Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hard Cases Unite to Make a Difference! by Rebecca Kiessling

How would like to be labeled  “a hard case?”  What if your class of people were systematically targeted for extinction within legislation?  What if political candidates felt quite comfortable with stating their position that you and your kind aren’t worth protecting and better off dead?  What if your child was regularly stigmatized by our society?  That’s exactly what it’s like for those of us who were conceived in rape, mothers from rape, and those given a poor in utero diagnosis.  But being branded as a “hard case” becomes easier when we all begin to unite behind our unique kinship.  And that’s what Save The 1 has been doing – drawing together perhaps the most stigmatized and marginalized members of today’s society.   
May 2014 was a very big month for Save The 1.  On Saturday, May 3rd, Mary Rathke and I both spoke at the 1st Annual International Pro-Life Leaders Conference in Rome, Italy – sponsored by Lifesitenews -- sharing our stories of having been conceived in rape.  Mary was a double-exception because her birthmother was raped after having been diagnosed as schizophrenic.   Pro-Life leaders from around the world received our message well – vowing to fight abortion without exception and without compromise.
The next day, Mary and I were introduced on stage at the Marcio Per La Vita – the Italian March For Life, which had an estimated 60,000 by the time we reached St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope came out and addressed us.  The theme of this year’s march was “Pro Vita Senza Compromesso,” which means “pro-life without compromise.”  During the march, thousands were chanting this theme!
 One woman – a nurse – came up to us and showed us a photo of a baby who was conceived in rape.  She explained that the pro-life activists at the hospital have been familiar with my story since it’s been translated into Italian, among many other languages.  So any time they have a patient who is pregnant by rape, they share my story on my website with the pregnant rape victim.  This nurse credited my story has having saved the baby in the photo.  What a wonderful example for every person with a difficult history to see how stepping out and sharing your story can make a difference across the ocean, for someone else who doesn’t even speak your language!
Upon returning from Rome, Mary Rathke spoke at Branch County Right to Life’s benefit dinner where she met a grandmother who shared that her grandchild was conceived in rape.  This grandmother was heartened to know that there are others who are paving the way for her grandchild to be loved and accepted in our society.  Several legislators and even judges shared with Mary how her story helps them to be able to articulate a defense of all human life.
On May 10th, I spoke at a Mother’s Day brunch at Gateway Assembly in Imlay City, MI.  After the brunch, a 16 year old girl named Sarah came up to me to share her own difficult story.  She was conceived when her birthmother was sexually trafficked by her own parents.  Not only was she conceived during unconsensual prostitution, but her birthmother had become a drug addict.  Sarah is now writing out her story and is our newest member of Save The 1!  The next day at the church, another family approached me whose young adoptive daughter was also conceived in rape.  They too were thankful for a support system for their daughter and their family.
A week later, on Saturday, May 17th, Save The 1 had its 3rd Pro-Life Speaker Training Conference, at the legislative offices of Right to Life of Michigan in Lansing, MI.  We had five adoptees who were all conceived in rape present – me, Mary Rathke, Travon Clifton, Sarah (these four are all from Michigan), and Darlene Pawlik from New Hampshire.  We also had one mother who had become pregnant from rape – Karyn Liechty, one post-abortive mother from rape whose abortion was forced upon her - Sheryl Williams, as well as Brad and Jesi Smith whose daughter Faith has Trisome 18.   In the morning, everyone had a chance to practice responding to impromptu questions often asked by reporters and during Q & A on college campuses, and in the afternoon, each member gave an 8-minute prepared speech.  We were blessed to have some family and friends there in support, as well as three of our friends from Right to Life of Michigan who helped with our critique – President Barb Listing, Ed Rivet and Genevieve Marnon.  As an additional treat, filmmaker Jim Hanon (End of the Spear) and his team were present  filming and we look forward to seeing the pieces he is putting together for Right to Life of Michigan in conjunction with Save The 1 members!
After a wonderful day of camaraderie, we had our first official Board Meeting, having just filed our 501c3 application!  Thank you to the Thomas More Society for generously sponsoring our filing and to Sally Wagenmaker for your wisdom and representation.  I’m proud to announce our stellar Board – Darlene Pawlik, Mary Rathke, Jim Sable (conceived in rape adoptee from IL,) Nick D’Angelo (conceived in rape from NY,) Brad Smith, Dyanne Gonzales from NM, and me – thank you all for your confidence in electing me as President of Save The 1.  I’m eager to see what God is going to achieve through us all!
 Our next Save The 1 speaker training conference is Saturday, September 20th in Akron, OH at the offices of Right to Life of North East Ohio, and our 5th Save The 1 speaker training  will be held at the offices of Georgia Right to Life in Atlanta on Friday, October 10th.  In 2015, we hope to have more conferences around the country, including in the Los Angeles area.
If you fall into one of the categories of “the hard cases” – those whom Jesus would call “the least of these,” we would love to connect with you!  You are not alone.  Connect with us on our Save The 1 Facebook page, and e-mail me.  We have a Save The 1 activism e-mail group, and there is also an e-mail support group for those who are struggling and/or who want to help others to know their incredible dignity and worth.