By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — More than 7,000 clients have visited the Women’s Choice Center in the past year, said Linda Rubey, executive director of the center since mid-June. “Every day is a new opportunity to help those women and men who walk through our doors.”
One of them was Andrea, who gave a heartfelt talk on her decision to give up her son for adoption. She spoke during the Celebrate Life fundraising dinner to benefit the pro-life center. About 500 people attended the Oct. 25 event that included talks by Andrea and two other women with unplanned pregnancies.
In 2013, Andrea, then 31, was a single mother with three children working full-time when she learned she was pregnant. She went to Emma Goldman clinic in Iowa City for an abortion but couldn’t go through with that decision. “This was an innocent life.”
Eventually, she chose to pursue open adoption, which would allow her to be a part of her future son’s life. “I chose adoption because I loved him so much.” She gave birth to Elijah on Feb. 14, 2014. Following his birth, she needed to talk with someone, so she called the Women’s Choice Center.
She met with then-director Vicki Tyler who counseled her and told her that she was strong. Andrea continued with follow-up sessions. “I am forever thankful for the love and support of the Women’s Choice Center. I have no regrets.” Today, 4-year-old “Eli” lives with his adoptive parents Betsy and John.
Jessica Ricke told the dinner guests that she first encountered the Women’s Choice Center when she became pregnant 13 years ago. “I was in that situation of an unplanned pregnancy.” Because of her experience at the center, she chose to give birth to her child. She is now the center’s director of development.
Keynote speaker Luana Stoltenberg then shared her story of abortion and of finding healing. She has volunteered with Life & Family Educational Trust, the Women’s Choice Center, Pregnancy Resources and Operation Outcry. But first she recounted the fight by pro-lifer advocates to keep Planned Parenthood out of the Quad Cities with prayer vigils, talks with the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, and the signing of a Sanctity of Life statement by more than 230 pastors.
Planned Parenthood did open a clinic in Bettendorf, but after years of prayer and hopeful waiting, pro-life advocates witnessed the closing of that clinic where abortions were performed. The building was sold. Life & Family Educational Trust, which oversees the Women’s Choice Center, purchased the spacious Planned Parenthood clinic from its anonymous owner earlier this year. The building has been exorcised, cleansed and remodeled and given new life as the Women’s Choice Center and Life and Family Medical Clinic. God listens and he answers prayers,” said Mary Jones, president of Life & Family Educational Trust.
Stoltenberg then shared her story, the one that led to her pro-life advocacy. As a teenager, she became pregnant. She and her boyfriend and another friend decided an abortion would be the best answer. She said she was told that the baby growing inside of her was “just a blob of tissue. I wasn’t told of the risks. I was told it was safer to have an abortion than to go through a pregnancy. I didn’t even know what type of abortion I would have.”
She said she didn’t receive medication and had a vacuum aspiration method of abortion. She left the clinic in pain and bleeding profusely. When she got home she called back about her pain and bleeding. She said she was told it was not the clinic’s problem. She needed to contact her doctor or go to the emergency room. “I felt I deserved to die. A part of me was disgusted, angry and full of shame.”
Following the abortion she began drinking, doing drugs and was promiscuous. She had two more abortions. But God had a plan, Stoltenberg said. Her parents and sister found the Lord. Although she didn’t think God could forgive her, her life changed radically when she started going to church. She stopped taking drugs. She met a man who loved her for who she was and not what she could give him.
Stoltenberg married Steve in 1985. When the couple had difficulty conceiving, medical testing revealed substantial blockage in her fallopian tubes. “You will never have a child,” her doctor told her. “I killed my only children I would ever have,” Stoltenberg said.
Her husband responded to the news by holding her and telling her that he loved her. They recommitted to their marriage and adopted their son Zach from India. “Zachary means precious gift from God,” she noted.
She encourages women with an unplanned pregnancy or those who have gone through an abortion to call or stop by the Women’s Choice Center. “They can start the healing journey with you.”
Following her talk, Sen. Neil Anderson of Illinois spoke. He encouraged everyone to do three things: continue to support the Women’s Choice Center, pray and vote. Rubey asked the crowd to go out and spread the mission of life. “Your voice might inspire another.”