events in Oakland
Lacey Buchanan tells the Oakland rally about her son, Christian. Rev. Walter Hoye, the Issues4Life leader, is at left.
MICHELE JURICH/The CATHOLIC VOICE
Mothers were at the heart of the Issues4Life events in Oakland on Jan. 25, as mothers of disabled children, and a mother who was sterilized against her will after she gave birth at age 14, told their stories.
The day also belonged to Christi Hockel Davenport, a young woman who was born with Down syndrome and has gone on to live a life filled with love, work and marriage.
Rev. Walter Hoye's Issues4Life Foundation sponsored the day's events, which began with a 10 a.m. rally near Oakland City Hall. About 100 people sat on the steps in Frank Ogawa Plaza as the speakers stood right in front of them, because Rev. Hoye's permit for amplified sound had been denied.
But that didn't stop Rev. Hoye's sixth-annual rally and walk. "This is the pro-life presence in the city of Oakland," he said.
Three of the speakers were scheduled to address the much-larger Walk for Life West Coast the following day in San Francisco.
Lacey Buchanan came from Tennessee with her husband Chris and their almost-2-year-old son, Christian. She also pointed to her round middle and introduced Chandler. "He's got another three months," she said.
Buchanan told the crowd of the months before Christian's birth. "We went for the most exciting ultrasound — the one where they tell you if it's a boy or a girl," she said
"We decided to name him Christian."
Then came a call from the doctor. Was there a family history of cleft lip or palate?
Additional ultrasound showed Christian had both. "We were devastated at the thought of our child having a birth defect," she said.
"Every week the news got worse," she said. Doctors told the couple, "We don't know if your son is going to live."
On Feb. 18, 2011, Christian was born in a planned Caesarean section with a team of assists surrounding him, a plastic surgeon standing by to cut an airway if he needed one.
"We were holding our breath, hoping he takes his," Buchanan said.
Christian let out "the sweetest scream I've ever heard," she said.
But being born alive was just part of Christian's battle. His eyes had not developed.
"We were told he's blind," she said.
After subsequent surgery, the Buchanans went home with their son, "the prettiest thing I'd ever laid eyes on," she said.
Then came the stares, and the what's-wrong-with-your-baby questions. In response to the question, "How dare you not abort that child? Look how miserable he is," Buchanan made a video.
She set out to tell people, "I love him. He's my child. He's a gift."
The video has been viewed 11 million times on YouTube.
"We cannot fathom how blessed we are," Buchanan said. "God found us worthy enough to take care of such a special child."
Elaine Riddick was accompanied by her son at the rally. Raped at age 13, she gave birth to her son Tony when she was 14. A social worker coerced her grandmother into signing permission for her sterilization under the threat that the family's food supplement would go away if she did not.
"The eugenics board was trying to kill off a race of people," she said, "kill them off through genocide."
Rev. Clenard Childress of New Jersey noted it has been 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision. "With God after 40, there's always a shift," he said, citing Noah's days on the water, and Moses' time in the desert.
"God always does his best in a contrary administration," he said. "After 40, there is going to be a new day in this country.
"You don't need a pro-life president to have a pro-life country," he said. "Conscience is not legislated."
After the walk through the streets of downtown Oakland, the Issues4Life gathering moved to the parish hall at St. Margaret Mary Church for a luncheon co-sponsored by the Oakland parish's Gabriel Project.
Issues4Life presented its Champions4Life Award to Father Peter Irving, pastor of Holy Innocents Church in Long Beach. The parish, which has an abortion center in its boundaries, has become active in pro-life work and, over the last four years, has saved 550 babies.
"It goes to show it doesn't take a lot," he said of his parish, which he described as being in the barrio of Long Beach. "We don't have a budget."
But what he does have, he said, are committed parishioners who despite their own hardships, reach out to help others.
Stephanie Spidell, a Sacramento mother of six, told the gathering of 100 that she had considered an abortion with her last pregnancy. A man named Peter praying in front of the abortion clinic helped her decide to continue the pregnancy.
An ultrasound a few months later showed the baby, a girl, had conditions that would be incompatible with life. Doctors suggested strongly that she end the pregnancy.
But Spidell was undeterred. "I gave her a name," she said. "She was still kicking."
Those doctors declined to deliver the baby, she said, and Spidell found another. Khya was born April 12, 2011.
"God is so good," Spidell said. "She has never been hospitalized. We do all her care ourselves. She has inspired us in so many ways."
"I just want everybody to know," she said. "We give unconditional love. Sometimes we are put in the position to prove it."
Judie Hockel introduced her "exceptional" daughter, Christi Hockel Davenport. The youngest of six children, Christy has Down's syndrome. "When people say they are pro-life except …" Judy Hockel said, "those people don't know what they're missing."
She said that 93 percent of women who get a prenatal diagnosis of Down's syndrome have an abortion. "We're facing the elimination of people like Christi."
In a talk laced with humor and wry observations, Christi Hockel Davenport told of her life, which has included, so far, a high school diploma, college courses, work as a courtesy clerk at Safeway, volunteering at a hospital, being a loving aunt and marriage to the love of her life.
"Austin and I live in our own duplex with support from his parents," she said.
"People who have Down's syndrome can learn and we keep learning things," she said.
She volunteers at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Dallas, where she helps with science, computers, yard duty and Spanish. "Si, yo hablo español," she said.
"Just because I have Down's syndrome doesn't mean I can't have a great life," she said. "I love my husband. God has truly blessed me. I love my life," she said.
The roomful of people stood and applauded.
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