Faces of rape, incest speak at Champaign ’40 Days’ kick-off

Photo Caption: Kristi Hofferber listens as Monica Kelsey explains that “I am not a child of rape, I am a child of God” at the kick-off rally of 40 Days for Life in Champaign.

By: By Jennifer Willems

CHAMPAIGN — Monica Kelsey and Kristi Hofferber are exceptions to the rule — at least as far as lawmakers are concerned.

Kelsey and Hofferber are the faces of rape and incest, which legislators often include as exceptions to laws pertaining to abortion. At a recent kick-off rally for 40 Days for Life in Champaign, they reminded pro-life advocates that “a life is a life is a life.”

Laura Gallant, director of the Champaign leg of 40 Days for Life, said the national campaign seeks to end abortion through prayer and fasting, keeping vigil in front of the places where abortions take place, and community outreach. Anyone who wishes to participate must sign a Statement of Peace, pledging to be respectful at all times and to maintain a peaceful, prayerful demeanor.

In addition to Champaign, people started praying in front of abortion facilities in Peoria, Ottawa and the Quad Cities on Sept. 25, and will continue their 12-hour vigils through Sunday, Nov. 3.

“It’s totally putting our faith in God — praying for 40 days, showing him we trust him, that we want (abortion) to end in America and around the world,” Gallant said.

“CHILD OF GOD”
Kelsey was conceived when her birth mother, then 17 years old, was brutally raped. Now a speaker for Save the 1, the EMT and firefighter from Northeast Indiana refuses to be defined by the circumstances of how her life began.

“I am not a child of rape. I am a child of God,” she told the people gathered in the parish hall of Holy Cross Church here Sept. 16.
Hofferber is the only survivor of six children conceived as a result of sexual abuse perpetrated by a father on his own daughter. One of the others died in a miscarriage, while the remaining four were aborted to cover up the incest.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m conceived in rape and incest,” said Hofferber, a Protestant pastor’s wife and student of social work at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. “I am God’s child. He ordained my life and for that I am truly, truly thankful.

“That’s why I’m here with you tonight, sharing my message,” she said. “He does wonderful, wonderful things out of terrible situations. I can’t thank him enough for my life and for the family that he’s given me.”

Both women were adopted at birth and credit their loving adoptive parents for giving them the courage to speak out for others. Able to reconnect with their birth mothers, despite the fact that adoptions records were sealed in the early 1970s, they said the road hasn’t always been easy but provided opportunities for healing on both sides.

The organization they represent, Save the 1, was started a year-and-a-half ago and refers to the 1 percent of babies whose lives end through abortion.

“That’s our loss,” Kelsey said. “We’re trying to save the 1.”

Proving her worth as a firefighter, Kelsey offered rally participants new ways to “stop, drop and roll.”

“Stop compromising the lives of the unborn,” she said. Babies in the womb feel pain whether they’re conceived “with wine and roses” or rape and incest. “When we start compromising we’re not saving anyone.”

Drop the exceptions, Kelsey urged.

“If you are pro-life, you are pro-life,” she said. “Are we seriously going to put her through an abortion? Is that going to take the rape away?”
Her final piece of advice was to roll out the people who can put a face on this issue.

“Please, fight for the least of us,” Kelsey said.

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