|Jason Jones, founder of HERO (Humanitarian-Rights Education and Relief Organization).
Jason Jones was 16 and his girlfriend “Shawna” was 15 when she became pregnant. They were wild and foolish, he said, and naïvely believed that they could get married and live happily ever after.
He joined the Army soon as he turned 17, intending to marry her after basic training. But she called him at boot camp, sobbing. Her father, a prominent Catholic in their Chicago community, was on the extension phone. “I took Shawna for an abortion,” he said. It was six months into the pregnancy.
Jones wasn’t permitted to use that phone, and when the sergeant reached to hang it up, Jones punched him and ended up in front of a sympathetic captain, who gave him a roll of quarters to call her back on a pay phone. It was the first of many violent incidents, and Jones had no idea that the pattern of angry explosions was rooted in the loss of his daughter.
Now 40, Jones is an outspoken humanitarian in support of human rights and the dignity of all human life. He is the founder of HERO (Humanitarian-Rights Education and Relief Organization) and a speaker with the organization, I Am Whole Life. He raised the funding to produce the pro-life movie “Bella,” and founded the Bella HERO Program that donates the movie to pregnancy crisis centers.
“If you are a post-abortive man, you need to speak up for life,” he told Our Sunday Visitor in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where he runs movietomovement.com.
Jones was an atheist when he began his passionate support of life. He came into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2003.
“There’s one thing that still angers me — that people ask how I could be pro-life when I was an atheist. I am also against shoplifting and rape,” he said. “That really tells me that even people who claim to be pro-life don’t really understand that the child in the womb is a person. I wish everyone could see abortion the way this 17-year-old atheist did. I didn’t even know abortion was legal. That was incomprehensible to me.”
Jones and Shawna (not her real name) drifted apart and by age 19, he fathered another child, got married, had another child and was divorced at 23. In college, he got into fights with guys who said they were pro-choice.
“The abortion was the beginning of a passionate drive to defend life, while at the same time I was hating God,” he said. “In retrospect, I was not an atheist, but I became an anti-theist.”
He was drawn to Christianity in graduate school, but was reluctant to become a Christian because, he said, “My anger would disappear and I didn’t want to lose it. But by grace I was almost immediately able to forgive Shawna’s father.”
Jones remarried in 2005 and now has a total of six children.
“We consecrated our lives to the defense of human life through the media,” he said.
His recent 11-minute pro-life film, “Crescendo,” is dedicated to his first child, Jessica Jones. Coincidentally, it debuted at the Catholic school that Shawna attended, but the administrators who invited him didn’t know.
“It was surreal to see Jessica’s name on the screen and to be in the gym where she and her mom existed together,” Jones said. “Jessica never knew my voice, but she knew the sound of this gym, and the sound of gym shoes on the floor, and the sound of the girls laughing. So this movie is for her. It’s a gift to my daughter.”
Being involved in pro-life work makes a difference
There were opposite reactions when Theo Purington’s girlfriend discovered she was pregnant. She wanted an abortion because she was young, in college and feared being judged by her parents.
|Theo Purington, who opposed his ex-girlfriend’s abortion, speaks at a parish in Gainesville, Fla., where he served as executive director of a pregnancy center. Courtesy photo
He wanted to keep the baby, and his supportive parents offered to raise the child. Both families were Catholic.
But “Marilee” was adamant, even after seeing the baby’s heartbeat on an ultrasound.
“I was amazed,” Purington told OSV. “I said look at our baby. She said it wasn’t a baby.”
A few weeks later, the baby’s arms, legs and heartbeat were visible on another ultrasound. “Isn’t that beautiful? Look at our child!” he said.
“That’s not a child,” she said, and scheduled an abortion.
Purington frantically called pro-life groups and Planned Parenthood to ask if he had options as a father.
“Someone at the clinic [where the abortion was to be performed] told me, ‘You aren’t a father and you don’t have any rights, that’s not a child and don’t call us again.’ That was devastating.”
He called back and asked what they did with aborted babies because he wanted to bury his child. He recalled the supervisor saying, “That’s the most inappropriate question I have ever heard. If you call back, I’ll call the authorities and if you show up and try to have this abortion stopped, I will have you arrested.”
He begged Marilee (not her real name) to reconsider, but she would not. She gave him the ultrasound picture and let him rub her abdomen and tell the unborn child, “I love you.”
Purington, then 21, became depressed and suicidal. He found healing through counseling at pregnancy centers, Bible studies and Rachel’s Vineyard, and became a speaker with Silent No More. He has been executive director of two pregnancy centers, including one in Gainesville, Fla. He recently left that position to prepare to move back to New Hampshire, where the pregnancy occurred and where he has family.
Now 27, he is married and is expecting a daughter this month. His wife has been supportive of his post-abortion healing and framed a copy of the lost baby’s ultrasound that he takes to speaking events. He named the baby Theodore IV because he had a feeling the child was a boy.
“I have gotten through this first and foremost, with God,” Purington said. “It also helped being involved in helping men and women who have gone through abortion experiences. And for anyone who is going through this — there is hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are people out there to help you at this difficult time.”
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.