Everywhere Elaine Testa goes, she gives away a Snuggle or two. Or a few hundred.
“Snuggles” is the name the Antelope, Calif., resident uses to describe the tiny sacks with handles she crochets for soft rubber dolls that are the exact size of a baby at 12 weeks’ gestation. She gives them away at county fairs, pro-life events, outside abortuaries – even at restaurants.
“It’s fantastic,” said her husband, John. “She goes table-hopping.”
Mrs. Testa always asks a parent’s permission before approaching a child, and she never mentions abortion to children. She tells kids that they were once as small as the doll and that they were protected and cared for in their mothers’ wombs. Only twice have parents declined her offer of a Snuggle for their child.
She wrote a letter to the editor of Celebrate Life magazine about the Snuggles, and in three weeks has sent 30 patterns for the blankets to 40 people in 20 states.
“It’s a little thing that’s just kind of taken off,” she said of the effort to promote the truth that “it’s a baby not a blob of tissue.”
“The parents are educated as well,” added her husband.
The Testas have a multi-faceted pro-life ministry that was enriched on Jan. 22 – the 39th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision – when they made their final promises as Missionaries of the Gospel of Life (MEV). Their pastor at Holy Family Church in Citrus Heights, Calif., Father Polycarpo Gumapo, accepted their promises. A day earlier, the couple had a chance to meet up with Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life and founder and pastoral director of the MEV program, at the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco.
“He blessed our MEV pins and he blessed us,” Mr. Testa said. Mrs. Testa gave Father Pavone his own Snuggle.
“His eyes lit up,” Mrs. Testa recalled. “He got it.”
Making their MEV promises, Mr. Testa said, has “reinforced our commitment to the ministry.”
The Testas met in a church choir at their college in San Jose. Both public school teachers, they married in 1965 and have three children and three grandchildren. They became involved in pro-life activities when Mrs. Testa was working as a substitute teacher and had time to get involved in their church. She began attending Respect Life Committee meetings and taking part in Life Chains.
Before long, they were full-immersion pro-life activists.
“That’s just our purpose in life right now,” Mr. Testa said.
Residents of Antelope, Calif., they are close enough to the state capitol, Sacramento, to attend a variety of pro-life events at the statehouse, where they hold a sign proclaiming “Abortion is Always the Wrong Choice.” They do sidewalk counseling outside a Planned Parenthood abortuary in Sacramento every week, and are now involved in an ongoing 40 Days for Life campaign. Mr. Testa is the pro-life representative to a Knights of Columbus Council, and he writes the pro-life section of their church bulletin. In the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections, the couple copied and distributed 5,000 copies of a voter guide published by Priests for Life. They lead the Respect Life ministry at their church and they are gathering signatures for a petition drive to establish parental notification laws in California.
“I don’t prefer to think of myself this way, but we are troublemakers,” Mrs. Testa said with a laugh.
The proof that their pro-life work has not been in vain was born in December 2011. Seven months earlier, Mr. Testa counseled a 17-year-old as she headed into Planned Parenthood. Over the objections of the clinic “deathscorts,” the young woman stopped to talk to Mr. Testa. He brought her to a pregnancy center, the Sacramento Life Center, where she was able to get counseling. After she made the decision to have her baby, the Testas were able to have her included as a guest of a ministry called Showers on Wheels, which hosts baby showers for women who choose life. The Testas were invited to meet their “honorary great-grandchild,” Marc, shortly after his birth, and were thrilled to learn that the young woman’s mother, cousin and aunt are supportive and helpful, and that her boyfriend is finishing high school and has gotten a job.
“Everything is so positive,” Mrs. Testa said.
As professed MEVs, the Testas will continue to discern how to best fight for the unborn and work to restore a culture of life to our wounded world. Mrs. Testa is using the current controversy over President Obama’s contraception mandate to help spread the word that abortion and contraception are undeniably linked to cancer.
“I always go back to Ezekiel, where it says that if you don’t warn someone that they’re at risk, then you’re at risk too,” she said.
Mr. Testa said he is heartened that he’s hearing about abortion from the pulpit more often than he used to.
“We’re seeing more priests, young priests with great formation, taking the role that Father Pavone has taken for so long,” he said. “That’s what we need.”