For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)
More than 15 years ago, equipped with a little faith, a small fetal model, and a thumbnail photo of my beautiful godson, born perfectly with Down syndrome, I was on a mission to rescue precious unborn children from the grip of death in the world’s largest maximum security women’s prison.
The Baby in My Pocket was first published April 19, 2021. This post is updated in solidarity with the 2023 March for Life and to commemorate the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Take a Stand
The battle is won but the war rages on.
Countless unborn children remain in the crosshairs of state legislators and the culture of death. Our work is far from over and we have much to do before the number of children saved surpasses the millions of children taken by abortion in generations past.
Spiritual retreat is not an option. We must take a stand by first falling to our knees before Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Onward Christian soldiers.
Love Them Both
Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
I was a career California Correctional Peace Officer (Prison Guard) in maximum-security prisons from 1990 until I retired in 2014. I landed at the former Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) in 1998. At the time, VSPW was known as the world’s largest maximum security women’s prison. Statistically, it was the fifth most violent institution in the state. Contrary to what one may believe, the cycle of violence perpetrated against the weak and vulnerable does not end with incarceration.
Thou shall not kill. (Exodus 20:13)
I quickly learned that as many as three women were transported from the prison reception facility each week for an elective abortion. As a devout, pro-life Catholic, this was a source of tremendous grief. My heart ached for the women and the unborn children under my supervision. God loves them both and as conflicting as the state agency behind my uniform and badge made it, I knew I was called to do the same.
There were approximately 250 female inmates under my direct supervision at any time. Commonly, the women would be summoned from my unit the evening prior to sign medical consent forms for an abortion the following day. It occurred to me that this brief time was a very narrow window of opportunity to share the Gospel of Life and plead for the life of the baby.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
With a genuine desire to be a voice for the voiceless and stand as a witness of God’s plan for each baby, I prayed that He would show me a way to advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves.
I purchased a real-life model of a 10-week-old fetus and had it blessed by a Catholic priest as a sacramental for the purpose of saving lives. It quickly became known in prison as the “baby in my pocket.”
Within days of the baby debut, inmates began approaching me to tell me that someone they know had just learned they are pregnant – the result of initial medical screening upon entering prison – and that they are going to have an abortion. I would then seek a discreet opportunity to approach the mother privately and invite them to them hold the baby.
Often, the life within would be affirmed with tears as they gazed at the little baby in the palm of their hands.
It was as if the tiny, inanimate object amplified the child’s heart beating within their womb – the sanctuary of life.
Lord, please help me get one more. – Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, Hacksaw Ridge, Okinawa, May 2, 1945
Unlike the heroic Desmond Doss, who single-handedly rescued 75 wounded soldiers on the bloody battlefield of Hacksaw Ridge, I could not drag or carry the unborn child with their mother to safety off the battlefield of abortion. I couldn’t save them all, but by the grace of God and with a heart like Desmond, who had a heart like David facing Goliath, I was determined, in Christ, to save as many as possible – one child and mother at a time.
I didn’t keep count of the number of women whom I begged, “please don’t kill your baby.”
Because God will not violate the gift of free will, I had to resign myself to the fact that I could only do what was possible in the frame of a few minutes. The outcome was completely out of my hands.
Some went forward with the abortion and some did not.
The baby was gaining quite the reputation and it wasn’t long before prison administrators heard about my covert mission from a disgruntled inmate who proved to be an enemy of life. I was summoned to the Captain’s office and issued a formal disciplinary letter ordering me to leave the baby at home and cease discussing “personal health issues” with the inmates. The disciplinary letter was added to my personnel file. My hands were tied under threat of progressive disciplinary action against me that could threaten my employment.
Though I never carried the baby to work again, I was not deterred from speaking to the incarcerated women under my supervision who desperately needed a minute spared for the purpose of sparing the life of their unborn child.
This is Luke
Most memorable is the evening I was supervising a long line of several hundred inmates on their way to the dining hall for dinner. I observed a small group of women consoling another inmate who was sobbing. I approached cautiously. I was told that the distressed inmate had learned earlier that day that the child she was carrying in her womb would likely be born with Down syndrome.
God would not be silenced.
The inmates around her implored me, “Officer Kravec, talk to her.” I instinctively reached into my empty pocket. God would not be silenced. I remembered that I carried a small photo of my godson, Luke, in my breast pocket. With little time to say anything, I removed the photo and showed it to the distraught mother. I said, “This is my godson, Luke. He has Down syndrome, and he is a source of tremendous love and joy in my life.” With that, I walked away to continue my duties.
The expectant mother was eventually transferred to another facility in the prison and paroled. I would not see her for more than a year until she re-entered the prison on a violation of probation. She immediately sought me out. She approached me with such joy and presented the photo of her son.
I can’t remember her exact words but she made it very clear that her child was born because I cared enough to stop for just a moment and show her a photo of Luke.
Years after retirement, I rediscovered the little baby in the original blue velvet drawstring pouch tucked away in my nightstand drawer. There was no question in my mind or heart that the next custodian of this precious sacramental should be my dear friend, internationally renowned pro-life advocate, Patricia Sandoval. It was Patricia who affectionately named him “Baby Brian” and gave him a resting place, in between missions, in the hands of Our Lady of Guadalupe, nestled against Her Immaculate Heart.
My Pocket Was Full
He did not leave my pocket empty.
It was Patricia who affirmed that though God allowed the baby in my pocket to be banished from the prison, He did not leave my pocket empty.
“…flesh and blood” do not save, but the Lord saves through those who are flesh and blood. – Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Called to Communion, Understanding the Church Today, Ignatius Press
Human Life International reports that a study of abortions in the United States from 1995-2011 found that 67% of women who were told their baby would have Down syndrome decided to abort. This number is much higher in other countries.
A beautiful baby – that may have been born with Down syndrome – was at imminent risk of being aborted. In His divine omniscience, God knew that if I had the baby in my pocket, I would not have stopped for just a minute to present the photo of Luke to the baby’s mother.
God really does work all things for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Informe ProVida (Pro-Life Report)
Patricia Sandoval and Astrid Bennett Gutierrez shared the story of Luke and the baby in my pocket with over 100 million viewers in all of Latin America, the USA and Spain on the EWTN español show, Informe ProVida. The special episode is titled 8 Hombres LÍderes Provida (8 Heroic Pro-Life Men).
I am overwhelmingly honored and humbled to be recognized as one in the company of these pro-life warriors. All glory be to God, the Author of Life.
The privilege of service – to love with actions and in truth in defense of the most vulnerable – is not mine alone.
At work in a women’s prison, on a cold sidewalk, at the office, in church, school, or in our own household, we are all called in all seasons, to rescue those being led away to death. (Proverbs 24:11)
Lukewarm thinking that someone else will do it or I’ll do it tomorrow might very well cost an unborn child their very life today.
Tomorrow is never promised. Today, you are that someone. You are that heroic Warrior for Life.
Lord, please help us save them all.
© 2022 Brian Kravec
Brian is a cradle Catholic, husband and father. He’s a writer, speaker, and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Possibility Productions, a 501(c)(3) faith event evangelization apostolate in service of the Body of Christ.