Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Saving Grace

by AMANDA MUELLER

Pulling up to the home of Gail and Robert Anderson, a large statute of the Virgin Mary sits in the yard welcoming guests into the home, while protecting the family that lives there. Next to the statute of Mary, inside of labyrinth of daisies, daffodils, tulips and roses is a stone engraved with the word grace. For the Anderson’s grace is not just a word or a concept taught through their strong Catholic faith, but the name of the daughter their hopes and dreams hung onto. It is the name of the daughter they said goodbye to in the Kansas office of a man named Dr. George Tiller.

Both coming from large families with faith deeply-rooted in the Catholic church, the Andersons looked forward to starting their own family with great anticipation, eagerly awaiting pregnancy test results each month in hopes that they would discover they were to become parents. The April morning that their hopes were realized is described by Robert as being one of the best days of his life. After breakfast, they went to the local bookstore together to purchase books on pregnancy, for him and for her, and celebrated by inviting their parents to dinner, sharing their news between the gumbo and the dessert.

“We were the first of our families to marry and were the first in our families to have children. With our parents around the table, we celebrated a generation being added – being first time parents and first time grandparents. It was a moment of love, hope and joy,” Gail says, thinking back to the day that was to change their lives forever, unknowing exactly how much would change.

Their world was now filled with routine doctor visits, baby name books and trying to decide what color to paint the nursery. With no complications known to them, the Andersons enjoyed their last moments together as husband and wife before they would also become mother and father.

It was during a routine ultrasound, Gail’s first, when concern was raised over the development of the child. Told by their doctors that there was no cause for alarm, the Andersons were referred to specialists who referred them to another set of specialists. Finally, at 27 weeks, a doctor out of Baton Rogue gave them the honesty they had needed, informing them with regret that cystic masses were covering the child’s left lung, forcing pressure on a heart that had not fully developed.

Gail would be forced to deliver her child through c-section, as the stress of a traditional birth would be too much for their baby’s body to handle. Their baby would need to be on life support machines for months until able to have the surgeries required that could repair the damage of the child’s suffocated heart and remove the masses from the undeveloped lung. As painful was it was for the Andersons to hear that this child they wanted so badly may not live even after the surgeries intended to repair damage, they were forced to make a decision that not only challenged their personal strength, but where they fit into their Catholic faith.

After a frank discussion with their specialist, they decided that not only did the quality of life of their unborn child need to be questioned, but the life expectancy even if surgeries were successful. There were no guarantees and one day, one month or one year could be added to the life of their child, but not much more than that. After discussing every option available to them, the decision to visit Dr. George Tiller’s office in Kansas to have a late-term abortion was made. Both the Andersons sunk into a depression, feeling as if they were losing both their child and their religion.

“We are catholic. We are supposed to be against abortion, but the church teaches mercy as well. The church examines quality of life. It isn’t a black and white issue as so many like to make it, ” Robert says, looking away while fondling with his fingers the golden crucifix he wears around his neck.

As they packed their car to travel to Wichita, Kansas, members of their parish came, trying to talk them out of their decision. Unable to deal with the confrontation, Gail admits she almost called the trip off at the last minute, unsure of how she would be able to sit next to these women in mass. This group was the same women she had gathered with outside of a clinic that performed abortions in Metarie, Louisiana, once a month coming together, praying for the souls of the unborn babies; for the souls of those making this choice. They traveled in silence, both trying to come to terms with their own perceived failures in the choice they were making.

“It was the longest car ride I had ever been on. I didn’t know what to say to my wife. I didn’t know what to think for myself, ” says Robert, recalling the trip that led them from Louisiana to Kansas, finally reaching the one-story, beige Women’s Health Care Services building where Dr. Tiller practiced.

“Dr. Tiller was a very gentle man to my husband and I. He wasn’t the villain that people, me included, had often painted him. He was soft-spoken. He held our hands while we mourned our loss. He even prayed with us.”

Explaining the procedure to the Andersons and the efforts the clinic would make to help them memorialize their child, Dr. Tiller showed the Andersons the compassion and support they so badly wished they had received from their neighbors and friends.

The next day as they arrived to the clinic, they found themselves surrounded by protesters chanting, begging the Andersons to change their mind and group of children holding a pro-life model of a fetus while calling the Andersons murderers, telling the Andersons that God would not save their souls for taking away the life of another. What was already a traumatic experience, was now infused with guilt, panic and fear.

“The staff was respectful and allowed me to have a little bit of dignity where I didn’t think I had any left. It made me sad that I didn’t get that from my friends or my religious community, but from strangers in a hospital setting. To this day, I am bitter about that,” Gail confessed.

On the wall of their living room, next to a crucifix and a painting of the Virgin Mary and St. Brigid of Ireland, is a plaque that holds on it two tiny foot prints.

“They do not just look at this as being abortion mills – the staff,” Robert says, looking up at the footprints of their baby Grace.

“She was real. They made her real for us. Those footprints was Dr. Tiller’s idea. He wasn’t a man with crazed-eyes anticipating the kill like some anti-abortion activists would like you to picture. He understood the difficult position we were in. He allowed us to still have a piece of the family we wanted. He even called the baby be her name, by Grace.”

It was very difficult for the Anderson family to learn of the murder of Dr. Tiller. Because he was one of the few individuals that showed them understanding, he became an unofficial member of their family, the quiet uncle that sits in the corner, observing, quiet except for a few pieces of sage advice.

“The people that praised Dr. Tiller’s murder – they are the real monsters.”

The Andersons have not left the Catholic church, still strong in their faith, believing that the church has begun to rely too much on the word of man rather than church teachings, becoming dangerously involved in politics and losing sight that the world simply is not black and white.

They continue forward, despite for some calling of their removal from the church, because they know that they are not alone. They move forward because it is their hope that other Catholics faced with similar situations will realize that they are not alone. They move forward by the Grace of their daughter. They move forward, with two beautiful boys, ages five and four, who send kisses to their sister in heaven each night, their head held high, believing their only crime was showing mercy to the meek.

AMANDA MUELLER is an independent journalist based out of New Orleans, Louisiana. Her reporting on human rights issues has been published in syndication and internationally and she serves as a researcher and the only United States member of Press for Peace, an organization focused on advocacy, research, education and networking in peace, human rights and environment related issues. She is also the winner of the 2009 SIANS Human Rights Award and serves as the United States Development Officer for PNN English. Her website can be found at amandamueller.com

 

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]