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Unborn Baby Finally Laid to Rest

ve8QAd   |   January 01, 2003

Sublette, Kansas, is a sleepy little town in the Southwest corner of the state that boasts only 1,500 people. This slice of small-town America is where people know their neighbors and mailmen—a bastion of down-to-earth, pro-life people, right? Well, not everyone is pro-life.

In 1994, Sharon and Vaughn Lower acquired a plot in the Haskell County Cemetery. The land was purchased with their own personal funds. They and others held a Mexican food sale to raise money for a beautiful headstone that read “In Loving Memory Of All Unborn Babies.” Also carved into the granite stone is Isaiah 49:15-16, ““I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.”” The Lowers never intended to bury human remains there, but instead wanted to provide a place for women and men who have lost a child to abortion or miscarriage to pray and find solace and comfort. Making a political statement on abortion, they said, was not in the equation.

The County Cemetery Board quickly stepped in and demanded that the memorial be removed. When the Lowers refused, the cemetery board sued, citing a state law that they said required the burial of human remains, as well as the name of the person buried, if a stone is to be erected in the cemetery.

The state law in question could easily be interpreted to allow for the display of the Lower’s memorial. It states that the cemetery cannot be used for “any purpose other than for burial or other intended cemetery purposes.” A memorial to veterans, for example, may follow the “other intended cemetery purposes” exception.

Why was the reaction of the cemetery board so heavy-handed? The answer may lie with the board chairman, Dana Leonard, who, in a deposition, revealed a steadfast opinion that the Lowers were only trying to make a “political statement on abortion.” The general feeling, according to Jack Shultz, the Lower’s’ attorney, was that Mr. Leonard’s aggressive position carried the day and that the other board members were followers and not doers.

It’’s interesting to note that while the board was so intent on making sure that human remains were buried next to the Lower’s’ stone, the same cemetery contains a headstone with a woman’’s name that is actually buried in Dodge City, Kansas. Further, a dog—yes, the animal species—called Josie King, is also buried in the cemetery.

As the lawsuit ultimately made its way to the State Supreme Court, the memorial was the subject of vandalism. On one occasion, horse manure was dumped on the stone. Flowers left at the memorial have been pulled up and scattered. The most disturbing incident was damage, created by gunshot, to the stone.

On October 25, 2002, the Court concluded that the stone violated state law and ordered it removed. A November 1 Associated Press article, reporting this latest development, crossed my desk three days after it was written. It was clear that unless they buried human remains at this memorial within the next couple of days, they would be forced to remove the stone, and local grieving parents would have no place to find comfort.

My thoughts immediately turned to the 12-week-old unborn baby boy that was stored in a cabinet in my office. Approximately eight years ago I came across this beautifully developed child, preserved in a glass vial, tucked away in a box. Not knowing his origin or what to do with the body, I placed him out of sight so that he would not be on display, trusting that the Lord would direct when the time came. Reading the news article regarding Sublette, I knew that time had come.

I telephoned Sharon Lower and offered to ship the baby’’s body to her for internment in the cemetery. This would provide a dignified burial for the body left in our safekeeping, as well as make it possible to maintain this moving memorial to unborn babies. Sharon later phoned back, saying they would be honored to inter the baby in Sublette.

Memorial

The baby’’s body was shipped and a graveside service was set for Saturday, November 23. We requested that no pictures be taken of the body and that the service be dignified.

The funeral service was very fitting for one of God’’s smallest human creations. The baby was given the name Isaiah, matching the scripture engraved on the stone. A local funeral home donated a tiny casket, and a volunteer sewed a blanket with blue satin trim for Isaiah to be wrapped in. A moving poem was written and read at the service. Those attending brought red roses and other mementoes to place on the casket.

Mr. Leonard’’s attempt to silence the message of pain after abortion has backfired. This development in the sleepy little town of Sublette, Kansas received the attention of several newspaper editors, including USA Today.

The Lowers and many others in the pro-life movement know the healing effect a memorial of this type has on the mothers and fathers of aborted babies. Thousands of memorials to unborn babies, most without human remains, dot the landscape of our nation, many of them in cemeteries.

"He Loves Them Both" statueLife Issues Institute has such a memorial in the entry of our international headquarters. It’s a life-sized bronze depicting Christ and a woman who’’s had an abortion. The aborted baby is nestled in Christ’’s arm as He extends His forgiveness to the woman. A few steps away is a chapel that offers additional healing through prayer and meditation. In addition, our office is used for a women’’s post-abortion healing group after office hours. We understand that with every abortion there is one dead and several wounded.

Mr. Dana Leonard and others need to understand that pro-lifers offer hope and healing to hurting parents, a noble gesture that should be revered, not attacked using the court system as a bully club.

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