Woman remembers Roe v. Wade and now carries fight to third generation
Connie Clark remembers a January day in 1973. Something she heard while in her car brought a bigger chill than the arctic air that enveloped her.
“My kids were small and I was driving down Main Street here in Faribault,” said Clark, 72, who belongs to Divine Mercy in Faribault. “It came over the radio that the Supreme Court [on Jan. 22] said abortion is now going to be [legal] and we now can kill unborn babies in our country legally. It just gave such a chilling, chilling feeling.”
That cold sensation about abortion in America still exists, but it is infused with hope as Clark has watched her pro-life passion pass down to the third generation.
She raised four children (with her husband Tom, who died of cancer in 2001). One of them, Michelle Palmer, also a member of Divine Mercy, now serves as executive directer at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center in Faribault called Pregnancy Options LifeCare Center.
And, Palmer’s daughter, Hana, is one of the center’s most committed volunteers. The senior at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault comes regularly to help wherever needed, plus she has used social media to refer girls her age to the center.
It’s all part of a pro-life belief that roused Clark to action shortly after she heard the news of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. A graduate of Bethlehem Academy in 1958, she went back to her school during the years her daughter and three sons went there and spoke about why abortion is wrong and how Catholics could work to abolish it.
She continues to serve as a foot soldier in the pro-life movement today, and now has children and grandchildren at her side. Although she gets worried that her daughter — a mother of seven — has more duties than she can handle at the center, she is encouraged by the efforts of her granddaughter and others of that generation.
“It gives me hope that there are so many young people now that are more aware,” Clark said. “I think our young people are much more engaged.”
Work on the ground
After a pro-life upbringing, Palmer got a chance to put her beliefs into action shortly after graduating from Bethlehem Academy in the spring of 1981. She attended college at the University of Minnesota and lived in Comstock Hall, an all-girls dormitory. It was there where she had her first experience doing what she does today — trying to persuade a woman in a crisis pregnancy to choose life.
“It was maybe a couple months into the year, and one of the gals in our dorm got pregnant and was thinking of having an abortion,” said Palmer, 49. “Her roommate ran down to get myself and my roommate because she knew that we were very pro-life; we were the pro-life warriors. I remember going down there with my roommate Terry to try to talk to this gal. She had become our friend, but she was abortion-minded. Basically, we tried to talk her out of that. The sad thing is that she went ahead with it [abortion] anyway.”
That’s the harsh reality of grassroots work with pregnant, vulnerable women — some will choose to abort their unborn child no matter how persuasive the arguments against it.
And, that’s precisely what makes decades of pro-life work so admirable. In Palmer’s case, that kicked into high gear after a life-changing trip overseas.
“Honestly, when I really turned pro-life truly in my heart and mind was when I went to Medjugorje in 1993 with my mom [and dad],” said Palmer, who had two children at the time with her husband Brad. “It was there that I really just felt I needed to be more open to life — all life. And, thank goodness, because Hana would not be here had I not gone to Medjugorje. We went on to have five more children. We just decided that we were going to be open [to having more children].”
The trip also jump started her involvement in the pro-life movement. She became the executive director of Mariah Crisis Pregnancy Center, which was what Pregnancy Options was called previously. And, she also decided jointly with Brad to take in foster children. They have not officially counted how many, but she estimates the number to be more than 100.
She never had to deal with a crisis pregnancy with her foster kids, but that’s not to say the issue has not hit home. About two years ago, her son Chris delivered the news that he and his long-time girlfriend, Hope McBain, had conceived a child.
“It definitely caught us by surprise,”?Michelle said. “When you come to that situation in your own life where you have that crisis, you have to put your money where your mouth is and live it out.”
They had a daughter, Grace, on June 11, 2011, and the couple eventually married last winter.
“I was proud of them for making the right choice,” Michelle said. “I think it [experience with her son] helps me to be a better counselor at the center, to really be able to understand more [about what the pregnant women are going through].”
Still work to do
Despite the good news in their family, they know that, in Connie’s words, “there’s a lot of work to be done” to erase the black mark of abortion on the American landscape.
“I’m not going to lie. With the current administration that got voted in being very much pro-abortion, I was a little sad about that,” Michelle said. “I was hoping that we’d be able to get some other [pro-life] judges appointed to overturn it.”
For now, people like Michelle and Connie will pin their hopes on the next generation of pro-life activists. With Connie’s 20 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, they know there is something to build on. And, it may very well be Hana who steps up to become a leader, which would be just fine with her mother.
“I love working with Hana,” said Michelle, who noted that her other children also have helped out. “She’s so full of energy and life. She’s always so upbeat.”
And, with the courts, the media and well-funded groups like Planned Parenthood stacked against them, pro-lifers will have to earn their victory one saved life at a time.
Novena for life
The U.S. Catholic bishops will pray a nine-day novena to end abortion. “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage” will run from Jan. 19 to 27.
People can sign up to have the novena sent directly to them via emails, text messages, or social media. To subscribe to the daily emails, people should visit http://www.usccb.org/9days. To subscribe to the daily text messages, which will contain a link to the day’s content, people can text “9days” to 99000. To access the materials through social media, visit and “like” the People of Life Facebook page.