By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
While walking through a Walmart parking lot several years ago, Sadie Woodley came across a car with a pro-life sun shield in the window. As a pro-abortion advocate, “I was filled with rage,” she said.
For much of her adult life, Woodley saw pro-life advocates as the enemy, a threat to women’s autonomy and freedom. She said she grew up in a pro-choice home that viewed having children as negative if it adversely affected a woman’s career. “Women need abortion to be equal to men,” she believed. “I really thought I was doing the right thing” by promoting access to it.
A series of life events, combined with God’s grace through Mary’s intercession, changed Woodley’s attitude toward abortion, she said. The 41-year-old mother of four attended her first 40 Days for Life planning meeting earlier this year. She shared her conversion story at the campaign’s kickoff dinner Sept. 23 at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City.
40 Days for Life is an internationally coordinated campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful vigil in front of abortion businesses. This year’s campaign began Sept. 27.
In Iowa, where abortion remains legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, praying for mothers and their unborn children is of utmost importance, said local campaign coordinator Gary Sieren. He also said it is important to pray for all people affected by abortion, including abortion clinic workers and people who are passionately pro-choice. Participants can sign up online to take a shift praying outside Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, which provides abortions. “We need all the people we can get out there… praying peacefully for the conversion of hearts,” Sieren told guests at the kickoff dinner.
Woodley said her conversion process began after realizing that her own choices and values seemed to conflict with her worldview. Though she grew up believing that children were a barrier to a career and earning potential, she became pregnant in her early 20s and chose to parent the child. Later, after marrying and welcoming more children, she put her law career on hold to stay home with them. Her family of origin thought she was throwing away her potential.
Woodley said she began feeling nauseous after participating in pro-choice protests. She thought the messaging was harsh and dehumanizing and she raised her concerns at a meeting with other abortion advocates. “I asked about walking back some of the more harsh language,” she recalled. “That didn’t go well.”
Her belief in God changed, too. Although she grew up with limited exposure to the Catholic Church, she “saw Mary” while crying on the bathroom floor one day. She thought she was having a breakdown, but the experience drew her to the Church. Woodley and her children received the sacraments of initiation at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City last year. She is pregnant with her fifth child, due next Mother’s Day.
These conversion experiences helped her to realize that pro-life supporters were “never my enemies.” She formally joined their cause earlier this year at a 40 Days for Life planning meeting.
It’s easy to think in terms of opposing sides, Father John Lamansky, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish, told guests at the kickoff dinner. “It can really cement you in that dichotomy when you’re praying in front of an abortion facility and someone on the other side is screaming in your face,” he said. However, it is better to view pro-abortion advocates as “future friends” and not foes. “They belong right alongside us, they just have not taken up their position yet against Satan, who is the enemy of us all.” Father Lamansky asked kickoff participants to pray that “another Sadie” will experience a change of heart during this year’s 40 Days for Life campaign.
How to get involved:
Sign up to pray in front of Emma Goldman Clinic at https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/iowacity. Find at-home prayer resources at www.40daysforlife.com.
Participate in Sidewalk Advocates for Life training Oct. 14 from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City. RSVP by Oct. 11 at jcrtl.org.
Attend a pro-life storytime for families in the Iowa Public Library Oct. 15 from 2-3 p.m. in Room A.