John's Story
Life and Death Before the Born Alive Infants Protection Act
by Maryann S. Lawhon, R.N.
President, Hazleton PHL

Often people ask the question: "isn't this a losing battle you're fighting" Or "don't you just want to give up after all these years"? In response, I look back over these past 25 years since I became involved in the pro-life movement and reflect on the events that motivate me to continue to work in defense of life.

I joined a parish pro-life organization 25 years ago. I had been working at the University of West Virginia Medical Center prior to relocating to Hazleton. After working for about a year in their oncology department I was looking for a change. I wanted to see life in its beginnings. I selected a position in their obstetrical unit, full of anticipation at the thought of witnessing birth and the beginnings of new life. I was in for a rude awakening.

One night after I began working the night shift, I walked into the "dirty utility room" where instruments were placed to be cleaned up after a delivery. There he was. A little boy, lying on a cold, stainless steel counter. He looked to be 5 or 6 months gestational age. His cry was soft, almost like the purr of a kitten. I went for help and was told it was not a baby, it was an “abortion."  I returned to the room and baptized him John. I held him until he died. I realized that mine were the only hands that ever touched him with love. I was the only one who would ever hold him. I told him that if his mommy had seen him the way I did, she never would have sentenced him to such a cruel and lonely death. And before he died, I told him that his death would not be in vain.

That was the beginning of a very difficult time in my professional life. Despite the fact that I often participated in similar situations over the next year, night after night I reported to work. I couldn't quit. If nothing else I was driven to be with these children, to give them love, a song, baptism, or just a little bit of my heart. I thought of trying to kidnap one of them. If I could get her up to Scranton, Dr. Vincent Ross was a pro-life pediatrician who I was certain would help me. But I didn't. I cared for the dying. I cared for their mothers as well.

We left West Virginia after about a year. By then the nightmares had begun. My dreams were often of children, laying abandoned, crying softly, and dying. I joined a pro-life organization and realized that each time I told "their story", my own heart began to heal.

Their hands were so tiny and weak, yet when I close my eyes, I still feel the power of that little hand clinging to my finger. Their cries were so soft, yet I can still hear them in my heart. and my obligation is to never let them die in vain. I remember the words I spoke to them: "If your mommy could see you like I do, she would never have done this to you."

My involvement in the pro-life organization led me to speak out and tell their story. I also found myself working with pregnant women----letting them know what I saw in that hospital. I was able to help them to face their fears as they discovered the gift that was growing within their bodies.

I will never give up. I will never turn my back on the countless babies who I was given the opportunity to love, even if only for a moment, nor the thousands that continue to die each day in clinics and hospitals. I will not forsake young girls and frightened women who are deceived in Planned Parenthood clinics all over our country and whose bodies and minds are exploited by the abortion industry.

I look back on that period in my life and am never sure if I call it a blessing or a curse. It is in either event the motivation which inspires me to live in defense of life.