Terry Beatley fulfills promise to former abortion doctor

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"Go-getter" only comes close to capturing Terry Beatley, whose unyielding drive springs not from personal ambition but from an even more powerful motivator: a love of life and a relentless quest for truth.

The 51-year-old founder and president of the Vienna-based Hosea Initiative, an organization dedicated to educating women about deception in the abortion industry, Beatley hopes to reach 1 million women a year with her message.

Her colleagues affectionately call her a tugboat, because "nothing is going to stop me," said Beatley, laughing.

Such spunk led the home-schooling mom from political activism to pro-life advocacy. Along the way, she discovered a spiritual home where truth and love of life coalesce.

A fire is lit

Beatley grew up in Fairfax with a Catholic mother and nonpracticing Episcopalian father. Although baptized Catholic, her faith background essentially was "nonexistent," she said, and she ended up in the Church of the Nazarene as an adult.

Married and with two children, Beatley decided to home-school, not realizing it would be a catalyst for her own transformative educational journey.

As she studied the Civil War with her two daughters, she said it struck her as tragic and nonsensical that Americans went from categorizing blacks as subhuman to doing so with unborn babies.

Around that time, a Catholic friend invited her to the March for Life in Washington. Seeing so many people publicly defending life, combined with her realization that history had taken a step backward with human rights, "lit something in me," said Beatley.

She devoured every piece of information she could about what led to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Poring over The Grand Illusion: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood, by George Grant, she learned about Margaret Sanger, a sex educator and birth control activist whose organization later became Planned Parenthood. Sanger endorsed eugenics and started the Negro Project, which, according to Beatley, sought to eliminate undesired people - the mentally and physically disabled and the racially unwanted.

When she learned how "the abortion industry is currently trying to undermine and usurp parental rights" with laws allowing children to obtain birth control and abortions without parental consent, she felt compelled to act.

Her first step was to form a small pro-life ministry, and in doing so she came across a documentary called "Maafa 21," a film "that depicts Margaret Sanger's project to reduce the black race," said Beatley.

She shared the movie with a black minister, who was deeply moved.

"I knew right then that the dignity of life is what can unite Americans," Beatley said. "Because if we don't preserve the gift of life, what do we have?"

Unsure of how best to continue her pro-life efforts, she turned to God in prayer.

"All I could hear was, 'You need to go interview Dr. Bernard Nathanson.'"

Nathanson was an obstetrician-gynecologist who co-founded NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. He personally aborted more than 5,000 babies, and his abortion facilities were responsible for around 60,000 abortions. In the 1970s, he had a change of heart and became a prominent opponent of abortion. Formerly an atheist, Nathanson was baptized Catholic in 1996.

When Beatley heard God's words in prayer she thought, "Why would this man agree to be interviewed by some home-schooling mom he doesn't know?"

Yet as a home-schooler, she'd told her children to turn to the original source whenever possible. And here was a man who was in the very center of the nation's abortion story.

To her surprise, Nathanson accepted her request for an interview, and Dec. 1, 2009, Beatley stepped into his modest New York City apartment.

Toward the end of the in-depth interview, Beatley found herself unexpectedly saying: "If you have a message for America, I will gladly deliver it for you. … I will tell your story, the story of deception but also the story of personal redemption."

Beatley recalled how Nathanson paused for a moment before replying, "Teach of the strategy of how I deceived America and that the cofounder of NARAL says, 'Love one another; abortion's not love. Stop the killing; the world needs more love.'"

The promise was sealed with "a true covenant kind of handshake," said Beatley.

In his 80s, Nathanson had terminal cancer and would die a little more than a year later.

Her first effort to fulfill the promise took shape politically. Living in Fredericksburg at the time, she partnered with the African-American community to defeat a seven-term state senator who had a long history of killing pro-life and parental rights legislation.

"God kept showing me that when people get the truth, the people will change the direction of this country," Beatley said.

'Terry, you're home'

After helping defeat the senator, Beatley realized politics was not where God wanted her. "He just wanted me to see that we'll be victorious," she said.

Thinking her promise to Nathanson was fulfilled, she felt "God's nudge again."

She said God told her there needed to be a movie about the doctor's life and she was the one to initiate it.

Weary but committed, she flew to Chicago to learn more about Nathanson. There she met Father C. John McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest who'd helped a number of famous individuals convert to Catholicism, including the former abortionist.

During her visit, Father McCloskey invited her to pray with him before the altar of a beautiful church.

Kneeling to pray, she heard, "Terry, you're home. And from this place is where we are going forward with the promise to Dr. Nathanson.

"I just began to weep," said Beatley. "There was mascara dripping down my face."

Wiping away tears and makeup smudges, Beatley then followed Father McCloskey on a tour of the church. As she walked behind him, watching his long strides and cassock billowing outward, she said, 'With all this research I've been doing over the years, it just seems like the Catholic Church is the one holding up the truth about life.'"

Father McCloskey stopped and turned. Winking he said, "Ah, you're going to be an easy case."

And she was. Her head long ago had figured out that the Catholic Church was where she was meant to be, but now her heart had caught up.

"I had no idea God would lead me down this amazing journey … with flying me out to Chicago to find that God wants me to do this as a Catholic," she said.

Back in Virginia and spurred by her Catholic faith, Beatley went to work on the Hosea Initiative, an educational organization whose mission is to fulfill the "promise to Dr. Nathanson and liberate women with truth."

Initially Beatley thought the nonprofit would be geared toward minority communities, but after several months realized the focus should be on women. "Women will make it a multiethnic organization," she said.

The Hosea Initiative - whose name was inspired by Hosea 4:6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" - offers webinars, conferences and seminars, including this year's "Liberated with Truth: Shades of Deception" April 25. The initiative teaches basic history and the fundamentals of American liberty, "which also includes the first enumerated right, the right to life," Beatley said.

This spring, Beatley, who attends St. Francis de Sales Church in Kilmarnock, hopes to publish her book about Nathanson, "making his story one that every American would read - pro-life and pro-abortion." Her goal is to turn the book, entitled Deceiving American Women, into a feature-length film.

Beatley believes that while education eventually will affect the political arena, "the victory is in loving people with truth," she said. "If we want to save America, we have to get right on the truth about life; life is the key to everything else."

Scott can be reached at kscott@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @KScottACH.

Find out more

Go online to learn more about the Hosea Initiative and its April 25 conference, "Liberated with Truth: Shades of Deception."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015