On a nippy Thursday, fifty miles away from the New Hampshire State House where the House was in session, people committed to peaceful pro-life action gathered on a small-town sidewalk. They were in front of a town hall which sits next door to an abortion facility. Turning away from news about life-issue legislation, they were there to hear a story of encouragement and hope.
Ramona Treviño shares her story
Texas resident Ramona Treviño is the outreach director for the international 40 Days for Life effort. In a whirlwind tour last week, she spoke at seven regional 40DFL campaign events, including three in New Hampshire. I caught up with her in Greenland.
The Greenland participants welcomed Treviño to her first visit to New Hampshire on a cold but sunny Wednesday morning. She responded in kind. “It’s beautiful. I couldn’t be more blessed.”
“I’m a living witness to what the power of prayer does. This for me is a special time of the year, not only ’cause it’s Lent, but also this time of year, twelve years ago, is when I left my position at Planned Parenthood, and had a beautiful conversion that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit and the grace that was poured out because of your witness, the power of prayer, and fasting.”
Her journey from PP to 40DFL
Catholic by upbringing – “culturally Catholic,” she called it – she knew enough to consider abortion unthinkable when she became pregnant at 16. Her parents agreed, and she gave birth without support from the child’s father. Later, she met and married a man with whom she entered fully into her faith. Even so, “unfortunately, I accepted a position working for the nation’s largest abortion [provider]” a year and a half later. The provider was Planned Parenthood, and the facility was near her Texas home.
How did she end up there? She offered several reasons. First, “ignorance.” While she knew Planned Parenthood provided birth control, STD testing, and well-woman exams, she wasn’t aware that it was a powerhouse of the abortion industry. “I didn’t know that every year they’re responsible for 300,000 abortions in this country.”
She also believed something that I’ve heard time and again from former abortion workers. “I really thought I was helping women. I thought I was going to be preventing abortions. Also, I was of another mentality: I personally wouldn’t have an abortion, but every woman has the right to choose for herself…. And in my [facility] we didn’t perform abortions under our roof. The surgical center in Dallas-Fort Worth was where abortions took place. And that was another way that I justified and rationalized working for PP. I thought my hands [were] clean.”
“You guys showed up.”
What changed? “You guys showed up,” “you guys” being participants in 40 Days for Life. Trevio described listening to Catholic radio one day in her car in Advent of 2010 and hearing a promotional message about 40 Days for Life. The message included the news that the following spring’s campaign would be outside her facility. She was startled.
“I had never heard of 40 Days for Life up to then. [It was the] first time I had heard of this peaceful prayerful vigil that was going to be held for 40 days outside of my facility. It was going to kick off on Ash Wednesday.and of course, being Catholic, I thought ‘maybe God’s trying to tell me something.’ …Now we had always had protesters outside our facility. And you know, these protesters would kind of yell at the women to try to get their attention….They didn’t strike me as loving people.” In the 40 Days for Life message, “there was something about hearing these words: ‘a peaceful and prayerful vigil’ – that really put my soul at peace.”
The 40DFL campaign began. At one point she actually went to the prayer witnesses and asked them for prayers. She had become uncomfortable working for PP, and a priest had advised her to leave, but still she hesitated. The campaign leader later joined in prayer for her, and he asked if he could share her prayer request with others.
That impressed her greatly “He asked for my permission. I think that was huge. It meant he saw me as a person with dignity, and not as some prize to be won.”
Let that sink in for a moment. I sometimes need to be reminded that other peoples’ stories are not mine to share until they give their consent.
“What did you do?”
Many more details went into her decision to leave PP shortly after the end of that 40DFL campaign. The scales were tipped in favor of life as she listened to Catholic radio (there’s that influence of media again!) a couple of days after Easter. “An elderly gentleman had called in and he was sharing his own experiences with praying in front of his local abortion facility….[T]he radio host said to him Thank you, sir, for all that you do for the unborn. Thank
you for your witness. Because at the end of our lives, we’re all going to stand before God. And He’s going to ask you ‘did
you know about abortion? Did you know babies were being ripped from their mothers’ wombs limb by limb? More than
3000 per day?’ And then He’s going to ask you ‘what did you do?’ And that was my moment in which my conscience
was completely illuminated.” Three days later, her time at PP was over.
Now, twelve years later, Ramona Treviño works for 40 Days for Life. “The truth is, guys, you’re my heroes.” She pointed out that during this campaign in 604 cities worldwide – the largest 40DFL campaign to date – 248 abortion-minded women have chosen life. “Something’s happening. And our prayers are unitive. God is answering our prayers. You are answering that call: ‘what did you do.’ Thank you for your Yes.”