As Kathy Barnette watched the video of Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims berating a woman for praying outside Planned Parenthood in May, she was aghast. Not much gets this political commentator, television host and homeschool mom more riled up than the issue of abortion.
If a certain 12-year-old girl who was raped by a family friend in southern Alabama four decades ago had had an abortion, Kathy Barnette, wife and mother of two, would not be alive today.
“I am a byproduct of rape,” she says. “And my life is valuable. All life is valuable. God wastes nothing. God has the sovereign ability to fashion everything according to His purposes and His plans that He has for our lives. And for that I am eternally grateful.”
The circumstances of her birth were not talked about in her family when she was growing up in the tiny town of Nichburg. Her grandmother Hattie took care of her as if she were her own, and her mother, Mamie Jo, was like an older sibling.
“I could count backward and see that my mother was very young when she had me, but it didn’t become real to me until I saw a copy of my birth certificate when I was signing up for the Army Reserve after I graduated from high school. They identified my mother as a negro girl, and they gave her age. It just grabbed my heart. My first feelings were of sadness for my mom.”
Going to church in the South was as much a part of life as going to school, and Kathy’s family was there every time the doors were open.
“I remember it was so much fun,” she says. “I remember Sunday School, and those one-week revivals when we would get dressed up, and Vacation Bible School every summer … and just the safety net of it all.”
Kathy’s mom had been forced to marry the man who raped her, but the marriage didn’t last, and in seventh grade, she, her mom and two brothers moved to Tuskegee, Alabama. Away from her grandmother, they no longer went to church.
“But anyone who came to our door in Tuskegee with a Bible in their hand, I would let them in. I studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses and I studied with Mormons. I was just so interested in anyone who had a Bible.”
God kept His hand on Kathy, even when she got caught up in the party scene in California, where her mom had moved to be near relatives.
“I didn’t do drugs and I wasn’t promiscuous, but I loved dancing,” she said. One night in a dream, God showed her that she was at a fork in the road and at age 19, she needed to make a decision about how she was going to live her life. By the end of the week, she was on a train back to Alabama, and along the way she gave her life to Christ.
Back in her home state, she enrolled in Troy State University as a finance major. She met and married her husband, Carl, during her financial analyst days at A.G. Edwards, right after college. From A.G. Edwards, to Bank of America, to adjunct professor of Corporate Finance and Economics, she and Carl would live in Missouri, Illinois, Texas and, finally, Pennsylvania.
Along the way, she started paying more attention to politics and world events. In Philadelphia, she started blogging, and her writings caught the eye of Fox News. The network invited her to participate in a panel discussion.
Kathy refers to herself as an out-of-the-closet conservative.
“There’s a lot of truth to the fact that if you’re black, you are probably a Democrat,” she says. “With 88% of us voting a particular way, you’re virtually born into the Democratic Party.”
But taking personal, spiritual responsibility for political choices required more of her than simple allegiance to a particular party.
She knew the Bible should be the lens through which she viewed the world, and she found herself lining up more with the Republican Party. This wasn’t a political decision, but rather a realization that her Biblical convictions were driving her choices.
“When it comes to the issues of homosexuality and abortion, the Bible speaks to those,” she said.
And she had spoken on these issues, too, as a commentator. But watching the pro-life rally that occurred in Philadelphia in the aftermath of the Brian Sims video, Kathy knew she had to take her conversation to a deeper level.
“If my story could provide a voice for the unborn child, regardless of their genesis, then I wanted the opportunity to share it in good conscience. I asked my brothers for their permission, and I asked my mom for her permission. Then I talked to the editor at Fox News, and they allowed me to share it online.”
Only God could give her such courage. “Growing up on a pig farm in southern Alabama, we were very impoverished—an outhouse, a well, no insulation … from man’s standard, I would not be of much worth. And then you add to that the genesis of my life, the fact that I’m a byproduct of rape.
“But we know that before the foundation of the world, God saw me. He had a plan. And He decided so long ago that I would be, and that He would carve out a path for me.”
That path included forgiveness for her father, whom she nervously went to visit when she moved back to Alabama from California.
“The moment my eyes met his eyes, I was flooded with something that I did not have within myself … sympathy and grace. It was God.”
As a little girl, she would walk down the plum-lined street from the farm to the mailbox and watch the cars zoom back and forth. Where are they going? she wondered. I want to go.
She would make up stories to go along with the people in the cars, never dreaming where her own story would take her—wife of a godly man, mother of two beautiful children, Carl Jr., 13, and Kayla, 10; a 10-year military veteran of the country she would willingly die for; author of an upcoming book; and daughter of one of the most courageous women ever, Mamie Jo, whom she now cares for.
“I’m so very grateful to God for the opportunity to be a net for my mother now, to be able to catch her in this time,” she says. “That could not have happened had she aborted me.”
Photos: Courtesy of Kathy Barnette