SANDWICH, Mass. (BP)–When Laura Hope Smith requested extra spending money, her mother Eileen had no idea she planned to use it for an abortion –- nor that it would be their last conversation.
Laura, 22, died from complications that arose during her abortion in Hyannis, Mass., last Sept. 13.
Eileen, an evangelical who reared Laura in a Christian home, never even knew her daughter was pregnant and was devastated by the news that her daughter died on an abortion table.
Laura had been born into extreme poverty in Honduras in 1985. When Eileen and her husband Tom adopted her, Laura was 5 years old. The Smiths reared her in Sandwich, Mass., near Cape Cod, with their three other children. Laura made a profession of faith in Christ and was baptized at 12 years of age.
According to her obituary in the Cape Cod Times, Laura was “vibrant, loving and caring. She lit up a room with her presence and created a vacuum when she left. The ever-present optimist, Laura was always encouraging others and is cherished for her child-like heart.”
Laura was engaged to Rob LaBossiere, a soldier who is serving in Iraq.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Eileen is determined to use the story of Laura’s death to spread awareness about the horrors of abortion.
“I believe God has opened my eyes,” Eileen said. “I have always been pro-life, but I kept it in my heart. I thought the abortion protesters were spitting in the wind and abortion was here to stay. It took the death of my daughter for me to become active for life.”
Rather than taking her message to abortion clinics, Eileen believes awareness about abortion must first begin in the church and then spread from there. A 2001 survey cited by the National Abortion Federation found that 13 percent of women who have abortions identify themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.
“We have failed to get the message out to believers,” Eileen said. “The church needs to become more involved in educating its members about abortion. We need to be very upfront, very vocal and very graphic.”
Although Eileen will never know why Laura, who was staunchly pro-life, chose to have an abortion, she believes part of her decision may have been because of ignorance about what actually happens during an abortion.
“I don’t believe she knew what she was doing,” Eileen said. “Children today are taught to think that abortion is just removing a blob of tissue. I as a parent didn’t do enough.”
Not only must the church educate its members about abortion, Eileen maintains it must show love and compassion to unwed mothers and women who have abortions, rather than stigmatize them. “In the last 10 years there has been new awareness within the pro-life movement to treat the mother as just as much of a victim as the baby,” Eileen noted.
Eileen’s message of abortion education extends beyond the church. She believes abortions will continue until every person in the world knows “a baby is ripped limb from limb during an abortion.”
“As horrific as it sounds, I want to get an abortion shown on TV,” Eileen said. “Adults don’t know what happens during an abortion, and this would be the best way to show them.”
In October, the British TV program “Dispatches” showed an abortion procedure and numerous images of aborted infants, resulting in indignation from the media and abortion rights supporters.
Despite the outrage in England, Eileen still believes “if we could show what actually happens during an abortion, it would curtail abortions.”
Eileen experienced firsthand the media’s reluctance to discuss the harmful nature of an abortion after Laura’s death. The local media largely ignored the tragedy. The Cape Cod Times only reported it weeks after it occurred.
“If my daughter had died in a car accident, it would have been on the news that night,” Eileen said. “If she had been Michael Vick’s dog, there would be a huge outcry. But because she died of an abortion, her death was swept under the rug.”
After watching the media ignore the story about Laura’s death, Eileen began her own search for answers. She met with Rapin Osathanondh, the doctor who performed Laura’s abortion at his Women’s Health Center office.
Osathanondh made headlines in 2001 after he threatened to execute staff members who misplaced paperwork at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Eileen said her motive for meeting with Osathanondh was to “speak with the last person to see Laura alive. I wanted to expose what he had done. I wanted justice for Laura.”
When Eileen asked Osathanondh if he believed Laura’s death to be his fault, he said, “I racked my brain to think of what I could have done differently.” The doctor said Laura would have died regardless of whether he had performed the abortion differently.
“I read the medical reports and, in my heart, I believe Laura’s death was his fault,” Eileen said. “I don’t have any anger towards the doctor. I thank God for that. I hold him accountable for Laura’s death, but I am not looking for vengeance.”
Eileen also was shocked by the details she unearthed about Osathanondh’s practice.
“He has no medical staff, just a receptionist and a handholder,” she said. “This doctor is practicing third-world medicine in the medical mecca of the world. This goes beyond medical negligence.”
Eileen said Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe labeled Laura’s case as an “unintended death,” noting he believed the death was anesthesia-related.
Eileen is waiting for more conclusive results from the autopsy, although she believes the report will show Laura died because of Osathanondh’s actions.
“This was not an allergic reaction to the anesthesia,” Eileen said. “There was nothing wrong with her body.”
Eileen is not confident O’Keefe will press charges. No doctor has ever been prosecuted for manslaughter in Massachusetts, but Eileen remains unfazed and determined: “I want to be the first one to do it.”
While she awaits O’Keefe’s decision, Eileen has tirelessly spread the word about Laura’s death, marching with Concerned Women for America, for example, during the 35th annual March for Life Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C.
“Stopping abortion has to be a forefront issue for Christians, or evil will prevail,” Eileen said.
Jennifer Thurman, a senior at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., was a Baptist Press intern last summer in Washington, D.C.