ON “Rose Day” at the state Capitol, participants will present legislators with red roses to “represent the sanctity of the unborn.” News coverage of the event, which is Wednesday, typically focuses on abortion-related bills. That's missing the big picture.
Rose Day's major significance isn't legislation. It's how participants are actively changing the culture. According to the Guttmacher Institute, three-fourths of women who have an abortion cite responsibility to other individuals. Three-fourths say they can't afford a child, three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with other responsibilities, and half say they don't want to be a single parent.
The challenge for those opposed to abortion is to provide women under duress an alternative. Barbara Chishko, executive director of Birth Choice of Oklahoma, has helped do so for four decades.
Birth Choice's Oklahoma City locations see about 7,000 women annually. They provide about 800 ultrasounds and 3,100 pregnancy tests. They give away 1,600 monthly supplies of prenatal vitamins, provide clothes to 1,500 babies, formula for 900, diapers for 1,900 and layettes for 500. They donate maternity clothing to 400 women and medical services to 250 and offer a group home for pregnant women.
All of this is offered free of charge. If this is a “war on women,” one wonders what help looks like.
It's estimated that more than 90 percent of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome lead to abortion. Census figures show the rate of black abortion is more than three times the rate of white abortion. Some argue certain circumstances of birth are so detrimental that meaningful quality of life is impossible and adoption improbable.
Dierdre McCool, executive director of Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption Services, disagrees. In 113 years of her organization's existence, “We've never not been able to place a child up for adoption,” McCool said. “Never.”
A baby girl born at 25 weeks with a brain bleed was expected to die or have cerebral palsy and blindness. She not only survived, but was quickly adopted across racial lines. The same was true for a baby boy with Down syndrome.
Ray Ann Merchant (director of the Bethany Birth Choice office) and her husband, Walter, have 11 children, including eight who were adopted. The family includes black, Asian, Hispanic, biracial and white members. One daughter has learning disabilities. The Merchants also have been foster parents to 176 newborns (and counting). Chishko has five biological children and two adopted sons, both with special needs.
Those families, and others like them at Rose Day, are a daily example of the infinite possibilities of life and the power of love. If this is “not caring about children after they're born,” what does caring look like?
On Jan. 17, 1907, the El Reno Democrat reported that Chickasha's Oklahoma constitutional convention delegate predicted enactment of a “coach law” requiring separate accommodations for blacks and whites using public transportation. He noted the U.S. Supreme Court had “more than once” upheld such laws. When the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott occurred in Alabama, many dismissed it as meaningless symbolism. They were wrong. Some point to court rulings and say the same thing about Rose Day. They're also wrong.
The Montgomery boycott changed the culture. With their actions and (in the case of many children at the event) their very lives, those participating in Rose Day are doing the same.
For women and children in crisis, this is what hope looks like.