The New Face of the Pro-Life Movement
Forty years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, a case that began in Dallas. Now the city is serving as a proving ground for the newest weapon in the battle over abortion.
He said he could help place the baby with a loving family.
She said she couldn’t. She looked at Pomerantz and let out a pained, exhausted screech, then ran into the clinic. He could hear her sobbing through the door.
He knows he’ll never forget the look in her eyes. And he knows she’ll always remember that before going in for her abortion, some random 21-year-old was begging her to take a step away from the door.
“She didn’t want to come talk to me because she knew if she talked to me, she wouldn’t be able to go through with it,” he says. “I knew right then and there: these women don’t really want to have an abortion. They’re driven by fear to do something that’s unnatural for any mother. If we can save the mother from her source of fear, we can save that child from being murdered.”
He initially wanted to start his project in New York, but he says God called him to come to North Texas, despite his never having been here and knowing nobody local. He approached First Baptist Dallas, and someone there directed him to the Downtown Pregnancy Center, which operates rent free out of a church-owned building. It’s an arm of Involved for Life. There he met Carolyn Cline, the center’s executive director, and pitched his idea for an ultrasound-mobile.
“His goals matched the center’s exactly,” she says. “I immediately thought of it as an extension of what we were already doing here.”
Cline took him to talk to the board of directors of Involved for Life. The board, half of which are members of First Baptist Dallas, said Pomerantz could do it, but he had to raise the money for the van—about $150,000—in five months. With a check for $100,000 from a
single donor coming in just days before his deadline, Pomerantz was close enough to his goal that he got the green light.
He bought the van and had the interior customized with cushioned benches, cabinets and drawers, a small toilet (with a curtain), and a micro-fridge so they can offer the women cold water. And, of course, there’s the top-of-the-line portable ultrasound machine. Connie Rucker, the head certified sonographer at the pregnancy center, says their machine is probably better than the abortion clinic’s.
Next, Involved for Life wrote up the official procedures, and Pomerantz studied the applicable laws and picked a clinic. He chose the one he did because, he says, it’s the most frequented. Plus there’s public access. The clinic’s website features a price schedule, with the fetus’s age in weeks next to the cost of the abortion, and three women smiling in the corner of the screen.
The van got rolling in mid-May of last year. The project was originally called “Save the Storks,” and there was an illustration of a stork carrying a baby on the side of the van. Pomerantz thought the imagery was innocent and secular enough to seem safe, but it didn’t work. Some people inferred that he saw the mothers as nothing more than birds or baby-delivery systems. After a few weeks, he changed the paint job to read Sonograms On Site and made the logo look more clinical.
That’s when business picked up. Now the days when he doesn’t get anyone on board are few, and he often has more than one in a day. On a recent Monday, they gave sonograms to three women. The first was an 18-year-old immigrant. She’d come to get an abortion because she’d been told that she couldn’t get her citizenship if she was pregnant. When Cline showed her a picture of her baby and they explained that someone had lied to her about the immigration statutes, the woman could barely speak through the tears.
The second was a teenage girl referred by the Catholic center across the street. Her sonogram showed that she was likely having a miscarriage. Because the sonographer isn’t legally allowed to diagnose anything, the girl was told she needed to make an appointment with a doctor.
The third woman that day was much older. She had tried to give herself an abortion at home and changed her mind. When they hooked her up to the ultrasound and she saw that the baby was alive and well, she was relieved. She left the van grinning, excited about the new life ahead of her.
Pomerantz grew up in a service-oriented environment. He lived outside Philadelphia, with both his parents and his mother’s parents. For much of his life, his family worked in a homeless shelter. He was homeschooled until the seventh grade and then he went to a private school where he was the only white kid. For the first time, he realized how sheltered his life had been.
“I didn’t know anything about sex at all, and I had no clue what the other kids were talking about,” he says. “I was the socially awkward fat kid.”
In ninth grade, he transferred to the best private school in the area, an academy for the privileged, the best and the brightest—where he fell in with a group of atheist kids. He began questioning his beliefs. “Atheism seemed like a completely viable option as a world view,” he says.
It was around that same time that his father began to exhibit signs of schizophrenia. The family took him to a number of counselors, but it didn’t help much. As he saw his father’s illness get worse, Pomerantz had a series of religious experiences. The most remarkable, he says, was when he witnessed the exorcism of an infant. He doesn’t want to go into more detail, because he doesn’t want to distract from his current mission.
Abortion isn’t something most kids think a lot about. But Pomerantz became obsessed. He was outraged to learn that friends and teachers—people he considered good Christians—were pro-choice. Every day, he wore a t-shirt with an anti-abortion slogan on it. Every school project was about abortion. Every presentation or essay: abortion. At one point, he baked cupcakes and threw a birthday party for all the aborted children who didn’t get to have birthdays. While the other kids ate frosting and cake, Pomerantz showed them graphic photos.
“I owned it,” he says. “I was known around school as the abortion kid. If I talked to you, it was probably about abortion.” He laughs. “It made me extremely unpopular.”
When he graduated from high school, he went to a Bible college in upstate New York. He wasn’t particularly gifted when it came to schoolwork, but he enjoyed reading and debating the other students. The more he studied the Bible, the more he noticed how often Satan kills babies in scriptures.
“It goes along with Satan’s plan to attack humans,” he says. “He goes after the bloodlines. We could have aborted Einstein. Every time I see a woman walking into a clinic, I see a baby, and the forces of the supernatural are influencing this woman to get rid of this baby. I see that woman as a safe loaded with gold that thieves are trying to steal.”
Now he lives in a loft in southeast Dallas, a building full of artists and stylish young professionals. The neighborhood streets, though, are patrolled by prostitutes and drug dealers, so he keeps his Prius in the gated parking lot. He leans toward rebellious, but he stays on the straight and narrow. He’s still a virgin, for example. He was also a vegan for several years. Not for the animals, he stresses—“I’d own a slaughterhouse if I thought it was profitable,” he says—but to lose weight and live healthier. It’s the same reason he took up rock climbing. He enjoys going up to the roof with his Bible, praying as he looks out at the Dallas skyline, and then rappelling down the side of his building.
He generally keeps his apartment door open. He seems to know everyone he passes in the lobby or elevator. He regularly throws parties on the weekends that run deep into the night. He calls it “party church.” People can bring alcohol, but not too much, and neither drugs nor sex are permitted. “It’s true fellowshipping,” he says. By 2 or 3 am, he’s usually trying to foster discussion of the gospels. Sometimes he stands at his DJ booth and spins.
He certainly has temptations he struggles with—“Every day I wake up, it’s a conscious effort not to look at internet pornography,” he says—but he doesn’t see a problem with alcohol. Sometimes it helps bring people together, and he’s all about finding common ground, especially with a topic as divisive as abortion.
On a recent night, it wasn’t booze that was flowing, but Pellegrino sparkling water. Pomerantz’s mother, Tamara, was in town. She’s half Ukrainian, half Brazilian, and she always has a case of Pellegrino sent to Pomerantz’s loft in advance of her visits.
“When the water gets here, that’s how I know it’s time for a Mom visit,” Pomerantz says.
She was staying with one of Pomerantz’s co-workers (the arrangement in the loft is more suited to someone in his 20s), but she had come by to cook Pomerantz a spaghetti casserole. Pomerantz invited several people to join them: three friends, a reporter, and one of Pomerantz’s co-workers. As the plates were making their way to the kitchen sink, one more guest arrived. It was Buddy, the security guard
from the clinic. Buddy recently lost his mother, Pomerantz would explain later, and he needed to be around friendly faces. When he walked in, Tamara gave him a warm hug.
“I’ve heard so much about you,” Buddy said.
“Well, I’ve heard a lot about you, too!” Tamara said. “Come, come sit down.”
The table sat a mix of liberals and conservatives, skeptics and believers, young and not-so-young. And yet all night there was nothing but
pleasant, amicable discourse. Conversation moved steadily from where to get good cheese to what constitutes good health care to eating chocolates filled with liqueur to the unrelated facts that demons are real and cell phone buttons are too small.
By now the two young women who got in the van together have been aboard for more than an hour. Their friend, the one they left inside the clinic, has already come to look for them once. As soon as they got in the van, Pomerantz, standing outside, started texting updates to Cline at the pregnancy center. There, at least one person—often several—will concentrate in prayer, hoping to sway the women aboard the van to choose life. If, when they come off the van, the women need something the center can provide, Pomerantz will send messages so they can have a care package ready.
He hopes one day he’ll be successful enough to send dozens of women to the pregnancy center every week. But he also knows that taking care of these mothers is expensive. On this he pulls no punches: “It’s a sham for the pro-life movement to say one thing with their mouths and another thing with their pocketbooks,” he says. “I don’t think you can be pro-life if you aren’t giving your time or money or resources directly. You’re just anti-abortion, and that doesn’t help women.”
He adds: “I’d love if these pro-choicers gave us money, too. We’d use every cent of it to take care of these women. What would they have me do? Is there anything else I can do? If there is, tell me, because I want to do everything I can.”
The van door opens, and the young women walk out. The one in the blue shirt, the one who was pretty sure she was pregnant, looks devastated. The woman in the red sweater, the one who thought there was a chance she might be pregnant, props up her friend as they walk.
Pomerantz wants to approach them. He wants to ask them how their experience was, if there’s anything he can do for them. But when he sees the pained looks, he backs away. “Let’s give them some space,” he says.
The woman in red isn’t pregnant. The woman in blue, who now looks like she might crumble to the ground at any second, had a positive pregnancy test, but from the ultrasound it looks likely that she’ll have a miscarriage. Before they leave, Pomerantz makes sure they know whom to call if they need help seeing a doctor.
In some ways, the biggest complaint from his opponents is that he’s interfering in the lives of strangers, that he’s convincing women who can’t handle the responsibilities of raising children to have them anyway—or, worse, that he’s trying to manipulate women at the most vulnerable moment of their lives. These women are scared and upset, and he shows them a sonogram, a picture that upsets them even more, perhaps leads them to make a life-altering decision based on a fleeting emotion.
“The truth is, there is a responsibility that comes with having sex,” he says. “There’s a responsibility with having a child, no matter how it was conceived. I wish I could carry a child. I wish I could contribute more to that, as a man. I can help however I’m asked, but it’s still up to each person to take responsibility.”
By his count, Pomerantz and his friends have saved 52 babies with the ultrasound van. Given the circumstances into which these children were born, Pomerantz knows that not every one of them will grow up to become a happy, healthy, contributing member of society. Maybe one of the 52 will become the next Einstein. More likely, though, he’ll wind up in jail. But Pomerantz sees only the good.
“I’m sure the guy who goes to prison will still affect someone positively,” he says. “Or his children, or his children’s children, or someone else. Or he could come out of jail and end up starting the next Apple computers. Or be a behavioral psychologist. It’s fun to think of the possibilities of what all these children could become. Even Hitler changed the course of history, and who knows what good came of that?”
Soon, another woman arrives at the clinic. She parks across the street, and when she sees Pomerantz, she tries to avoid him. He smiles and holds out his card. She gets closer, and he extends his hand. She’s nearly past him, nearly to the red line.
“Here,” he says. “We can help you.”
WRITE TO MICHAEL.MOONEY@DMAGAZINE.COM.