Guest Author - Rebecca Orczeck
I recently got an email from the Elliot Instituteís David C. Reardon, Ph.D. detailing the loss and life of Tom Strahan, a dedicated activist working quietly behind the scenes of the Pro-Life movement. Here is the email:
On November 13, 2003, God called home one of his champions, Tom Strahan. Tom died of a heart attack shortly after he and his wife, Carol, returned home from a fund-raising banquet for a pregnancy help center in Minneapolis. To the very end, Tom was helping others.
As a man, Tom Strahan was a humble, generous, and prayerful father, steward, and Christian. As a laborer, he was an attorney and scholar.
In my judgment, Tom was the worldís single leading expert on the literature related to abortion complications. Others might know the details of one area or of a group of studies better, but no one was as well read in regard to the breadth of the literature. The breadth of this knowledge is captured in Detrimental Effects of Abortion: An Annotated Bibliography with Commentary, of which the Elliot Institute is the proud publisher.
How did a lawyer come to be an expert in the area of post-abortion complications? It began in prayer.
Tom had matured into his professional life during the late 50's and early 60's. He used his legal skills to serve the poor and disenfranchised and was active in civil rights litigation. I doubt he ever made a lot of money, but he knew he was helping people who needed help. He probably also got a lot of help from his wife, Carol, who encouraged and supported his efforts to serve rather than get.
I first met Tom in 1986. We were both attending the first meeting of the Association for Interdisciplinary Research on Values and Social Change to present papers on the negative effects of abortion on women. It was my first public presentation on the topic. My guess is that it was his first as well.
Tom went on to become the editor and chief author of the Associationís publication Research Reports (www.abortionresearch.com). He became the first one I would ever turn to with questions about the literature. Every time, he was gracious and generous with his time, resources, and good advice.
Once, when we were discussing how we had gotten into "this business," Tom explained how he was reluctantly pulled into it. There had come a time, he said, when he had been at a loss as to where he should be putting his energies. So he knelt down in prayer. He prayed for an hour or more, repeatedly asking the Lord to show him what he should do. I guess it took him a couple of hours of prayer because this experienced civil rights lawyer kept hoping that if he prayed long enough God would show him some new way to help the poor. Instead, he felt God was insistently calling on him to defend the unborn. Not the
abortion issue, he protested! How about something else? Surely there was something less divisive that he could help out with? No, he sensed in Godís immovable answer, Tom was needed for the battle against abortion.
Without a lot of initial enthusiasm, but with an obedient spirit, Tom began to study the Supreme Courtís abortion rulings with greater intensity. Like thousands of other Christian lawyers, he knew that the Supreme Courtís reasoning, legal analysis, and historical interpretations were deeply flawed. But he also saw that the one area in the Courtís reasoning that was most susceptible to being reversed by a demonstration in facts
was the Court ?s conclusion that abortion is safe for women. So Tom carefully and meticulously went about the job of gathering the facts necessary to prove that abortion is hurting women.
Becoming an expert in post-abortion literature wasnít ever Tomís plan. It simply happened as he walked in faith to follow Godís plan. Nor was it ever my plan. But without Tom, much of what I have done in the field would either not have been possible or would have been much less well-developed.
I remember talking with Tom once about how God pulls us onto paths we would never have chosen to follow on our own initiative. While Tom had once hesitated to pursue the abortion issue, how thankful I am (and all of you should be) that God insisted and Tom submitted.
During this conversation -- and probably several afterward, as I tend to repeat myself a lot -- I told Tom my favorite joke: How do you make God laugh? Answer: Tell Him your plans. (Teenagers always stare blankly at me when I tell this to them, which gives me a second laugh! My guess is that this joke has a ten to thirty year gestation period when told to teens.)
I deeply miss Tom already, as both a colleague, confidant, and friend. His death reminds me, however, of how, in the economy of grace that only God can see, all of our efforts are intertwined and united in countless ways. Iím often blessed to hear how the efforts of others have been aided or inspired by the Elliot Instituteís own work. Rarely do they know, however, how our own work has been dependent on the labor and generosity of people like Tom Strahan and countless others who contribute their time, intellect, prayers and financial support to our efforts.
My guess is that only a few hundred people in the pro-life movement would automatically recognize Tom Strahanís name and associate it with the important contributions he has made to protecting women and their children. Fewer still would know what he has also done to help the poor and to defend the free speech
and civil rights of all. But that also is a beautiful aspect of Godís plan, that such important work is done in hidden ways, not for wealth or prestige, but because it needs to be done.
Tom left a living treasure to this world in the form of his four children and nine grandchildren, and a written treasure of research and case law that will continue to affect the course of national affairs for years to come. Bound to follow Godís plans, not his own, he has left these treasures behind to embrace the treasures stored up in heaven for those who do Godís will.
The Strahan family asks that any memorial gifts in Tomís honor be directed to the New Life Family Services, at 720 Washington Ave SE Suite 10 Minneapolis, MN 55414 (phone 612-866-7643) E-Mail: email@example.com