|MERCEDES, July 1 - The keynote speaker at the 1st Annual Rio Grande Valley Pro-Life Conference says she is going to pray that state Sen. Wendy Davis comes around to a pro-life stance.
Ramona Treviño worked for three years as manager of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sherman, Texas. She now gives speeches around the nation in opposition to abortion and her former employers.
“I pray for Wendy Davis,” Treviño told the Guardian. “I pray for her conversion. I pray that she opens up her heart and sees the truth. Abortion promotes a culture of death.”
Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, has received national attention following her 11-hour filibuster of legislation that would further restrict abortions in the Texas. The filibuster helped opponents of the bill in the Senate stop its passage in a special legislative session last week. They were assisted from the Senate gallery by many women who say the legislation will deny access to healthcare, particularly women who are poor and live in rural areas.
“I think a lot of the people who were there protesting and wanting to see the abortion restriction bill defeated have never witnessed a late term abortion. If they did I think they would change their minds,” said Treviño, in response to the large number of women at the Capitol on the last day of the special session, when Davis mounted her filibuster.
The 1st Annual Rio Grande Valley Pro-Life Conference was held in a parish hall at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Mercedes on Saturday. Over 150 people attended. It was organized by the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, the Respect for Life Apostolate, Hike for Life in Brownsville, which is raising funds to get a pregnancy center built, the McAllen Pregnancy Center, Knights of Columbus, and Rachel’s Vineyard, the post abortion ministry.
In her speech, Treviño told of her journey from being a clinic manager for Planned Parenthood to a fierce opponent of the organization. She said she was born in Dallas but grew up in a small town in north Texas called Trenton. She said her parents were Catholic. “Somewhere along the way I lost myself and I became pregnant at 16,” Treviño said. “Nine months later, at the age of 17, I gave birth to my beautiful and wonderful daughter, Lorena.”
Treviño said she was baptized Catholic but never catechized. “I was a new Catholic just before joining Planned Parenthood. I was hit and miss when it came to attending Mass regularly. By the end I reverted back to my faith and started to discover the truth about the organization I worked for,” Treviño said.
When she started at Planned Parenthood, Treviño said, she thought she would be helping poor and uninsured women with family planning. She said she did not realize she would be encouraging teenage girls to stay promiscuous.
“When you see young girls, 14, 15, 16 years old who have already had four, five, six sexual partners in their life and you are dispensing contraception to them so they can continue that lifestyle, even some of those girls who had reoccurring STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), you stand back, as a mother of teen girls, you look at that and say, there is a problem here,” Treviño said.
“I was facilitating that problem. We (Planned Parenthood) were not discouraging these girls from this type of lifestyle. Instead, we were exploiting them by sending them out the door with contraception and basically telling them you have the green light to continue that lifestyle but you can trust us to clean you up and send you right back out there again.”
Treviño said there have been 55 million abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion. She claimed Planned Parenthood administered 333,964 abortions last year. She said this equals an abortion every 94 seconds. “I didn’t know any of this when I accepted the job (with Planned Parenthood),” Treviño said.
Treviño said during her time at Planned Parenthood she clashed with its president, Cecile Richards. She said it happened when all clinic managers were called to a meeting to discuss an undercover video taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic by Lila Rose, president of pro-life Live Action. A staffer was caught on video saying Planned Parenthood sometimes “bends the rules” to help a minor get an abortion without parental consent. Treviño said she thought she was going to the meeting to learn how to help prevent under-age sexual abuse. Instead, she said, all Richards wanted to do was train staff so that they could catch anyone that tried to do undercover videoing again.
“Over time I started to realize that the contraception part of Planned Parenthood was linked to the abortion part. That began to trouble me. By referring children out for abortions I was also facilitating them,” Treviño said. She credited Christian Radio the 40 Days for Life campaign for helping her to leave Planned Parenthood.
“Because I did not work in an abortion facility myself, I did not connect the dots. It was Planned Parenthood, family planning services, versus Planned Parenthood, abortion services. Ultimately, I started to realize there is a connection there. I cannot deny that my awakening back to my Catholic faith and looking at church teachings on contraception and the culture of death played a huge factor in my decision to leave Planned Parenthood.”
Asked what she thought of the abortion restriction legislation being debated at the state Capitol in Austin, Treviño said: “I am 100 percent pro-life. We want to see an end to abortion and this legislation is a baby step towards that.”
Asked how she responds to pro-life legislators, such as state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who say the legislation denies women vital healthcare services, Treviño said: “For anyone who is pro-life you cannot look at abortion as healthcare. It is not healthcare. Fertility and being able to carry a child is normal and healthy. When a woman cannot conceive and cannot bear children they seek out help to be able to get pregnant. That is healthcare. Planned Parenthood never provided that. If Planned Parenthood’s message is they want to provide reproductive services for women, reproductive implies you are reproducing and Planned Parenthood does not help women reproduce.”
Patty Edwards of Harlingen also spoke at the conference. She is a self-described “sidewalk counselor,” someone who stands outside an abortion clinic to try to persuade those entering not to have an abortion. Edwards said her understanding of the abortion restriction legislation being debated in Austin is that it would ban an abortion after the 20th week of gestation. She said the legislation also states that a doctor working at an abortion clinic would have to have hospital privileges, and that the facility must be an ambulatory clinic. Edwards said she understood that the two abortion clinics in the Valley, one based in Harlingen and the other McAllen, would have to close if the legislation passes. “I hope that is the case,” Edwards said.
Derlis Garcia is a seminarian for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville who works in the diocese’s pro-life office under the Rev. Jim Erving. Both Erving and Garcia were at played a big part in organizing Saturday’s conference.
Garcia said it was pure coincidence that the conference was being staged while legislators in Austin are debating abortion legislation. He said he and fellow organizers had no idea Gov. Rick Perry was going to put the issue on the agenda for a special session. “I am sure there was more interest in our conference because of the special session and because of Senator Davis’ filibuster. It was very providential. I think the Lord wants us to pray for this law to pass. You know, 62 percent of the people in Texas are against late term abortions,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the Catholic Church makes no exceptions for being against abortion, even in cases of incest or rape. “There is a life from conception. We cannot do anything but protect that life. You are not helping her by having a girl or woman go through with an abortion. You are making her go to a second mistake, something she will regret. So are such abortions humane? Such abortions are harming women,” Garcia said.
The Rev. Erving said he hopes that by the time the 2nd Annual Pro-Life Conference rolls around next summer, the interest level is so great organizers will need a larger venue than Our Lady of Mercy. Garcia agreed. “We could not be happier with the turnout. It is going to grow. It is a wonderful mission, to save the lives of the unborn and of women and men.” He said anyone interested in the cause could find out more at www.rgvforlife.org.