Copyright: U.S. copyright VAU 312-114 Ron Shields of Louisville wants everyone to know it's not only mothers who sometimes regret their decisions to have an abortion. Shields wears a gold dog tag inscribed with the name "Ronald Paul Shields Jr.," a name that, later in life, he gave the son he and his then-girlfriend aborted when he was 18.
It's a name that, even today, some 35 years after the fact, he cannot say without getting choked up.
And it's a name that Shields plans to inscribe on the granite wall of the new Kentucky Memorial for the Unborn at Frankfort Cemetery when the work is completed.
Already, the committee planning the memorial has raised $11,000 to purchase a bronze statue titled Rachel Weeping for Her Children by artist Sondra Jonson. It will serve as the centerpiece of the memorial.
Now, the group is beginning its efforts to raise the $150,000 to $175,000 in construction costs to build the memorial itself, which will include a central granite wall and stone retaining walls in the shape of a womb.
On Sunday, a dessert reception to honor Wayne B. Smith, a retired, former minister at Southland Christian Church, will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Signature Club of Lansdowne, 346 Lansdowne Drive. The event will mark the kick-off of the memorial's capital fund-raising campaign. Guest speakers will include former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a friend of Smith's.
"Wayne has always had a heart for the unborn," said memorial chair Kathy Rutledge, who began the push to establish the memorial in 2005 as a way of honoring the son she aborted at age 18. The memorial will be dedicated to Smith on completion.
Smith often spoke against abortion while a minister at Southland, even though some of his colleagues insisted it was a social, rather than a biblical issue, he said.
"So many people who have an abortion feel a vacuum in life after the fact," Smith said, "but they often beat themselves up more than the Lord does. He's forgiving."
Place of closure
Rutledge envisions the memorial as a place of remembrance and closure for families who have lost an unborn baby to miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion.
The proposed memorial will initially include space for 1,000 babies' names to be inscribed. At a later phase another wall with space for 1,000 additional names will be added.
The cost to inscribe a name will be about $100. Already, 25 parents, including Shields, have committed to have a name inscribed.
"I will put his name there in memory of him," Shields said, "in recognition of the fact that I have a 34-year-old son somewhere, who I believe I will get to meet in heaven someday."
Kristen Story of Richmond, who also regrets the abortion she had as a young woman, welcomes the memorial as a place where she will be able to go to "commune with her son in spirit," she said.
"I can tell him that I'm sorry and that I love him and I can find peace for my broken heart in his forgiveness," she said.
Working on the memorial project and beginning to see it come to fruition has helped Rutledge gain her own sense of closure and self-forgiveness.
"The day I had my abortion was the day I emotionally and spiritually died," Rutledge, 49, said. "After that, I felt like I was walking around numb. But bringing existence, bringing life to my unborn baby brought life to me."
Rutledge has been encouraged by the reception the memorial has received so far. Local architect Mark Arnold, owner of designWorks, donated the original monument design. Many area churches — including Porter Memorial Baptist, Northeast Christian, Pax Christi Catholic Church, the Cathedral of Christ the King and Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary — have hosted the memorial's 150-pound Rachel statue to bring awareness to the memorial and to take up collections for it, thanks to free transportation services offered by Vincent Fister, Inc. And the Nebraska-based sculptor provided the statue to the memorial at the foundry cost and paid to have it shipped to Kentucky out of her own pocket because she was moved by the story of how the memorial started, Rutledge said.
In addition to the kick-off fund-raiser, the all-volunteer, seven-member memorial committee is planning to raise funds by establishing "Rachel's Circle of Friends," individuals appointed in every Kentucky county to raise awareness and funds for the memorial. And the "Cornerstones of Ramah" will be established to invite large monetary gifts, in-kind services and construction materials from individuals and corporate sponsors, Rutledge said.
Ground will be broken for the memorial as soon as construction costs are raised, Rutledge said.
"The Kentucky Memorial for the Unborn will provide parents with a tangible means of honoring the children who have died due to abortion or miscarriage," said Cathy Wilson of Louisville, who lost a child to abortion. "These babies were formed by our creator and will always hold a special place in their mothers' and fathers' hearts."
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