Looking for the fine line between religion and human psychology?
Try the narrow sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood of Northern New England on Congress Street in downtown Portland.
“It’s a battle going out there,” said Donna Hebert, one of two co-founders of the weekly anti-abortion demonstrations that this week echoed all the way down to City Hall. “Every week we’re out there, it grieves my heart greatly.”
“It doesn’t have to do with me,” insisted Leslie Sneddon, the other co-founder. “It has everything to do with the Lord.”
Ah, but it does have to do with them.
Each woman, many years ago, had not one, not two, not three … but four abortions.
Each now considers herself a repentant murderer.
And while each could have benefitted greatly from a few hours on a grief therapist’s couch at some point in her life, Hebert and Sneddon instead use their piece of sidewalk to tell other women — loudly enough that the City Council began deliberations this week on whether to protect Planned Parenthood with a buffer zone — how they should be living their lives.
“A Christian does not need therapy,” said Hebert, 45, in a telephone interview from her home in Waterboro. “A Christian has the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of Peace. His name is Jesus Christ. It’s written in the Book of Isaiah.”
Echoed Sneddon, 52, from her home in Richmond: “We’re just making a diagnosis. And when I do have the opportunity to speak to a woman, I give her the law: If you die tonight with the sin of murdering your child on you, what does it say in the Bible? There will be no murderers, liars, fornicators, drunkards – you will go to the lake of fire.”
Goodbye professional help. Hello biblical metaphor.
Hebert, who is half-Okinawan, said she was a 15-year-old model and TV actress in Tokyo when she first got pregnant.
“I was forced to have an abortion by my mother, my boyfriend and my boyfriend’s family,” she said. “I was devastated. It traumatized me. I did not want to do it. I wanted to have the baby. It was a very hard, hard time for me.”
It soon got worse.
“The second (abortion) happened one month after the first,” Hebert said. “They put an IUD in me and it did not work.”
Her third abortion came when she was 17. The fourth followed at 19. That’s when Hebert went home to Okinawa and one day met a woman who presented her with the “true gospel.”
“I was a sinner and I needed a savior,” she said. “I had broken God’s law. I was guilty of lying and stealing and murdering. And I definitely was a murderer – I murdered my children.”
Sneddon, who grew up in Colorado and “tried a little bit of everything” for birth control, first got pregnant when she was 19 and living on her own in Hawaii. She mistakenly went to a pro-life counseling center thinking it was an abortion clinic – she remembers fleeing what she then called “propaganda” and getting the abortion at a nearby hospital.
Sneddon’s second abortion was done in Aspen, Colo. Her third and fourth came a year apart in her mid-20s, at a clinic in Florida.
She remembers how mortified she was to enter the Florida clinic for the second time and see the same doctor waiting, once again, to do the procedure.
“I hope I never see you again,” Sneddon told him.
“I hope you never come back here again either,” he replied.
A compassionate moment between a woman and her physician?
“You know what? That’s a big lie from the pit of hell,” Sneddon said. “Because the doctor doesn’t care one iota. Because I laid on that table four times and they don’t give a hoot who’s laying in front of them.”
Back to Hebert. Propelled by the woman with the gospel who told her she was a murderer, she went on to become not just a born-again Christian, but a “biblical wife and mother.”
“I stay at home. I home-school my children. I submit to my husband,” she said.
Sneddon, meanwhile, had her epiphany in 1999, when she was 39. After years of “smoking dope” and “squelching my abortions,” she converted to Roman Catholicism and one day saw a man with a tiny lapel pin depicting “how a baby’s feet look at 10 weeks.”
“I freaked,” she recalled. “I went home and I was like King David – I cried on my pillow. I was distraught. I didn’t know what to do. And I called up a help line for those who have had abortions and, you know, it was all Catholic and stuff.”
Sneddon, who gave birth to two boys after her conversion, left the Roman Catholic church six months ago because she found it “shackled with a lot of stuff.”
But as a “Bible-believing Christian,” she’s still compelled to get out there and holler at women in the same fix she once found herself – not because it helps her redirect her own anguish, she insists, but because it’s “what the Lord wants.”
“He wants to find his sheep. He wants to find that 100th sheep,” Sneddon said. “And that’s what we’re there for.”
Hebert is also a mother now – she and her husband are parents to six. A story published in December by the Christian News shows her 7-year-old son, whom they adopted from Ethiopia, handing out pro-life fliers on Congress Street while the pictures of aborted fetuses wave in the background.
And that’s good for a kid his age?
“You know what? That’s the reality of what’s going on,” Hebert replied. “He doesn’t see promiscuity on TV. He doesn’t see violence in video games. He doesn’t watch movies with blood and gore about vampires. What my son sees is reality.”
Whose reality? His mother’s?
Or might this simply be her guilt, that heaviest of burdens, foisted onto others along the bumpy road to redemption?
“He is learning what the Scripture says and he’s learning to obey and follow God,” Hebert said. “And that’s how we raise our children – to let them know that as Christians, we are ambassadors for Christ and we are going to train them to be warriors for Christ.”
Just what Christianity needs – a guilt-induced “war” on the streets of downtown Portland.
And to hell with the collateral damage.
Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: