Ramona Trevino wiped her eyes as she stood at the microphone. She looked out at her audience, a crowd of 50 or so sweating on a narrow patch of grass up in Sherman. "For three years, I managed this Planned Parenthood," she said. "There was a tugging in my heart, which it shames to me to say I ignored. This spring, you can just say everything changed."
The people on the grass were gathered outside the former site of Sherman's only Planned Parenthood, a tiny facility that was only open three days a week and didn't perform abortions. It closed August 24 for lack of business, something that this area's pro-life contingent was ready to count as a major victory.
On a crushingly hot Sunday, they came to the public right-of-way directly outside the vacant building to celebrate: Hymns pumped from a tiny portable speaker, prayers were said, women wept, cake was served. A volunteer holding a sign that read "Jesus Loves You" waved at passing cars. A few times they waved back.
An elderly man with a long white beard arrived at the rally in a truck festooned with statuary of saints, pro-life bumper stickers, and a wooden sign that read "God Bless Texas." He beckoned me over to show me the cab, which was festooned with more images of saints and pictures of him with various pro-life luminaries. Asked for his name, he shook his head. "Names don't matter," he said. "Only Jesus matters. They just call me the Jesus Freak."
Although the Sherman Planned Parenthood may not have offered abortions, "they provided abortion referral," Karen Garnett told me. She's the executive director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee (CPLC). "Every Planned Parenthood refers women for surgical abortions."
They also, of course, provided Well Woman exams and pap smears; women in Sherman who previously used Planned Parenthood are being referred to its next closest location, 40 minutes south in McKinney. A report by the Sherman Herald Democrat in 2009 found that uninsured women seeking preventative health care only had four options: the Greater Texoma Health Clinic, the Health Department, the Texoma Health Foundation and Planned Parenthood.
Garnett didn't seem concerned that the Sherman clinic's closing might limit access to health care. "They might have to drive a little further," she said. "But it's still available." Gerry Brundage, President of the Texoma Pro-Life Association, later dismissed, "all that, 'Oh, where are women gonna go? Women are gonna die,' stuff," as "just rhetoric."
The event was also meant to celebrate that Ramona Trevino had, during her time managing the Sherman Planned Parenthood location, changed her political direction and became wholeheartedly anti-abortion. Many of the attendees were affiliated with 40 Days For Life, a national campaign that is, as their website states, "a community-based campaign that draws attention to the evil of abortion" through prayer, vigil, fasting, and community outreach. Their national director, David Bereit, showed up from Washington D.C., to attend the rally. He said that since the campaign began, "4,313 babies have been saved, and 53 workers have left the abortion industry. Ramona is No. 53."
Trevino is in her 30s, with short dark hair and a silver cross dangling from around her neck. She sat under a blue tent for most of the rally, being fanned with a paper by the woman next to her, looking serious and a little teary. She told a CPLC employee to relay to me that she "wasn't speaking to media today." Instead, she listened as a parade of speakers praised her bravery, occasionally dabbing at her eyes. She's been only intermittently employed since leaving the Sherman facility, most recently at a bank, Bereit told me.
The director of the local Pregnancy Care Center also spoke; like most crisis pregnancies centers, it's firmly anti-abortion and warns on its website of abortion's potential "spiritual consequences." The director, who gave her name as Melba, mentioned that during her time at Planned Parenthood, Trevino had started referring patients to the Pregnancy Care Center instead of her own workplace.
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"I walked out of this job on Friday May 6," Trevino told the crowd, when it was her turn to speak. "And I never have looked back since. My message is to glorify God. I really want this day to be about the power of prayer... This place is out of business, and it's all because of God." She spoke only briefly, reading from note-cards, before going back to stand with her husband and teenage daughter. At that point, a tiny blond teenager appeared by my side with a leopard-spotted umbrella. "May I shelter you?" she asked, her braces flashing as she spoke. "You look really hot." She stood motionless for 20 minutes or so, the umbrella aloft. "God bless you," she said finally, before snapping the umbrella shut and going back to join her family.
David Bereit, 40 Days For Life's national director, said that the Texoma Pro-Life association has been praying for the Sherman facility to close for 7 years, ever since it first opened here. "They've been praying for this to happen for a long time," he said. "They feel this is an answer to their prayers."
"The battle's not over," Pastor Jeff Davis of Victory Life Church told the crowd. "We pray for their other locations to be closed, to be put out of business." 40 Days For Life will be campaigning in Dallas next. They're planning a 24/7 protest later this year outside Planned Parenthood's Greenville Avenue location, which they call a "late-term abortuary."
Gerry Brundage, president of the Texoma Pro-Life Association, had one more piece of good news, before the cake was cut and everyone beat a retreat from the punishing heat. "Ramona," he said solemnly, "is with child." Trevino erupted into a fresh wave of tears as she was engulfed by her supporters; people lined up to hug her, everyone wanting a little piece of what they saw as a miracle.