Buford woman leads fight against abortion

LAWRENCEVILLE - Caryl Swift doesn't get to many protests these days.

The Buford woman would love to stand on a street corner with a sign that talks about abortion, but she doesn't have time these days for that kind of work.

Instead, Swift is in the Legislature lobbying, traveling the state, organizing and raising money for the fight she believes God called her to.

Swift, a soft-spoken divorced mother and grandmother, leads Georgia's fight against abortion.

With two new members of the U.S. Supreme Court, states clamoring for cases to retry Roe v. Wade and issues including the Terri Schiavo case and stem cell research, Swift is too busy to get out her placard.

Swift's middle name is Faith, and it's what she stands on while battling for what she believes in.

"Christians should seek posterity," Swift said. "I always regretted I wasn't more involved in the civil rights movement. I grieved over the inequity I saw. The inequity of the unborn babies is even greater."

This time, Swift isn't missing her opportunity, and under her leadership, she's seeing some major accomplishments.

"Abortion is legal because believers did not speak out against evil, the same as slavery," she said. "I think part of being a Christian is you can plant a seed or water a seed, but it's God's time for progress. We know we're planting seeds and watering seeds. ... We've seen great progress. Maybe it's because people are seeking the Lord. It's time to turn it around."

Driven by faith

Every day, Caryl Swift begins her work with a prayer.

On Dec. 10, 1975, shortly after she moved from the Midwest to Lawrenceville, Swift's mission began.

"I gave my life to the Lord. My way of looking at things changed dramatically," Swift said.

But in 1975, Swift had three young children and her marriage was on the rocks.

Still, she stepped forward and began working on the issue that God put on her heart .

By then, Swift already had an organization to join. Georgia Right to Life was founded in 1971, even before the Supreme Court made the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Even though abortion never entered her mind when her children were born, Swift said she felt God leading her toward the life issues.

Whenever she counsels a woman considering abortion, she talks about her faith first. After raising her children alone, she knows what the women face.

"They don't need somebody confronting them," Swift said. "You want to convince people of the facts. You don't want to wave red flags. We care about the babies, but we care about women, too.

"We offer hope and an alternative that most people want," she said. "I would share love and tangible help."

But it's not just the women who are seeking answers that Swift reaches out to; it's also the politicians and leaders who set the policy on abortions.

Politics and life

When Swift took over the helm, she helped broaden Georgia's grassroots efforts.

The group had eight semi-active chapters in 1999; now, 89 of Georgia's 159 counties are represented by chapters.

The organization does a newsletter every month and is in its fifth year of anti-abortion television.

With a campaign waged through the Google search engine, Web surfers interested in abortion will pull up information on alternative choices even before clinics are listed.

For years, Swift has had a hand in the political process, operating a political action committee and giving out endorsements for anti-abortion candidates to the Legislature.

She takes trips to Atlanta and Washington to talk about laws.

Three years ago, Georgia Right to Life hired its first full-time lobbyist - and it worked.

Last year, the Georgia General Assembly adopted the Woman's Right to Know Act, which mandates that doctors tell patients about alternatives such as adoption as well as a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion.

"If you had to have surgery, you would be given any alternatives," Swift said. "Abortion was the only procedure where that was bypassed."

Last week, the state Senate passed a measure that says a sonogram must be performed before an abortion occurs. Another proposal, based on the Laci Peterson case, would make it two crimes to kill a woman if her unborn child dies as well. Another bill would allow pharmacists to opt out of filling prescriptions for drugs designed to end pregnancy if they object on moral or religious grounds.

All three could soon be debated in the House of Representatives, along with provisions on stem cell research, which would ban human cloning.

"We are called to be salt and light in the world," she said. "You don't have to like it."

Cloning, assisted suicide and genocide are also of interest to Swift and Georgia Right to Life.

"We don't get involved in all that (politics). It's the life issues," she said. "If you don't have life, what difference does traffic make?"