For some odd reason I start off most of my days watching the news. I don’t know why since it’s mostly bad news and repeat stories. I love a good story, and maybe each day with the click of the remote I’m hoping to be rewarded for my continued pursuit of stories with happy endings. It rarely happens so when I heard about a young woman bravely proclaiming truth in an unfriendly setting, I had to tell her story.
I heard about Elizabeth O’Grady through a friend via Facebook. My friend shot out a quick post congratulating her niece on her brave stance for a classroom assignment. Intrigued, I was able to get in touch with Elizabeth to interview her. It’s not everyday a teenager will take on one of the hottest political topics in an intensely liberal school and defend her conservative views. This is hero material. So without further ado, the following is an interview with Elizabeth O’Grady in a series I’m hoping to continue entitled Everday Heroes.
Who is Elizabeth O’Grady?
I am 18 years old, and I go to Ward Melville High School. I live on Long Island in NY and have lived there my whole life. I’ve been raised in a Christian family since I’ve been born and have been brought up with strong values. I don’t have a certain age I became a Christian because I’ve always believed in God. It seemed when I was little that I was a Christian because almost everyone in my family was. As I got older I realized it was my responsibility to take the initiative, go to church and pray. Daily I am told constantly by my mom that God saved my life, and she is absolutely correct.
My Background: I was born prematurely at 26 weeks. I only weighed 2 pounds and stayed in NICU for 3 ½ months. I was given the death sentence and was diagnosed with brain damage, blindness and paralysis. After I was released, my house turned into a hospital, and I had 24/7 nurses around the clock. A year later, while visiting family in Illinois, I began to turn blue due to my airway closing and was not receiving enough air. My mom raced me to the hospital knowing that every second I didn’t have oxygen was a second closer to death. The local hospital couldn’t help me so I was airlifted to Indianapolis Children’s Hospital where the doctors performed a tracheotomy. Although this operation saved my life, it brought many struggles.
For the next year my parents watched my every move knowing in a split second the hole in my neck could become clogged, and I would stop breathing. Every week would be a different respiratory infection that would bring long nights of coughing and trouble breathing. The next seven years of my life I was in and out of the hospital. I always had pneumonia due to my small airway and low immune system. Every night, I would be awake coughing and unable to breathe. It was a long journey but I defied the odds, and God saved my life. I am perfectly healthy today with 20/20 vision, no respiratory problems and very athletic.
Tell us what the assignment was for your class:
This assignment was done for Public Speaking. In class we did acting scenes, demonstration speeches, persuasive speeches, and one of the last assignments was a debate. I thought that it was great how my teacher put her views aside and listened to the debate fairly.
How did you decide on your topic?
Our class of 30+ students gathered together and gave ideas on topics we wanted to debate about. Many people chose topics like gun control, armed guards in school, standardized testing, women in the army and legalizing marijuana. I chose abortion. I said I was pro-life so two students volunteered to be on the pro-choice side. My teacher then asked who else was pro-life, and a guy raised his hand. It was fairly matched with two for pro-life and two for pro-choice. But the next day, when we were beginning to research our topics, my partner switched to another group, and I had no one. Then a minute later, a girl in the class switched her topic to be pro- choice for abortion. In the first 5 minutes of class it went from 2 vs. 2 to 1 vs. 3. I told my teacher that I was fine and that I didn’t mind debating by myself. Although it was a lot more work, I knew exactly what was going to be said and didn’t have to rely on a partner for information.
Why are you so passionate about this subject?
I am very motivated about the right to life because unlike any other political issue such as gay marriage, gun control, or the war on drugs, abortion is dealing with the life or death of a person. I have such a passion for defending the pro-life agenda because I know the unborn cannot fight for themselves, and the responsibility is left in our hands. There are so many options for pregnant women other than abortion that I feel many people are unaware about. My heart goes out to the women who are suffering and in a difficult situation. What upsets me more is people having the right to end an innocent life for the benefit of themselves. Everyone in today’s society is so focused on “women’s rights” that we forget about the rights of the fetus and the potential opportunities and happiness we are taking away from them.
During my debate I discussed the definition of life and the four stages, the effects of an abortion, the rape scenario, the development of the fetus, adoption methods, a negative diagnosis of the baby and much more. I stated how I was supposed to be blind and brain damaged, but a miracle happened and I was healed. I want to share my story with mothers who were in my mom’s situation to tell them to not give up and to remain hopeful.
What were your reservations, if any?
I did not have any reservations at all. The second I knew we were having a debate I wanted to do it on abortion. I know it is a very controversial topic, but it is affecting us right now. That’s exactly why I wanted to do it. I knew it was going to be a heated debate, but I was up for the challenge. My school is very liberal including the teachers. I knew many people would be against me like they have been in the past on the debate about legalizing gay marriage, but that didn’t stop me.
I never once thought to not speak about it because abortion is the one topic I am deeply passionate about. In school we don’t have many opportunities to express our opinion to a significant amount of people so I thought this was a perfect time.
What were you hoping would be the result?
Honestly I was hoping for the students to have an open mind and listen to the words I was saying about abortion, and if, in the process I won my debate, then it would be even [better]. My goal was to make the students realize that abortion isn’t just words on a paper and a simple law that was passed. It has a major effect on people and is the end of a human life. I created a graphic poster of abortions from seven weeks to 24 weeks, not to scare them but to open their eyes and see what it really looks like. Many people have no problem saying abortion is fine and that it’s the woman’s choice, but when they see pictures of it they are shocked. When newspapers and magazines write about abortion they always show a picture of a pregnant woman, never the actual fetus being killed.
My poster was very disturbing and showed heads being ripped off the baby, little bloody fingers and toes, ribcages, eyeballs and babies burned from saline. On the poster I also included the methods of abortions: using forceps to rip the baby out of the womb and as a result its limbs falling off; saline injected into the mother’s abdomen, transferring into the baby’s sac where the chemical poisons the baby turning [it] black through a slow death and using a suction which is a hollow tube with a knife end tip.
What were you most afraid of?
I was mostly afraid of not having an answer to my opponents’ questions or accusations. But instead of letting this fear take the best of me, I spent hours researching and making rebuttals.
The day before the argument I was told by one girl that I was going to get “ripped apart” and lose. Instead of this angering me, it only fueled my fire, and I was even more determined to win.
What was going through your mind while you presented?
I was extremely nervous when I gave my opening statement, but at the same time, I had so much adrenaline. I have always had a fear of speaking in front of others, but I had to calm myself down because I only had one chance. As the debate progressed, the nervousness left, and the excitement came in. I spoke louder and looked directly at the crowd and into the students’ eyes.
What was the response by classmates and others?
The responses by my classmates were encouraging. In order to decide a winner of the debate, my opponents and I left the room and the students and teacher discussed whom they thought won. When we came back into the room my teacher told me I won and that I did an amazing job. She said I was so passionate about it and was a great speaker. She said she is pro-choice, but after listening to my argument, she wanted to be pro-life. She then asked the class why they said I won, and a student told me it was because I had a rebuttal to everything the other team said and knew exactly what I was talking about.
Who are your heroes? Why?
My mom is my hero. She is extremely loving and would do anything to help someone, even a total stranger. Though she has had many health problems she has never let it stop her from taking care of her family and preaching the word of God. She is truly unstoppable, and I could never imagine my life without her.
What is your favorite quote?
My pastor said awhile back, “God hears the words of your mouth but knows the words of your heart” while delivering a message. It has stayed in my heart ever since. I think many people, including myself, say things we don’t really mean. God hears everything we say but knows our true intentions. We can say we are great Christians, never miss a Sunday service, and treat everyone the best, but then a moment later we hide behind a fake shell we’ve created. We try to fool God by speaking great things and making promises to him that we can’t or will not keep. What my pastor said has motivated me to be real with God, myself and others and to always follow through with my actions.
If you have you further questions for Elizabeth regarding her research and arguments for this debate, feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear from you.