In his hit 2006 movie “Bella,” Mexican actor and producer Eduardo Verastegui’s character walks off his job to spend the day with a co-worker contemplating an abortion. Verastegui rehearsed by going to an actual abortion clinic; after arriving, he soon forgot his movie and was distressed to see many young women enter the clinic in tears.
Sidewalk counselors asked him to translate for a Mexican immigrant couple about to enter the clinic. The couple recognized Verastegui from his work on Mexican telenovelas, or soap operas, and talked with him for 45 minutes. They left without entering.
Months later, the couple called him to share that the child they had intended to abort had just been born and they wanted to name him Eduardo in his honor.
Verastegui went to the hospital and held the baby. “It was beautiful,” he said. “By the grace of God, I was able to help save this baby.”
In an effort to help more women choose life, Verastegui and his nonprofit organization, Mantle of Guadalupe (www.mantodeguadalupe.org), opened the Guadalupe Medical Center in Los Angeles in September. The clinic serves one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, consisting of predominantly Latino residents.
“My hope is that Guadalupe Medical Center will reach and help many women, children and families,” Verastegui said. “It will be an oasis of life for those most in need.”
The 5,000-square-foot facility serves 20 women daily and offers free pregnancy-related services such as ultrasounds, prenatal care and natural family planning education. It offers medical services in addition to counseling, and has an obstetrician/gynecologist on staff. At a January fundraiser, Verastegui pledged to make it the largest pro-life clinic in the country.
Jaime Hernandez, president of Mantle of Guadalupe and Verastegui’s brother-in-law, told Our Sunday Visitor, “We want to grow the clinic, add more doctors, including pediatricians, and eventually become a hospital.”
He noted that the need was imminent, as 10 abortion clinics are within a one-mile radius of the center. He said the center is run in complete accordance with Catholic teaching; for example, no artificial contraceptives are prescribed.
Astrid Bennett Gutierrez, director of a pro-life counseling center near the Guadalupe Center, describes Verastegui as an answer to a prayer. “Since he established his clinic last year, we’ve been able to save hundreds of unborn babies, and their parents have been spared the tragedy of abortion.”
Prayers of a mother
Verastegui, born in northern Mexico, gained fame as part of the pop group Kairo and by acting in telenovelas. He came to the United States to advance his career, and he stopped practicing his Catholic faith.
To prepare for a movie, Verastegui took English lessons from a practicing Catholic. She challenged him about his wayward lifestyle and led him back to the practice of his faith. He credits the prayers of his pious mother for putting this instrumental teacher into his life. “There is nothing so powerful as the prayers of a mother,” he said.
Verastegui vowed that he would no longer accept acting roles that were contrary to his faith or that portray Latinos in a negative light. For four years he couldn’t find work.
He co-founded the production company Metanoia (Greek for “conversion”) Films, and starred in its first film, “Bella.” Metanoia is in the preproduction stage for its second film, “Little Boy.”
“Before my conversion, I was poisoning the world with my media projects,” Verastegui said. “Now I want to use my talents to make the world better.”
Jim Graves writes from California.