By Tanya Connor
WORCESTER – A woman conceived by rape told local pro-lifers Wednesday about helping change a presidential candidate’s position on abortion.
Rebecca Kiessling, a wife, mother and attorney who advocates for all the unborn, was keynote speaker for Visitation House’s benefit dinner, held at St. George Orthodox Cathedral. Founder and president of “Save The 1,” Mrs. Kiessling recalled the parable of the lost sheep and said, “Jesus was all about saving the one.”
Eve Lindquist, executive director of Visitation House, a home for pregnant women and their children, said close to 500 people attended the dinner.
Mrs. Kiessling told of challenging former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the previous presidential campaign and encouraged listeners to tell their pro-life stories and make a difference.
Sounding a similar theme was Lee Crowley, a pro-life activist from St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westborough, who received the Ruth V.K. Pakaluk Award, named for the late pro-life leader. Mrs. Crowley volunteered at Visitation House as assistant to the executive director from 2009 to 2016.
“The Culture of Death is in hot pursuit of your kids and grandkids, your nieces and nephews,” she said. “If we are going to make any progress in winning back our culture, we each need to play our part in our circles of influence. … We need to figure out what our individual mission entails and to do it.”
“If there is any way to describe Visitation House, it is a field hospital,” Bishop McManus said, using an image Pope Francis applies to the Church and its mission.
In her talk, Mrs. Kiessling told about seeking out her birth mother as a teenager, and learning that she was conceived after a rape.
She said she talked to Gov. Perry about his support for the “rape exception” for abortion. That’s like giving her the death penalty, which wouldn’t have been given to her father (a rapist), she said.
Gov. Perry told her, “Right now you’re changing my heart,” she said, noting that friends were praying for her. He told her he would no longer make the rape exception and signed the “Personhood Pledge” to express opposition to abortion in all circumstances.
She suggested that if one person can change a governor’s heart during a presidential campaign, one person can change others’ hearts.
“Do not be afraid to share your stories,” she told listeners. Even if those stories are embarrassing, like Bible stories which changed the world. “It is stories that pierce the heart in ways arguments cannot,” she said.
She told her story as follows.
She was adopted, and at age 18 sought information about her birth mother. Learning her mother was raped, she thought her mother must hate her and probably wanted to abort her. Her mother told her how a serial rapist raped her at knife-point.
Her mother said she’d always wanted to know her baby, but also admitted she went to two back-alley abortionists, as abortion was illegal at the time.
She changed her mind upon seeing how dirty one place was, and the abortionist insulted her when she expressed concern about safety. He called the next day to try to convince her to have the abortion and insulted her when she refused. Going to the other abortionist would have meant being picked up by a stranger at a pre-arranged spot and being blindfolded to and from the place.
Mrs. Kiessling said her mother would have benefitted from a place like Visitation House.
Eventually her mother changed her mind about the right to abortion, as did “Jane Roe,” from the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case which helped legalize abortion nationwide, Mrs. Kiessling said.
Mrs. Kiessling said it took years of cultivating their relationship but her mother eventually told her, “I’m so glad I had you.”
She told listeners, “Because of what you’re going to do here tonight, there will be women in your community who will be able to say, ‘I’m so glad I had you.’”
She noted that God brings good out of awful situations.
“It is the story of Christ,” she said. “The story does not have to end with violence having victory.”