In a story told in the gospel of John, the Pharisees drag a woman accused of adultery before Jesus. Hoping to trap Jesus in a violation of Mosaic law, they say,
Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do You say?” Infinitely wiser than those who would try to ensnare Him, Jesus responds, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Chastened, the Pharisees slink away, and Jesus says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again. — John 8:5, John 8:7, John 8:11 NRSVCE
Jesus is not telling us to refrain from judgment. Rather, He is instructing us to temper our judgment with mercy and understanding, never forgetting that we, too, are sinners. Those of us fighting for any cause have to be continually reminded of this message.
Just as we do not wish to be driven away, we should not drive away even the most prodigal of sinners.
Instead, we extend mercy and pray for their return because we know God has been merciful to us. We recognize that just as others need forgiveness, we need it too.
It is all too easy to fall into the hypocrisy of pointing out the sins of others while ignoring our own. Jesus had no patience for this:
You hypocrite, He said, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. — Matthew 7:5 NRSVCE
It takes profound humility to accept mercy for the sins we commit. We have to acknowledge that they were sins in the first place, and admitting our own wrongdoing is painful. Admitting sin can drum up feelings of guilt and shame. But if we ignore the guilt we feel, we will never be free of it. Guilt — when we pay attention to it — can be a gift. It is our conscience prodding us to turn away from doing wrong and choose the good instead.
Every woman and man who chooses to abort their child has committed a grave sin. We cannot excuse the sin, but it is never our place to condemn the sinner, because we, too, are fellow sinners. And just as it’s not our place to condemn others, neither is it our place to condemn ourselves. Jesus wants to extend mercy to all of us, no matter what we’ve done, if only we will receive it.
There is no sin, no mistake, and no fall too great for God to forgive.
Just as we’ve received the liberating gift of God’s mercy, we should pray for that mercy to be accepted by others who may be living in blindness. Sometimes those prayers are answered in powerful ways. For three years, Ramona Treviño worked as the manager of a Planned Parenthood abortion referral facility in Sherman, Texas. After the Live Action videos from the Mona Lisa project and sex trafficking investigations went public, Planned Parenthood publicly announced they would be retraining all eleven thousand staffers around the country, ostensibly to help them weed out and report sexual predators. Ramona was one of those who received the training. To her dismay, she learned that the training had little to do with helping underage girls or following state laws that required abuse reports.
Summoning up her courage, Ramona asked the trainer, “I guess what I’m wondering is, what do we as managers do if something like this really does happen at our clinics. How can we be prepared so that if it does happen, we can make sure our clients are safe and nothing illegal is going on?”
The trainer did not even attempt to disguise Planned Parenthood’s real concern. “We’re not here to discuss that, Ramona,” she shot back. “We’re here to identify whether we’re being violated by an undercover operation.”1 That training session was another moment of conscience for Ramona, and soon she would quit Planned Parenthood and join the pro-life movement. Needless to say, she made a powerful witness.
I met Ramona Treviño for the first time when I interviewed her on film for Live Action in Los Angeles. Our team had flown Ramona in from Texas as part of one of our investigative reports, Abortion Corporation. Kind and soft-spoken, Ramona courageously sat down with me in front of multiple cameras to share her story with the world.
Later, Ramona would fly with me to Washington, DC, to walk the halls of Congress lobbying senators and representatives to strip the nation’s largest abortion chain of its hundreds of millions of dollars of annual taxpayer subsidy. Standing side by side, we spoke with some of the most powerful elected politicians in the world and urged them to take action. We were no longer enemies but friends united in a common cause to fight for life. All by God’s grace.
Ramona was not the first person in the abortion industry to see the light, and I am sure she will not be the last. Dr. Bernard Nathanson certainly saw it. As a practicing abortionist and an early leader of the abortion rights movement, he estimated he had presided over sixty thousand abortions as director of a facility and personally committed five thousand, including that of his own child.2 With the development of ultrasound, he had a radical change of heart.
“I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age,” Nathanson later confessed. Over time, he found his way from atheism to Catholicism for the reason that “no religion matches the special role for forgiveness that is afforded by the Catholic Church.”3 He knew he needed that forgiveness to be a truly effective spokesman for the pro-life cause. And the Catholic Church and other pro-life advocates celebrated his conversion and welcomed him to the cause.
Live Action regularly works with ex-abortionists and clinic workers to create our educational content. Dr. Anthony Levatino worked closely with our team to create the abortion procedures videos, now viewed more than one hundred million times. Dr. Levatino allowed God to transform his experience with abortion from a dark spot on his soul to a light that could illuminate the horrors of abortion for others. Now Dr. Levatino speaks internationally, advocating on behalf of children in the womb and their mothers. By accepting mercy himself, he gives others hope that they, too, can find forgiveness and freedom.
Over the years, I’ve met dozens of former abortionists and abortion clinic workers, but few have moved me the way retired OB/GYN Kathi Aultman did during our 2019 Live Action interview.4
Kathi had just started medical school at the University of Florida College of Medicine when Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973. Caught up in the spirit of the times and believing “that women should have control over their own bodies,” Kathi and her fellow medical students learned to perform abortions as a routine part of their medical training through residency. Dehumanization was built into their education. The doctors-in-training moved from chick embryos to human babies with minimal reflection. “I did not see them as human beings,” Kathi said. “I just saw them as embryos and fetuses. Not as people.”
Toward the end of her residency, Kathi herself got pregnant but continued to perform abortions, in part to prove her mettle as a woman of science in what was still a male-dominated field. The birth of her daughter made Kathi more reflective about the humanity of these babies but not enough to overcome her commitment to women’s rights and her obligation as a doctor.
A series of three patients broke the spell. The first was a young woman whose babies Kathi had aborted three times prior. The second was a callous young woman who, when asked if she wanted to see the baby, snapped, “No. I just want to kill it.” And the third was a married mother of four who wept copiously through the whole procedure knowing she was killing a child so as not to put a strain on family finances. That was Kathi’s last abortion. She refused to do them after that.
Kathi’s journey from abortionist to pro-life activist was a long and deliberate one. In her practice, she began to see women who had never recovered from the emotional damage of an earlier abortion. She became a Christian and began to marvel at the joyful young children she saw at church who might not have existed had the abortionist lobby had their way. Then she, like me, began to study the Holocaust, a subject with which she was familiar as her father had helped liberate the camps during World War II.
“They didn’t see the Jews and the Gypsies and the others as people,” said Kathi of the Nazis. “And if you don’t consider someone human, you can do anything you want.” Upon coming to this realization, a more frightening one gripped her. “That’s when I realized I was a mass murderer,” she said sadly. “I had killed all of these people. And that’s when I completely changed my opinion on abortion.”
The acceptance and love of her fellow Christians made all the difference in Kathi’s emotional recovery. At a Christian healing center, she started down the road toward self-forgiveness. Normally reserved and professional, useful attributes in a doctor, Kathi let it all go. “I never understood what ‘crying your eyes out’ meant until that point,” she said, “because I literally cried my eyes out and couldn’t stop.”
No one is beyond saving. There is no fall too far from the reach of God’s mercy.
As we fight for our cause and as we stand up for what’s right, may mercy always mark our words, our thoughts, and our deeds. Never forget that those who have committed evil are capable of rejecting the evil they’ve done. In rejecting that evil, they may become the most compelling champions of the good. And one day, we may discover them fighting by our side.
- Sarah Terzo, “Planned Parenthood Taught Workers to Prevent ‘Being Recorded’ Rather Than Help Abuse Victims,” Live Action, June 16, 2018, https://www.liveaction.org/news/planned-parenthood-prevent-recorded -abuse/.
- Stephen Vincent, “Bernard Nathanson Dead at 84,” National Catholic Register, February 21, 2011, https://www.ncregister.com/daily-news /bernard-nathanson-dead-at-84.
- “Dr. Bernard Nathanson, R.I.P.”, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, February 22, 2011, https://www.catholicleague.org/dr-bernard -nathanson-r-i-p/.
- Live Action, “Former Abortionist Kathi Aultman Speaks Out on Her Pro- Life Conversion,” 21:43, YouTube video, June 28, 2019, https://www .youtube.com/watch?v=3-u6v8jp_ys&feature=emb_rel_pause.
Excerpted with permission from Fighting for Life by Lila Rose, copyright Lila Rose.
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Life is precious. Every single life is designed by His Hands. And, every single person who chooses abortion is so dearly loved by God and must be shown mercy by us, fellow sinners. We’re not ones to condemn considering our stories, right? Mercy is a beautiful gateway to forgiveness. Let’s leave it open. ~ Devotionals Daily