By Michael Ashcraft —
Cindy Stone had an abortion, so she figures she’s the ideal candidate to dissuade anxious mothers from a decision that wreaked havoc in her own heart.
“I’ve gone through the pain of regret,” Stone said. “God put it in my heart that this is what I need to do to help other women and men with my story. I don’t want someone to suffer that kind of spiritual, mental and emotional pain.”
Every Wednesday, Stone, a Protestant, teams up with two Catholic women outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Van Nuys, California. They hold up signs, pray and offer advice to any woman who is willing to hear about the grim realities of abortion – and the positive alternatives that exist.
Call them Sisters of Compassion. The War on Abortion is now 44 years old, and there doesn’t appear to be any softening of the rhetoric on either side of the debate.
Stone and her friends talk with sensitivity, even though they speak a stark truth about what abortion providers understate as “a clump of cells.”
On the one hand, the grisly nature of abortion needs to be explained clearly. But on the other hand, these women are not shaming pregnant mothers already immersed in despair.
“I understand where they’re coming from and what might be motivating them,” said Stone, 66, of Santa Monica. “It’s not that we are trying to condemn them in anyway but let them know that there are people who are willing to help them. We’re helping them see that a pregnancy is a life. People come and say, ‘Don’t shame us. Shame on you for shaming us.’ That’s tough when somebody talks to you like that. We don’t want to come across like that. But we must share the truth in love.”
Maria Barrientos, 50, a Filipino American who runs a Philippines-based engineering firm, shows what they’re talking about when they offer help. She personally cared for a baby for six weeks in 2010 just so that the mother wouldn’t abort.
By their count, the threesome have saved at least five babies. It’s not an overwhelming statistic, but each life is to be valued. They don’t know how many others have simply walked away from the abortion.
Of the five saved babies, the women try to follow their progress and even go to birthday parties for them.
Their activism often feels like a thankless labor of love. For eight years, these women have endured the heat of the sunny San Fernando Valley and put up with hostile confrontations all because they want to spare innocent lives from an undeserved death sentence on surgical abortion days, Wednesday and Thursday at the Planned Parenthood in Van Nuys.
What motivates them to keep coming back when other pro-lifers have quit?
“We know that next Wednesday some unfortunate child is going to be chopped up, so we’re here,” said Charlene Wrzensinski, of Sherman Oaks. “I’m sorry for saying it that way, but there’s no point in sanitizing the issue.”
Barrientos opened up. There have been days when she prays in her car to not have to face angry aborters. Then she remembers what motivates her.
“Christ died for us, so why can’t we die for Him and be the voice of the unborn and forgotten?” she said. “Those who are aborted are our brothers and sisters, made in the image of God.”
Up until 2012, the threesome were able to station themselves near the outside the clinic. The proximity allowed them to sidle up to mothers walking in and offer a few words of kindness to see if there was an openness to dissuade them from abortion.
But then the commercial property owner kicked them off, and ever since, the threesome has had to pray on the sidewalk, some 100 yards away from the front entrance to the clinic. This makes direct contact with prospective Planned Parenthood clients almost impossible.
Still, the threesome remains steadfast in their work to save babies.
“We’re just hopeful that God moves on people’s hearts,” Stone said.
It took Stone years to overcome the guilt of having an abortion. She was not a Christian, was a mother of two already and figured she didn’t need any more. The quick and easy solution, she thought at the time, was to terminate the pregnancy.
Nobody warned her there would be nightmares. Guilt haunted her for years. As a matter of fact, it drove her to Christ and she became a Christian.
“I realized I needed a Savior. I had been in denial for a long time. But the Holy Spirit convicted me,” she said. “There’s forgiveness. God led me different people who helped me. It’s been an amazing process of healing.”
Stone got involved in post-abortion Christian groups and even therapy to overcome her sense of condemnation. Now she wants to spare others the torment.
“I pray that I have compassion and love,” Stone said. “It’s not condemning. We just want people to know that they have a precious life inside. We want people to make an informed choice because they won’t get information inside the clinic. They don’t give sonograms. They don’t refer to it as a baby. They don’t tell you the consequences, whether physical or emotional.
“It’s about the baby, but it’s also about the parents,” she said. “An abortion affects everybody. It’s affects the grandparents also. It affects society. It’s a culture of death. I pray that I can give that message with compassion and love.”
Michael Ashcraft pastors the Lighthouse Church in Van Nuys.