The Dignified Life of Magdalene Rose: A Pro-Life Story? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

As I enter this world, I know that I am so very blessed. My life will be one of worth.  As hard as people fought to see me take my first breath, they will fight for my life to be one of dignity and worth.  I am protected in a world that is pro-life – or so I thought.

My mother was raped, but the law did not recognize this violent act as rape because she became pregnant with me.  The law only recognizes legitimate rape as one that does not result in pregnancy.  I entered the world amidst controversy.  I was named Magdalene Rose. Magdalene because of the shroud of controversy that surrounded her – the false accusations of prostitution, the stigma that history assigned to her, and the hope of those who have tried to reclaim her as the first witness to the resurrection, a faithful disciple, and devoted minister.  Rose was chosen for the flower that can bloom even in the face of adversity; one that can push through the snow to reach the sun and spread its petals.

My mother is a single mom  She does the best she can – trying to keep us clothed and fed.  She works so much and I stay many nights with my grandmother or a neighbor.  She seems so tired, so worried, but yet always has a smile to share with me.  I am her blessing, a miracle born out of darkness.

We go to church every Sunday, but strangely, no one will sit by us.  We have to sit in the back.  I wonder why.  Certainly our clothes are a little worn – we rely on hand-me-downs and the thrift shop.  My mother dresses me in the finest dresses she can find, I feel so special. In God’s house, we are shunned.  People refuse to shake our hand even during the sign of peace.  This is the place where we should be welcomed.  This is where they proclaim the Gospel and teachings of Jesus.  Yet, the only sign of Jesus that seems to exist in this community is symbolized on the cross.

My birth father came back.  He was never arrested because his attack on my mother was not considered a rape.  He found her at work and waited for her to leave.  He attacked her and she fought back.  In the struggle, she shot him with his gun.  She was arrested and put in jail.  I am not sure how this happened because she was the victim – yet again.  Where is her protection?  How could this happen again? The first time she was attacked and raped, she was subjected to tests, interviews, and criticism.  This time my mother was able to fight back, but when she protected herself, her body, and her family, she was arrested.  She sits in jail awaiting trial.  I have to stay with my grandmother until they let her come home again.  I am scared but we live in a pro-life society that protects the life and dignity of the human being – every life is precious, so I know no matter what, my mom will be fine.

My mother’s trial did not go well.  I had no idea that she would not only be convicted, but also sentenced to death.  How can this happen in a society that is pro-life?  I feel orphaned and so alone.  Now I must permanently live with my grandmother with the hope that my mother can win on an appeal. I love my mom and she is my world.  Where are the people that fought for my right to be born?  Why don’t they fight to save her life?  Is this how we define a pro-life world?

My grandmother’s neighborhood is so noisy, especially at night.  I hear cracks and pops.  My mattress is on the floor away from the window.  My grandmother said it is for my protection.  It is always so cold and dark – we cannot afford to pay for heat or electric. My grandmother’s prescriptions cost more then the rent and she already stopped taking everything but her heart medicine.  She said if she stopped taking that, she could afford more food and maybe a new coat for me, but I don’t want that.  Sometimes the baker will give us day old bread that he is going to throw out.  His kindness keeps my tummy quiet but I still worry about my grandmother.  I know she worries.  She is so unselfish.  I know she sacrifices so much for me.  Yet I feel invisible to the outside world; as if I am not even here.  Where are those who fought for me to become visible?

When my grandmother went into a nursing home, it was a sad day.  The only home we could find was a Medicaid home that put two elderly patients in the same room.  I walk through the halls – this place is scary.  It smells and is so dark.  Elderly people line the halls, some even yell for help.  Others are in bed and seem to stay there all day. I fear for her.  I make it a point to visit often but she has become one of those patients who sleeps all day.  She is always laying in soiled diapers to the point she has sores.  The nurses do the best they can – they are understaffed.  Government funding continues to get cut and the nursing home tries to adjust.   My grandmother has sacrificed and worked all her life, but relies on social security and Medicare in her old age.  She has no pension and no money.  I fear her life will be cut short because of her inability to afford proper care.  Where is the help that she and so many elderly need? All I want is for my grandmother to be treated in a dignified matter in her last days – is that too much to ask?  I cannot even get her priest, the priest from the parish she attended all her life, to visit her or do a communion call – the nursing home is out of his territory.  She does not receive the pastoral care she needs – she is forgotten as am I.  Is this how we live the social gospel? Is this what Jesus would have done? Isn’t being pro-life valuing the dignity of the human being no matter stage in life they are in?

I am alone. I have no money. I have nothing. Despite all of my efforts to try to find work, I cannot. I am not sure what to do.  I apply for public assistance and shop with food stamps; the stares are terrible.  I want to scream – I AM NOT LAZY!  I AM TRYING!  But would it matter?  Would anyone care?  I think not. I go to church, but the whispers and stares continue.  There is no community, there is only me and the cross. I am so alone.

I can no longer pay the rent and I am forced live on the streets.  It is so cold and I am scared.  The Bible tells us to feed the hungry, help the poor – but that message is ignored.  People think that I want a hand out – I don’t.  People think that I want to take money – I don’t.  I just want a chance; a chance to turn my life around. People look past me as if I am not here.  I am invisible.

My life has been a series of unfortunate events and where I needed help, a door was closed.  My life is dignified and has worth – I know that thanks to a loving family who sacrificed so much for me.  I continue to wonder, in a world that advocates pro-life and dignity of a human-being, in a church that purports to live out the gospel of Jesus, why am I ignored? Why am I invisible? Why am I shunned? Why am I not welcomed? Do we fight for the rights of babies to be born and then stop?  Or do we fight for the rights of every human to have a dignified life from womb to tomb?

Michele Stopera Freyhauf is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.   She has a Master of Arts Degree from John Carroll University in Theology and Religious Studies, performed post-graduate work in History focusing on Gender, Religion, and Sexuality at the University of Akron, and is an Adjunct Instructor in the Religious Studies Department at Ursuline College.  Her full bio is on the main contributor’s page or at  Michele can be followed on twitter at @MSFreyhauf.

Categories: Activism, Aging, Bible, Catholic Church, Childbirth, Christianity, Community, Contraception, Ethics, Family, Fiction, General, Human Rights, Justice, Rape, Social Justice, Women and Community, Women's Rights, Women's Suffering

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6 replies

  1. Powerful Michele. And unfortunately oh so true. Praying it helps get out the vote.Peace.


  2. Brava! Very powerful. And Orwellian. All those crazy pro-life, anti-woman ideologues should consider the contradictory consequences of their insane beliefs and face the human being whose sad and almost real–but for a few votes next Tuesday–story you tell.


  3. This (fictional?) story is why I try to avoid using the term, “pro life,” when referring to people who want to criminalize abortion in most or all circumstances. I prefer the term, “pro unborn.”


    • It really has puzzled me as to why the pro unborn are so unconcerned about life outside the womb. I guess only babies are innocent but anything else you encounter in life, good or bad, you deserve?


  4. Wow. I wish I had the guts to read this out loud to my class on Friday night!


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