By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
When baby Quentin was born last December, Laura Grijalba was in the delivery room supporting his mother who had no one else to call. The women met on the sidewalk of an abortion clinic.
Like many “sidewalk counselors,” Grijalba stands in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in downtown Louisville each Friday advocating for an end to abortion and urging those contemplating the procedure to consider giving birth.
After Grijalba leaves the sidewalk and puts her sign in her van, she offers compassionate support and hope to the mothers and fathers she meets.
“I introduce myself and say, ‘I’m here to help and not to judge,’ ” she said during an interview last week.
She also has a list of local resources ready, such as the number and location of the Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center, 515 W. Oak Street, which provides free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, and the Golden Arrow Center for Mothers and Children, 626 S. Shelby Street, which provides clothing, diapers and other baby supplies.
“It’s about getting them to the right resources so they won’t turn to the abortion clinic,” said Grijalba, a member of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, a national organization that encourages women to choose life and also provides tangible support during pregnancy and after the birth of the child.
“If we do a better job of follow-up care and support of the family with little children, they’ll know of a support system if they get pregnant again.”
Grijalba is a parishioner of St. Patrick Church, a mother of seven and the coordinator of the local 40 Days for Life movement, a biannual effort to bring an end to abortion through peaceful prayer, vigil, fasting and community outreach.
Her ministry to women in crisis continues beyond those 40 days, though, she said, because women in crisis need prayer and help during the rest of the year as well.
“Forty days is great, but what about the rest of the year?” she asked.
So, in between caring for her own brood, she drives women to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store; she sets up meal trains for new mothers following births; she delivers and assembles cribs and car seats; and she hosts baby showers. She sometimes watches older children while a mother has another baby. And, as in the case of baby Quentin, she’s even been present in the delivery room.
“I see these women as sisters in Christ. They are not evil. They are in crisis. They feel trapped. Once they can believe in themselves, they have confidence,” she said.
Grijalba continues to stay in contact with the mothers she assists. She will periodically text them and ask what help she can offer.
“It’s about helping the mom realize her potential. I tell them ‘my goal is to help you be the mom that God intended you to be,’ ” she said.
Ed Harpring, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said Grijalba epitomizes what it means to be pro-life. She has a natural ability, Harpring said, to engage the young mothers and fathers — who are often anxious — in conversation. But it doesn’t end there, he said.
“She has helped many mothers through the challenge of motherhood and the wide-array of difficulties that they face,” he said. “Laura acts as a ‘second mother’ and mentor to these troubled young couples and helps with providing counseling, dinners, transportation to doctors appointments and other resources.”
Harpring said Grijalba fulfills what Pope Francis describes in his 2013 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” of “accompanying the stranger.”
Grijalba said her years as an Army wife have taught her about rallying around others and providing a helping hand when needed.
“Seeing the anguish and torment the woman has when walking in (the clinic) and seeing the heartbreak when they leave — we can do better,” she said. “I’ve been blessed. It’s my turn to help somebody else.”
Grijalba and her husband, Adam, have been married for 26 years. Their seven children are: Linda, 25; Ray, 23; John, 21; Victoria, 17; Theresa, 12; Diana, 10; and Christina, 6.