WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Veronica Isinger opens a welcoming door to the Back Porch 11th hour ministry.
When Veronica Isinger is not talking with women who plan to have abortions, she is praying for them.
"Praying is always good," says Isinger, a volunteer at the Back Porch, located across the street from Edmonton's abortion clinic.
"You are motivated to pray when you see so many women coming out of the clinic. I find it much easier to pray there than at home.
"Even though I can't see what my efforts are doing, I just need faith that it's making a difference. Every now and then there will be these little encouragements telling me this is the right thing to do."
Isinger, 48, had been involved in pro-life events and participated in prayer vigils outside of the Morgentaler clinic, so when the Back Porch opened about five years ago, she was eager to help.
The Back Porch is an 11th hour ministry to women and men reconsidering their decision to have an abortion. More than 5,000 abortions are performed across the street each year at Women's Health Options, formerly known as the Morgentaler Clinic.
The Back Porch recently had three volunteers say goodbye, and is now seeking new ones. They want people who can spare at least a couple hours every week or every other week trying to help women make life-affirming choices.
"Sometimes I find it difficult," said Isinger.
"You see a lot of women going in and out (of the abortion clinic) and you can often tell when they've had an abortion because they look pale and can't walk too quickly. You feel sad because you see the trauma."
As a Back Porch volunteer, Isinger speaks with the women about their options. She provides information about abortion, pamphlets on adoption and parenting, and offers referral brochures appropriate for their situation.
Isinger encounters people from all over Alberta from different backgrounds and situations. Recently a man of East Indian descent entered the Back Porch. He was waiting for his wife. The couple has two children together, and she was five weeks pregnant.
"I pulled out the fetal model, the one that physically deals with five weeks, and read it aloud to him," she said. "His jaw just dropped because already the baby has a heart, and the baby is more than a blob of tissue. The man was visibly shaken."
During their conversation, his wife was undergoing an abortion at the clinic across the street. The couple had followed their family physician's advice to abort.
"Lots of women have come in over the years and you have a small window of opportunity to try and change their minds. Many times they think they're coming into the clinic and come into the Back Porch by mistake," said Isinger.
She had an encouraging visit recently. A young pregnant woman did not want to have an abortion until she gathered as much information as possible. Isinger spoke with her for about 25 minutes, mostly on the potential risks of having an abortion, such as post-abortion syndrome and her increased chances of breast cancer.
Dale Lunty has been volunteering at the Back Porch for about two and a half years.
When his wife was pregnant with their fourth son, they went to the medical clinic. They took along their youngest son who has Down's Syndrome. The doctor asked if they would consider having an abortion, given the possibility that their next child might also have Down's Syndrome.
"I was really quite shocked. I didn't realize that the death mentality had become so embedded in the medical community. The first thing I did was get in touch with Edmonton Pro-Life," said Lunty.
Volunteering at the Back Porch is his way of making a tangible difference. He is convinced that this "last-minute ministry" is where God wants him to be.
"It does get discouraging at times. We look across the street at the clinic, and see women going in and coming out a few hours later carrying a yellow envelope with the post-abortive instructions," said Lunty.
"It's easy to look at our failures, but on the other hand, we need to remember that God has not necessarily called us to be successful. He has called us to be faithful."
He sees hope in incidents such as his referral of two First Nations girls, both 15, to the Stepping Stones program, an Edmonton-based organization that assists pregnant and parenting teens. The first gave up her baby for adoption.
"The second girl came in with her mother. The girl was pregnant, and had been under a lot of pressure from people on the reserve to have an abortion. Inside, she really didn't want to.
"I talked with them and I prayed with them, and eventually the mother said she didn't have to do this (abortion) and that she would look after the baby until she was ready to," said Lunty.
Some people who come to the Back Porch are argumentative or have their minds made up to have an abortion. With the volunteers' experience, training and information readily available, their arguments are countered effectively.
"It's easy to argue with pro-abortion people because all of the facts are on our side," said Lunty. "The fact is even in the embryonic stage - and you can find this in any university-level textbook on embryology - as soon as the sperm and the egg come together you have an actual human being, not a potential human being. To kill that human being is nothing less than murder."
Training sessions for new volunteers will be held March 18 and 19. To receive an application form, contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.