ABQ Catholic Magazine

On my walk this morning, my usual path was unexpectedly cut off. A giant tree lay before me, its shallow roots exposed. Last night’s storm still lingered on the dewy grass and in the cool air, and I wondered how the tree could be so far from the grove. It looked so out of place all by itself. “How did it even get here?” I wondered, turning around to go back home.

Later, a memory from yesterday–before the storm–surfaced in my mind. She’s sitting across from me, her head and shoulders hanging forward a little, burdened by the weight of her fears and anxieties. With a quiet voice she tells me how she doesn’t want to be a mother, that she’d rather lose her soul for eternity than give life here on earth. We both sit silently, absorbing the gravity of her feelings. Through her tears she says, “I am not ready to be vulnerable, which motherhood will require.” 

She had come into La Luz Women’s Center, one of the ministries operating under the umbrella of Project Defending Life. At La Luz, our services include pregnancy testing, limited obstetric ultrasound, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and supportive services like our new home visiting program. A majority of the women we serve are at risk for abortion, meaning that abortion is an option for them, abortion is their only option, or there are external factors that could easily cause them to choose abortion.

Much like this morning’s tree, the young woman was vulnerable and all alone.

Today, although it’s sunny and clear outside, when I walk into La Luz Women’s Center all I can see is the storm that has been raging across the United States. Even after the overturning of Roe v Wade, abortion numbers are up. In New Mexico, abortions have increased 370%, from 4,470 to 21,000 per year between 2019 and 2022. And to make matters worse, women have fewer life-affirming options to choose from. Last year, for the first time ever, there were more abortion facilities than birthing centers in New Mexico–25 abortion facilities and 18 birthing centers. Women in our state’s rural towns are having to travel two to three hours for prenatal care and to deliver their babies.

How can we help these women withstand the storm? 

I look up the tree from my walk this morning and discover that it was a redwood, an iconic, beautiful tree and one of the tallest in the world. Unlike other trees whose roots grow as deep as the trees are tall, redwoods have shallow root systems. They are able to stand tall and strong by weaving their roots with other redwoods. Only in this way, in communion with other trees, can redwoods stay grounded, while alone they can easily succumb to the elements. 

That’s when I understand how we can help women withstand the storm. Motherhood is like the redwoods. We can only stand tall and strong, exposing beauty to this world, when we trust our roots to others and wrap ourselves around them. In this way, we both give and receive life. This is communion, and this is our reflection of God’s divine nature of love and vulnerability.

Younger generations of women today experience unique challenges. They are less likely to trust and think most people are selfish and exploitative. Additionally, they have fewer support systems than previous generations. Grandparents need to work, and young women need quality childcare that is often unaffordable and difficult to access. These challenges alone make the idea of motherhood lonely and difficult for them. 

For these reasons and many more, the majority of the women who walk into La Luz Women’s Center feel like their only real option is abortion. And yet, by the end of their first appointment, most of them have decided to make a life choice! We provide a safe place for a vulnerable woman to think and feel. We give her time to pause, helping to calm the storm of fear and anxiety. We discuss all of her options–parenting, adoption, and abortion (while never recommending or referring for abortion) And, most importantly, we show her the baby within her on the center’s ultrasound machine, and she hears the tiny but strong heartbeat flutter. In our short hour with her, our gentleness and guidance build trust.

And it doesn’t end there. Our home visiting program accompanies her throughout pregnancy and until her child is five years old. During this time, we connect her to support and resources, educate her in healthy parent-child relationships, and ensure her child is reaching important growth milestones. 

Despite the storm, at La Luz Women’s Center we work to transform women’s fear and insecurities into the confidence to make a choice for life through holistic care and faith-filled empowerment. Like a redwood grove, we connect vulnerable women to their unborn children and motherhood through strong, intertwining roots: the support and protection they need.