VENTURA, Calif. — A committed group of pro-life Thomas Aquinas College students know prayer was responsible for the recent closing of an abortion business. What they didn't anticipate was some assistance from above.
The business closed Nov. 6, exactly six years after the tragic death of the group's founder, 19-year-old Angela Baird. The students think it's only appropriate considering Baird offered her last sufferings for the victims of abortion.
Family Planning Associates closed its Ventura office, referring clients to its business in Mission Hills. Founded in 1969 by Dr. Edward Allred and Dr. Kenneth Wright, Family Planning Associates is California's largest abortion business with 18 sites across the state.
The abortion business was one of several that came under scrutiny last year by the Denton, Texas-based Life Dynamics Inc. for its willingness to ignore state laws in covering up illegal sexual activity between adult males and underage girls.
According to Baird's mother, Peggy, Angela began pro-life sidewalk counseling work on her own initiative in the ninth grade.
“The life issues were something we had discussed as a family,” Peggy Baird said, “and Angela had that interest. She kept pushing, as 14-year-olds will.”
Angela marched in rallies in Spokane, Wash., and eventually went through training to be a sidewalk counselor. She often did sidewalk counseling at Planned Parenthood.
“Later in high school she attempted to get friends to go with her,” her mother said. “She was disappointed that people wouldn't go down with her. She was also disappointed that there wasn't a group at Thomas Aquinas College.”
Just months before her death, Angela organized a small group of Thomas Aquinas College students to pray in front of Family Planning Associates’ Ventura office every Thursday, a day abortions were performed.
On the afternoon of Baird's death, nearly 100 students gathered to pray 15 decades of the rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy in front of the abortion business.
A sophomore from Spokane, Baird died after a hiking accident. She was with a group of seven other students on a hiking trail in Los Padres National Forest, located behind the campus, when she lost her footing on an overhang and fell 60 feet onto the rocks below.
Jon Daly, then a junior, quickly went to aid her. He placed a rosary in her hand and prayed with her until the paramedics arrived three hours later.
“I asked her what she wanted to pray for,” Daly said. “The first thing she said was to pray for aborted babies, then she said to pray for her dad and to her guardian angel.”
In a letter to Baird's parents, Daly wrote, “I will never forget that reply; her love for the unborn and the aborted is one of the most beautiful things about Angela's life.”
Mike Martin, a 21-year-old junior from Seattle, has been involved with the college's pro-life prayer group since the second semester of his freshman year.
“I've always been pro-life … but I think it's really good to perform some action, to put what you believe and have learned into action,” Martin said. “I know it's good for my soul.”
Approximately 10 students from campus went to the abortion business every Thursday and Friday to pray.
“We usually say a rosary on the way there, two rosaries at the site and the Divine Mercy chaplet and a rosary on the way back to campus,” explained Martin, who often brings the prayer sheet. “We would also say a prayer for the canonization of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, for former college chaplain Father Thomas McGovern and for Angela Baird.”
Meghan Patterson, a 19-year-old freshman from Temecula, Calif., was the first to learn the abortion business was closing. Students had noticed a decrease in the site's traffic and wondered if the schedule for abortions had changed again.
Patterson, who was new to the prayer group that day, inquired inside. She learned the business was closing and that day was the last day for follow-up visits.
“When I went outside to tell the others,” Patterson said, “someone remembered it was the day Angela had died. When she said this, we all choked up and realized it was like a miracle.”
The presence of the pro-life club was one of the aspects that attracted Bridget McBryan, a sophomore from Philadelphia, to the campus. After a year at Mount St. Mary's in Maryland followed by a year volunteering with the Pennsylvania pro-life group Generation Life, McBryan transferred to Thomas Aquinas.
That night McBryan made an announcement to the other students gathered in the cafeteria during dinner.
“Most of the student body has a good idea of who Angela was,” McBryan said. “I told the other students that it was the anniversary of her death and told them that the abortion clinic had closed.”
Martin said the coincidence didn't sink in until later.
“It's amazing that the closing coincided with the anniversary of her death,” he said. “It shows her intercession and shows that she is still involved in heaven praying for the unborn.”
Angela's parents learned of the abortion business’ closing from their son Joe the day after it closed. Both said the news has helped them in their loss.
“I'm glad that it's closed and that it happened in that way,” said Mike Baird, Angela's father, who does survival training for the Air Force and U.S. Customs. “It keeps it [her death] from being as difficult as it is.”
“The date was not a coincidence. It's a powerful reminder that God does answer our prayers,” Peggy Baird said. “It's easy for those in the pro-life movement to get discouraged. None of us knows the effect we will have. This is a visible and powerful reminder … that God really is active here.”
“Students faithfully passed down this ministry to the unborn — and the story of the young woman who started it — from year to year,” said Norbertine Father Michael Perea, the college chaplain. “To see this kind of faith in our students is a real inspiration for all of us.”
The week after the business closed, the students returned to the Family Planning Associates business to pray in thanksgiving. While there, they saw the business moving out.
The business’ closing and the power of prayer has served to encourage the students to continue praying and asking for Baird's intercession.
“A victory like that definitely encourages me to know that our prayers are working,” McBryan said.
With the Ventura office closed, the students have turned their attention to another nearby abortion business. The students hope they might have similar success at the Ventura-based Planned Parenthood.
But, Martin said, “It might take a few years.”
Tim Drake writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota.