full meaning of aborting her child had come home to her.

Her husband, Charles, had no idea what drove his wife to this extremity, but when she was able to speak she told him and, true to his calling, he forgave her. She subsequently devoted herself to helping as many young women as she could who faced the dilemma that she had so many years ago. The two now help at-risk teens in Newberry Springs with the Sunago Christian Fellowship.

Amanda Valenzuela, a young mother, in her brief remarks, reported that she not only had a crisis pregnancy but was, with her boyfriend, battling drug addiction. Amanda already had her daughter when she came to the Center and completed most of the classes before she became a volunteer. She and her daughter’s father have both attended many classes and he volunteers occasionally to help with yard work.

Finally, a young man, Ben Shaw, told us of how, when his pregnant girlfriend would not sign up for the pregnancy classes the Barstow center offered, he took them himself! All told, he took nearly 200 hours of classes on this and other topics, such as child-raising, budget management and other life skills.

Ben is a Client who continues to come in for classes and support. Since receiving his high school diploma through completing adult education classes, he hopes to join the military. His first and foremost goal is to be a “real” father to his children, and not repeat his own experiences.

Besides the powerful moral support the Barstow Center and all such centers provide is its material support. Countering the sinister argument that children should not be allowed to live if their parents lack adequate means of support, the Center also provides clothing and equipment for the newborns.

In the best American tradition, and true to their faith, volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers have succeeded in preventing countless abortions and reshaping public opinion, a majority of which now opposes forced abortion on demand. Thank God.

Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of "Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at

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