Pro-life movement making a comeback

Published: Saturday, April 30 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

States like California, where abortion regulations are nearly non-existent, would likely become even more lax. Other states like South Dakota, or even Utah, would likely become far more restrictive, perhaps outlawing abortion completely.

Moving toward that end, Wimmer introduced three bills in the just-completed session to increase the oversight on abortion clinics, expand conscience protections to medical providers who refuse to participate in abortions and prohibit government health plans from covering abortions. All three passed.

"Anytime you have a chance to protect the life of the unborn and to protect women from the exploitation of the abortion industry, I think that's a good thing," Wimmer said.

The bills didn't surprise Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, except for the initial lack of the words "rape, incest or health of the mother" when describing abortion-restriction exemptions, said Melissa Bird, vice president of public affairs for the association. It was the first time those words had been missing, so the group worked diligently with legislators to get them back into the insurance bill, though they weren't added to the conscience bill.

Bird knows Utah is a conservative state, but like other pro-choice advocates, sees overturning Roe as a terrible decision because of how it would affect a woman's ability to make her own private health-related decisions.

Patrick Whelan, a doctor at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and president of Catholic Democrats, said he's met many people, including leaders in his own faith who believe the "only moral approach is to focus on reversing Roe. V. Wade." He disagrees and points to other countries, like Brazil, where abortion is illegal and the percentage of women getting abortions is much higher than in the U.S.

"Just because you make it illegal," he said, "doesn't mean it's not going to happen."

Whelan said the focus should be on studying why abortion is happening in the first place.

"We both care equally about the issue," he said of the two competing sides. "The question is how do you best get to the right place?"

Seeing the problem

For Melinda Oberhelman, abortion was an escape.

Despite growing up in a Midwest Baptist home, Oberhelman became a "rebellious teen" in her 20s after a divorce left her emotionally vulnerable and reaching out for love.

When drug use and a series of bad relationships left her in an unimaginable situation, she frantically looked for ways to justify her decision to end her pregnancy.

Her boyfriend already had a child and wasn't ready for another one. He encouraged her to get the abortion and talked about how they'd marry soon after.

Because she was working and paying most of the bills she figured it was better this way.

Besides, this pregnancy was different than her first one when she had been married. She was sick all the time now, and told herself something had to be wrong inside.

But her abortion didn't solve the problem.

After dropping her off at the clinic, Oberhelman's boyfriend cleaned out their duplex, swiped her emergency cash and never came back.

For years, Oberhelman was haunted by low self-esteem and continued to make a series of bad decisions until she met some friends who helped her center her life on Jesus — assuring her that He could and did forgive her. She joined post-abortion support groups, started a home for unwed mothers and slowly began to love herself again.

Today Oberhelman tells her poignant story matter-of-factly, no tears or excuses. She sees her situation through the lens of maturity, and offers that clarity to other women in similar situations.

As the executive director of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Utah Valley in Orem, she has talked to hundreds of women who, like her, are desperately searching for answers, some even considering abortions.

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