A Life of Love and Service

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on June 6, 2023

“Was it alive?”

Dr. William Yates was in his medical residency. He had just finished an abortion. His patient’s sister was outside the surgery room and wanted details. Saying “no” wasn’t possible. But saying “yes” would be admitting he did harm — once something doctors took an oath not to do.

That was the last time he performed an abortion.

Three decades ago, the religious group Sisters of Life was founded in New York so that any pregnant woman or mother in need could get help. Two daughters of William and Meg Yates are members of the Sisters of Life, and one now leads the order.

We Can Stand With Mothers and Babies 

President Biden, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis can argue about abortion forever. But the most important thing is what we can to do help mothers in need. The Yates family would babysit, arrange appointments and assist mothers with material needs. They would let women know they were not alone.

If you read my columns, you know I am opposed to abortion. But do women know that many people who are opposed to abortion actually want to help them? I sometimes fear we are the last people pregnant women would come to.

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The Sisters of Life dedicate their lives to God and to moms. They give up marriage and family for themselves, but, really, they have so many daughters and sons. They make themselves available to families who may not know love without them. If we don’t celebrate life, how can we ever know its value? Even a doctor in training may not realize that, yes, that developing child in the womb is even a life.

In reflecting on how she arrived at the Sisters of Life, Mother Mary Concepta, the new superior of the order and one of the daughters of William Yates, remembers a woman who called her mother, thanking her for helping her get her high-school diploma. She had a job at a bank because of it. Mrs. Yates was in tears. Her daughter wrote years later: “Her witness taught me that life is a sacred gift, and no matter what the circumstances and struggle, by standing with mother and baby, love always triumphs!”

Love Triumphs

William Yates had had a conversion as a doctor, realizing that he needed to protect life in the face of confusion about its value. And two of his daughters had committed to a still-embryonic community that insists that women deserve better than pressure to abort. Women deserve love, and are capable of heroic love.

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, Mother Mary Concepta, and all of the more than 100 Sisters of Life are witnesses to a love that our debates about abortion don’t often capture. And they pose a challenge, too. However we vote, we need to ask basic questions. Do we want to go out of our way to help women who need it? Would we give someone a ride to school so they didn’t have to drop out?

Mother Mary Concepta helps show us by her actions and her example that there is a better way to go than political argument. She was raised in love and service, and the Sisters of Life are carrying out that work.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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