By Lisa Shrewsberry
They say life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Looking back, Lorrie Legursky’s plans didn’t include being pregnant at 15. Mom to NFL notable Doug Legursky, Beckley City Police Officer Jonathan Legursky and military wife Lisa Potter, Lorrie also didn’t plan on finding herself in an abortionist’s clinic five months into her first pregnancy. Certainly no one, not even she, could’ve planned what happened next.
The year was 1980. The Empire was striking back, Sissy Spacek talked about bologna sandwiches on the big screen in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and ABBA was yet to be considered classic. Two shootings made headlines that year: J.R. Ewing’s stunning whodunit and the very real assassination of John Lennon.
In the middle of the strange mix of styles and pop culture was Lorrie Reed, a typical American teenager about to enter 10th grade.
“Swimming was my life,” admits the vivacious adventurer and kayaker. A swim team star, Lorrie was also a cheerleader and all-around fun-loving small-town kid. The only thing atypical about her beginnings was that she had been adopted at five days old, her real birth mother too overwhelmed with the children she was already caring for.
Tragedy struck when her adoptive mother died in an accident a week after Lorrie’s 5th birthday. By necessity, her most constant nurturer became her adoptive father, and she settled into the role of Daddy’s girl completely. As Lorrie matured, however, her father neglected conversations about sex, representing the majority of men, then and today.
Assuming the role of sex educator has traditionally been the mother’s duty, and a maternal presence was a missing luxury for Lorrie. That was, until she discovered that she was going to be a mother.
Not yet sixteen at a time when there were no reality shows to laud the young and unwed, Lorrie deeply dreaded telling her father she was fully five months pregnant. Once she gathered the courage and did, his gut-wrenching response, intended to protect her, was that she have an abortion.
With no hope for a future on her own and the baby’s father out of the picture, her father had come to a desperate decision, she recalls. “My dad did the best he could raising me alone. In his mind, what was best for me was to terminate the pregnancy. He didn’t really understand what abortion was.”
“My mother had given birth to me,” was all she could think. Although adopted, at least she had been given a chance.
Within the second trimester, at the end of five months, a fetus is about 8-10 inches long and weighs about 1 pound. Hair is beginning to grow on its head; eyebrows and eyelashes appear. The mother can feel movement; its organs are maturing. About a month more and it will have a 50/50 chance of survival outside of the womb.
On her way to an abortion clinic with cash in hand, Lorrie was being escorted by two of her father’s friends, ladies. Once at the clinic, they waited for her outside in the car. Anxious, Lorrie entered the clinic.
She noticed other girls were there, waiting in the chairs lining the interior of the reception area. She could hear quiet crying from some of them. A television provided the only other background noise. After filling out the required paperwork, she waited for her name to be called.
“I did what I was told and I went across the hall and sat on the examination table,” says Lorrie. She noticed a machine near the bottom. Nurses turned the vacuum aspiration machine on and its steady hum thickened the room. The doctor arrived and positioned himself for a pelvic examination, feeling her womb to determine the size and the position of the fetus inside her. “I was completely silent. I wasn’t crying loudly or making sounds. I was just laying on the table.” Then, in the most unexpected place, with most unanticipated timing, life happened.
She calls it “a God moment.”
Aware of her own tears falling into her hair, Lorrie noticed the doctor leaning around to look at her. “He asked, ‘Why are you crying?’ I said, ‘Because of what’s getting ready to happen.’” This is what you wanted, isn’t it, he asked. “It’s not what I wanted. It’s what my daddy wanted,” came her response. With that, the doctor turned off the machine. “He did it like he was angry. There was just a click. Then he told me to get up, get dressed, and get out of his clinic.”
Lorrie, the woman whose Prius bumpersticker reads “Don’t Judge Me By My Hybrid — I’m Pro Life,” offers no fairytale notions of life afterward. Delivering life, promising to protect it, is difficult and painful, but much less so in her opinion than seeing children her daughter’s age throughout her life and wondering “what if…”
“These ladies (who get abortions) carry so much mental torture for that one quick decision. She will know when she got pregnant and she will remember that possible birthday. Her whole future, she will look at children and think, ‘That’s about the age mine would’ve been.’ ”
After a stay at the Florence Crittenton home for unwed mothers, now known as Crittenton Services, Inc., in Wheeling, W.Va., Lorrie gave birth to Baby Lisa on January 19th, 1981; she was a full 9 pounds, one for each hour of labor. Against recommendations because she had signed temporary adoption papers, Lorrie held her and fed her a bottle. As she held her, Lorrie thought about it being the first and last time she would ever see her daughter. Her senses were alive enough to be electric; she can recall every element about the moment, including the song on the nurses’ radio — “Miss Sun” by Boz Scaggs. Even as her father was on his way to get her, to leave her past in its blankets behind, a girl named Lalane who had befriended her at Crittenton came to visit. She said, “You know, me and Bobby talked about it, and if you want to keep your baby, you can stay here with us, but you have to finish school.”
“I thought, this is my moment. I have to grab onto this.” Lorrie kept Lisa.
When her dad had arrived to find out her decision, he turned away saying she and the baby couldn’t stay with him. “It was Palm Sunday when he called me back and said, ‘Pack your bags. I’m coming to get you and your baby girl and bring you back home.’”
Lorrie’s is a road both blessed and broken, but she is grateful for it, bumps and all. Not long after 11th grade and being a full-time mom proved too difficult, Lorrie chose to get her GED, acknowledging that she “almost became a statistic.” God, she believes, put the right people along the right points in her pathway, including her husband of 30 years, Wayne Legursky.
Daughter Lisa lives in St. Louis, Mo. and has three children of her own, Alexis, Leah and Luke. Lorrie’s son Doug, father to her grandson Trip (short for “triple” — Wayne Douglas III), has used his popularity as a sports figure to speak out on behalf of pro-life issues with his family, knowing how important “just giving these babies a chance” is to his mother and sister, especially. Lorrie has volunteered for Birthright of Beckley for the last two months, an organization helping women now where she once found herself.
“I want to help here at Birthright because of girls like me. If Birthright had been available to Daddy, to connect us to resources and give us options, he would’ve made a better decision. I want these girls to know they can make it. Love always wins,” she says.
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Birthright of Beckley Director Marcia Evans helps unwed and distressed mothers understand their options and connect to resources.“We want them to know how empathetic and sympathetic we are to their issues. So many times they come and everybody is telling them what to do. Just like Lorrie, they think they don’t have a choice. We listen to their stories; we hear what they’re saying. We try to get them to think about tomorrow and not just today.”
A non-profit 501c3 organization, Birthright International is also non-judgmental, avoiding controversy involving choices and does not engage in debate over or dwell on the mechanics of abortion. Positive responsiveness to a mother’s situation is the hallmark of the Birthright International organization.
To learn more, visit www.Birthright.org or locally, call 304-253-7656 or toll-free at 1-800-550-4900.
— Lisa Shrewsberry