Around 1978 I was a militant pro-lifer for about three weeks. Then I decided I would rather sleep in on Saturday mornings.
In the '80s (better rested) a few of us piled into a car for a "Rescue" at an abortion clinic, which is where I first heard of Patrick Stanton, and his arrest for same. In the '90s, spotting a notice in the church bulletin that it was "Sanctity of Life Sunday," I went out for the prayer walk in front of Abington Hospital for two consecutive months. Pat Stanton was there, handing out signs with pictures of little feet and such. He didn't make small talk. Middle-aged women in passing cars performed rude hand gestures, and I checked out of the movement again.
In the fall of 2009, my neighbor organized a pro-Obama healthcare rally at Keswick Village, and it being a mere 10-minute walk from my house, I went to see. There was Pat Stanton with his signs, spoiling their love fest, the Channel 6 news van avoiding him.
I go for years without thinking about Pat Stanton and his pickets. But it's January now, when every evangelical is a pro-lifer, and my thoughts turn again to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Telltale Heart" and Roe v. Wade.
Never was there a more carefully calculated murder, nor more methodical disposal of the body: a thing of beauty. Is there a marvel of jurisprudence to rival Roe v. Wade? A more elegant legerdemain than the location of a right to kill in the right of privacy in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment? And it succeeded! The hateful pro-lifers were dead! Finally, dead as a doornail. Supreme Court fiat, what can be more dead?
He shrieked once-only once. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more. If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. . . .
The rest of the story is well-known. Things are not always as safely dead as one thinks or hopes. There is an aroma. Life has a way of rattling under the floorboards and making you break out into a cold sweat. John the Baptist crashes Herod's birthday party, asking the king where he got that new wife. Haman's accolades give him no pleasure as long as Mordecai lives to thrust the truth in his face. Justice Harry Blackmun did not calculate the Patrick Stantons of the world.
I phoned the Stantons in hopes of more than a sighting of the Roe spoilers. I learned that almost three decades ago Wendy came home from a church meeting saying that a woman from "Birthright" told them of a pregnant college girl who needed lodging. She knew what her husband (being the oldest of 12) would say. It was the first of many young women. I asked Wendy for a number, but she couldn't tell me off the top of her head. Finally, they opened "Our Lady's House" in Glenside, Pa.
"Helpers of God's Precious Infants" rose from the ashes of the Rescue movement. Every Saturday morning a prayerful presence rotates among the three main abortion mills of the city: "Once in a while we get a save," says Wendy. "They don't really want to go there. Sometimes it's the mother taking them there. Or the boyfriend. They have tears in their eyes. We don't yell at them. We say we want to help them."
The day I phoned the Stantons happened to be Dec. 28, "Holy Innocents Day," as Pat informed me. "They figure it was 28 babies slaughtered in Bethlehem," he said. "That's the typical number killed every Saturday in the Women's Medical Center on 8th and Arch in Philadelphia."
A pro-baby wave | Optimistic signs point to a changing abortion debate | Marvin Olasky
Learning to wait | Denied federal funds, abstinence educators plan next moves | William McCleery
'Look after orphans' | Twenty ways to become an adoption-friendly church | Paul Golden
Chemical reaction | The drug RU486 gives women the option of abortion in privacy | Alisa Harris
Eyewitnesses | Ultrasound technology is one reason more Americans are becoming pro-life | Alisa Harris
Finding searchers | Pregnancy centers buy Google real estate to reach abortion-minded women | Emily Belz
Higher learning? | Catholic colleges have become training ground for pro-abortion politicians | Anne Hendershott
Life changes | Anti-CPC forces alter their tactics and auditors eye Planned Parenthood | Alisa Harris
Called to a cause | The pro-life movement won over Marjorie Dannenfelser, and now she's working to help it win over Congress | Marvin Olasky
'It all clicked together' | How one Christian volunteer found herself in the right place at the right time at a crisis pregnancy center in Texas | Susan Olasky