By Kathy Adams
© March 23, 2010
If you've driven down Newtown Road in the past month, you've probably seen Diana DeBoe, Frances Bouton or Jim Kerr.
Since Feb. 17, the trio has dedicated about 200 hours to marching and praying on a strip of sidewalk bordering a construction site that they believe will be home to a Planned Parenthood abortion facility.
Erin Zabel, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia, has not confirmed that the project is a new clinic.
Still, the group shares a common goal, along with dozens of others who have volunteered their time: Stop the clinic from opening.
The paths that led them to 515 Newtown Road are quite different.
For Virginia Beach's DeBoe, the journey began in the summer of 1979 when she decided to have an abortion while working as an actress in New York City. For Suffolk's Bouton, it started a decade ago when she got involved in her church's anti-abortion efforts. And for Portsmouth's Kerr, it started before he was born, when his parents decided to put him up for adoption.
On Wednesday, DeBoe waved to drivers while wearing sunglasses, a green track suit and a sparkling scarf. The campaign, part of a national effort called 40 Days For Life, is just a small part of her anti-abortion work. She spends about 100 hours every month for the cause, mentoring single, young mothers, campaigning for political candidates, lobbying and volunteering for crisis pregnancy centers.
For her, the movement is about love.
"It's not a matter of judging another person," she said. "It's just a matter of saying, 'So this happened, so now what can we, the community, I, your new friend, do?' "
She helps counsel young women considering abortion. If they choose to keep the baby, she helps them create a budget, get to their doctor's appointments and shop for discount baby items.
DeBoe, a 62-year-old mother of one adult son, stopped working as an assistant to an author in December, which provides more time for her volunteer work.
"You always have time for what matters," she said.
DeBoe said she hopes to save other young women from feeling the regret she's lived with ever since her abortion 30 years ago.
"I'm not out here because I have guilt," she said. But "if I could alter one choice in my life, that would be it."
Bouton chatted with passers-by and held a sign denouncing abortion Thursday afternoon. She's been there almost every day except Sundays, even in the rain and snow.
The 56-year-old mother of one adult daughter said she's compelled by her faith rather than any personal experience.
"It's killing babies, and although it's legal, it's a moral wrong," she said. "It violates the Ten Commandments."
She joined her church's Respect Life Committee around 2000 and also takes part in anti-abortion marches and prayer vigils outside abortion clinics. Her husband works as a teacher, and she focuses on volunteer work.
"He's extremely supportive, particularly during this 40 days because it does require a lot of my time," she said.
Kerr, a smartly dressed man with a white beard, sports coat and tennis shoes, passed around a petition Friday. He's also marched every day except Sundays.
For the 61-year-old retiree, his passion for the anti-abortion movement is rooted in his birth. His parents decided to put him up for adoption when he was born in 1948. After about a year in a Baltimore orphanage, a family took him home.
Now, he educates women on adoption as an alternative to abortion. Since his retirement in 2006, he's been able to dedicate about 15 hours a month to praying at abortion clinics and volunteering and fundraising for crisis pregnancy centers.
"I'm living proof of what can happen to someone when their parents make a choice for life," he said.
For the most part, their hours spent marching and praying have evoked positive responses from the community, Bouton said.
"Every 20 honks we get the finger salute," she said.
The 40 Days for Life campaign continues through Sunday. After that, DeBoe, Bouton and Kerr said they plan to continue trying to shutter the clinic before it opens, including through a petition to the City Council.
I wonder what they have to say about those children who are put up for adoption, don't get adopted and are kicked out onto the street at age 18?