Her stories were always in furtherance of community—the community in which the powerful take care of and protect the marginal and the powerless. She would use illustrations from everyday life and incidents that were not so common to make this fundamental point. For instance, she would often link graciousness and kindness under pressure when a baby was ‘wanted’ to what pro-lifers do for women in crisis pregnancies when the woman is, at best, ambivalent around the fate of the child she is carrying.
I heard Jean speak on many occasions -- some formal opportunities to restate the position pro-life and others in casual conversation. Her classic white hair and special voice gave the demeanor of a grandmother (which she was) but this was a grandma with a dynamic personality for a special cause.
Jean did not come to the cause of life quickly. She was not hesitate to speak of the evolution of her position.
My involvement in the abortion battle began on the “choice” side back in 1968 when I found myself pregnant at 40. We already had three children and number four was definitely not on my agenda. “Every child a wanted child” claims the pro-choice slogan, and this child wasn’t.
The “practical solution” was an abortion. However, where I lived the state law prohibited abortion so I joined an abortion-rights group to help change the law.
What changed, however, was me. That “unwanted pregnancy” became a very wanted child.
I eventually became a convert to the pro-life position and, in 1973, found myself speaking at a U.S. Senate hearing because, as the old line says, “Once you see, you can’t unsee.”Jean was one of the most profound voices within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on behalf of life, the unborn, and the child and she was one of those who transformed our church body into the most pro-life church body in America. She would never admit that she was a force to be reckoned with but everyone who knew her, knew not to discount the little white haired lady with the lilting voice.
Lutherans For Life exists in part because of Dr. Jean Garton and she served instrumentally in its formation in 1978 and was its first president. She served on many boards within the LCMS -- not in the least the Board of Directors of our Synod. Only recently led an energetic presentation at our Lutherans For Life National Conference in October -- on the theme “Here We Stand.” There she received the Dominus Vitae award in honor of her lifelong, Gospel-motivated labors to affirm God’s gift of life. Her acclaimed and influential book Who Broke the Baby? is entering its third edition of publication. This past summer Jean spoke at the NRLC Convention’s Prayer Breakfast and you can read her address here—“Where there is Life, There is Hope.” Read her own words in First Things.
Jean is an example of what we can do if we wish to do it -- it is due to people like Jean that abortion is a national issue, that the pro-life cause continues to increase, and the cause of death was transformed into a force for life. God bless you, Jean. May you rest in peace. Now joined with the saints, with your beloved husband Chic, and with the thanks of those whose lives you have touched and enriched beyond measure.