A few days ago, Eleanor McCullen’s phone rang. It was a woman she had met outside an abortion clinic 18 years ago. The woman explained that she was looking in her daughter’s baby book, and under the photo of her, then 3 months old, was Eleanor’s business card which simply read: ‘Hope, help and love “.
The woman’s daughter, Rose, is graduating from high school and heading to college. The mother called to thank McCullen for long ago ensuring she didn’t have to have an abortion: “I want to thank you for being there that day,” she said. “Rose is the joy of our life.”
McCullen is a sidewalk counselor who has spent more than two decades outside of Planned Parenthood in Boston. She recently testified at the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. It wasn’t their first interaction: Years earlier, Jackson had written an amicus brief against the free speech rights of McCullen, who was the lead plaintiff in a buffer zone case the Supreme Court heard in 2014.
McCullen and free speech won that day. Love too. I was there for the pleadings. After he finished, McCullen stood lovingly on the steps of the Court and implored Americans to be better with women and children.
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McCullen is an authentic witness and grandmother of hope and hospitality. Her home has been the scene of many baby showers over the years. She and her husband had many babies named after them. During her brief testimony to the Senate, she explained that at the clinic, she offers approaching women a listening ear and companionship on life’s journey: “I will be by your side throughout the nine months and beyond. I will hold your hand.
“I stay with mothers and their families for as long as they need my help,” she said, calling it “an incredible privilege” to help women with everything they need – care medical to financial support. She said her home is a treasure trove of “baby clothes and cribs.”
During her Senate confirmation hearings, Judge Jackson may have chosen not to define what a woman is or when human life begins, but McCullen points out the truth about what women are capable of. A woman has the tremendous ability to bring the world to life. McCullen is a breath of fresh air, devoting much of her life to enabling women who are already mothers to embrace often unexpected joy.
Our culture pushes women to have abortions if they want to succeed in life and at work. But what is professional success without love?
McCullen told the Senate, “So many women I’ve met believe their only choice is to end their baby’s life. It is in this moment of isolation and fear that I am privileged to offer a different choice: a choice that empowers and encourages the woman to know that she is fully capable of becoming a mother and pursuing a work, to go to school and to have a successful and happy life. … It’s a highlight when a woman looks at me and our eyes meet and she stops to talk. That’s when I promise her that she will never make her trip alone.
In January 2014, on the steps of the Supreme Court, she told reporters: “The unborn child is the most helpless, the most marginalized, the most fragile. … (Today the womb is the most dangerous place for a child to be.” She said that sometimes a woman looks for a sign that she has an alternative to abortion and that being at the exterior of the clinic with its sign of hope is all a woman needs.
In what became an impromptu rally for love that day, McCullen said, “Americans love people. … What about all those hurricanes and disasters? The Philippines and Katrina? What have our American people done? They got on planes, trains and buses and they built houses for people. We are a caring country, but unfortunately the saddest thing is that we take the lives of our young people in the womb of their mothers. But we are a genuine society, we are a loving society. We help people, and that’s all I’m trying to do: help someone (who is) desperate and abandoned.
All indications suggest that if confirmed, Judge Jackson would be a reliable vote for the abortion industry. But McCullen is praying for something else. It’s the best in the United States, and I’m glad the Senate heard about it. She challenges us all to be better.
Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor of National Review magazine, and author of the new book “A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living.” She is also the president of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. Contact her at [email protected]