Birthright is an international service agency, which offers an alternative of abortion to distressed pregnant women.

Louise Summerhill, founder and director of Birthright, which has just celebrated its fifteenth anniversary, chose the following story to symbolize the caring that characterizes those who work with Birthright. The author is a Birthright volunteer in the United States. She wishes to remain anonymous.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was just finishing the last of my errands before driving home to spend Christmas with my mother, the last we would spend together, I knew. For nearly a year she had been unresponsive, the cruel effects of a massive stroke, and we had known for some time now that her condition was deteriorating.

It would be a long journey, that six hours drive south. The time and solitude, always a welcomed occasion for reflection, would tonight stretch into endless hours of painful anticipation. I tried not to let my thoughts race too far ahead, but rather to attend to the pleasant tasks I had yet to do.

There was a promise of a white Christmas in the gentle snow that had begun to fall, sure to delight the hearts of children in the morning. But the delight of it somehow escapes me, now that I have seen the suffering of the Appalachian poor, exacerbated often by the violence of the elements.

We may appreciate a white Christmas if we can enjoy it through a picture window, all warm and cozy inside. But I have seen those who chink the cracks in the walls, around the doors and windows, to keep the snow and the bitter winds on the outside.

And what is pleasure for some, bundled snugly in their snowsuits, on their sleds and skis, is too often pain for others.

I have seen children in their threadbare hand-me-downs, shivering, even inside, and daring to venture out only to the coal shed and the outhouse.

It was one such little house that I visited on Christmas Eve, with presents for a very special new arrival.

As I held her in my arms for the first time that evening, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the significance of this day, and of this precious gift I now held.

Just a few months earlier, this mother had come to us, begging for some help to save the life of her unborn child. Frightened and bewildered she had not resisted when the abortion decision – and the appointment – had been made for her.

Her pregnancy was to have been terminated the following morning. It was all right, they had told her, since the baby wasn’t really alive anyway, and wouldn’t be until the fourth month, at which time the heart begins to beat.

Our simple statement of the correct medical facts assured her that the baby in her womb was indeed alive. The appointment was cancelled, and she began to look forward to the birth of her fourth child.

The possibility, even the probability of giving birth to a blind child could not justify the decision to terminate its life.

There was real Christmas joy that night in the little home that boasted little more luxury than the one in Bethlehem. And there was no room in any heart there for sorrow that this little one would never enjoy the physical world around her.

She was alive and healthy, loved and loving, a beautiful little girl. A person who would never be so blind as those whose lack of vision would have condemned her to death for her imperfection.

As I drove later, I could not separate my thoughts of my dying mother from my thoughts of this new life which might never had been, had it not been for the inspiration of my mother’s life which, to me exemplified selflessness and love of giving, respect for life, and zest for living.

I thought of all the years my mother had given to just such children, always the deprived, the afflicted, the troubled – all those who came to avail themselves of her untiring efforts to see that they had the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest, in spite of their imperfections.

Her work was done now, and she had done it well, for as surely as she had given me life, she had also given the spirit of life which would live on, in me, in my work in Birthright and beyond into whatever lives I might touch as she had touched mine and countless others in the fullness of her years.

I would sit besides her now and hold her hand, and though I would never really know if she would hear and understand, I would tell her about this new baby, and of all the others with whom we in Birthright hoped to share the gift of life.

I would not grieve so much for the life now slowly ebbing away, but rather rejoice in the celebration of new life just beginning.