How Pro-Life Work Breathes New Life Into Retirement

I’m an ordinary grandma with lots of gray hair, but I’ve saved lives — and one life stands out in particular

A pro-life activist prays the Rosary on Feb. 3 in Bogota, Colombia.
A pro-life activist prays the Rosary on Feb. 3 in Bogota, Colombia. (photo: Guillermo Legaria Schweizer / Getty Images)

It was a humid summer day in Philadelphia. My prayer partner and I were praying the Rosary in front of the busiest Planned Parenthood in the city. Seven women hurried into the clinic within the first two hours. None of them made eye contact with me. The few people who interacted with us offered insults, even though we were mostly just praying silently. We held out “blessing bags” full of candy and information about free pregnancy services, but hardly anyone took them. More women streamed into the clinic. This is feeling futile, I thought. But still, I kept praying.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee …”

Suddenly a handsome couple approached us. The man slowed down, but the woman rushed inside the clinic.

“We’re not married,” he said sadly, his hands raised in a gesture of defeat. “Her mind is made up …”

I asked him his name and if I could pray with him. Jonathan* looked relieved as I took his hands. When we were finished I spoke to him as if he were my own son: “Go tell her you’ll help her raise your child! You can do this! You have the power to save your baby!”

Looking encouraged, Jonathan walked into the clinic quickly.

Now, I know what you’re thinking — that I’m extra brave or fervent or someone who goes to church a whole lot more than you. But that’s not the case at all. I’m an ordinary grandma with lots of gray hair. My past decade has been spent enjoying my husband of 49 years, our 6 kids and 16 grandkids. I’ve also pitched in with our family business, weathered a few health scares and had the pleasure of raising a grandson more like a son, when my daughter wasn’t able.

Oddly, about five years ago I found myself with something shocking on my hands — a little “me time.” It was amazing! I didn’t know what to do with myself! So I dusted off my old tennis racket and dove head-first into the sport I loved as a teenager. I even wound up captaining a team at our local club. I was having a blast, regardless of the fact that most of my new friends towed a very different political line. During breaks on the court, I avoided subjects that divided us such as abortion, steering toward common ground topics like grandkids — and of course, tennis.

While I adore my new friends, one day a woman on my team showed up wearing a Planned Parenthood escort tee-shirt. Every single other player on the court patted her on the back, offering encouragement and support for her role in “helping women.” I’ve never felt so all alone. In a whisper, I voiced my pro-life position, but I was drowned out by accusations of being "brainwashed” and “hyper-religious.”

“I was pro-life before I became a Christian,” I defended myself quietly, “My convictions are biological — abortion stops a beating heart.”

I left the tennis club that day and cried the whole way home. It hit me that while I’ve always voted pro-life, I had never yet taken my convictions public — the way the woman on my team had, only with a very different stance. So I sat down at the computer that night and googled: “Pro-Life Philadelphia.” I landed on 40 Days for Life. I read about what they are doing and was blown away. When I reached out to call them, I felt like someone else was dialing the phone — This isn’t me, I thought, I’m too ordinary to do this kind of thing …

That was three years ago, and since then I’ve prayed in front of abortion clinics countless times and taken part in several pro-life marches. 40 Days for Life made it simple, guiding me each step of the way. I’ve also made so many amazing new friends who share my faith. Just about every day, I shake my head — I can’t believe I get to be a part of this awesome movement! Did you know that when one person prays in front of an abortion clinic, there are 75% fewer abortions performed at the site that day? [A statistic provided by Planned Parenthood]. By God’s grace, I’ve been that one person praying. I’m a retired, gray-haired grandma, but I’ve saved lives! One life stands out in particular:

“She changed her mind!” Jonathan* called to me as he left Planned Parenthood with his girlfriend Regina* that humid morning. The expectant mom smiled shyly. Jonathan’s arm was wrapped protectively around her shoulders.

I learned a few months later that Jonathan and Regina had a beautiful baby boy. My prayer partner showed me the baby's photo the last time we prayed in front of that same clinic. The boy has dimples just like his daddy. That photo was just the encouragement I needed at that moment — as woman after woman shuffled into the clinic — to keep praying.

*Names changed for privacy.