When Chantelle Chaffett walked toward the front doors of a New York City Planned Parenthood, little did she realize the biker who approached her on the sidewalk would change her life.
Pressured by the father of her unborn child to have an abortion, Chaffett, 27, was there at the abortion clinic against her better judgment.
“It was emotional abuse,” she said. “I never felt so alone.”
But the biker outside the abortion clinic had hope-filled words to share with her, helping her understand she had options, she had support, and she wasn’t alone. The man was a sidewalk counselor with Pro Bikers for Life, a non-profit pro-life group with chapters throughout the U.S (and even Germany and Italy) whose mission is to help preserve life by maintaining a prayerful presence and offering sidewalk counseling at abortion facilities.
The biker steered Chaffett to the nearby AAA Pregnancy Options Center, a pregnancy help center in Hempstead that provides free pregnancy testing and materials assistance for mothers of children up to two years of age.
Reflecting back on that moment, Chaffett says his recommendation and caring words were the best intervention she could have received.
“It was the most amazing experience,” Chaffett said. “They told me about the options I had. They were like angels. They were protecting me and my child.”
As a result, today, Chaffett’s life is completely different. She is no longer in the abusive relationship, and she has traded her waitressing job and the internship she had at the time to pursue a college degree while working part-time as a brand ambassador. And, she has her child, Robyn.
“I look at my daughter now, and I’m just so grateful!” Chaffett said.
She likely wouldn’t have her child if not for the man she met on her way to the abortion facility. Chaffett credits members of the group for putting her life back on track.
“They prayed for me and they gave me referrals. They were another support for me other than my family,” she said.
The life-affirming work of Pro Bikers for Life and pregnancy centers like AAA Pregnancy Options Center is vital to the battle for unborn children and their mothers in New York.
Known as the abortion capital of America, the state has zero abortion restrictions. Nearly 120,000 abortions—37 percent of all pregnancies—were reported in the state in 2014. As for New York City itself, data from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that one in every three babies in New York City is aborted. The city also claims the highest abortion ratio in the country: 575 abortions for every 1,000 live births.
To help meet the city’s tremendous needs, AAA Pregnancy Options has two locations in the New York City area, the one that helped Chaffett in Hempstead and another in Deer Park. Gloria Schieber, executive director of the organization, says the two outposts provided $800,000 of aid to families last year.
Although the center is not a medical clinic, clients have access to free ultrasound screenings through the center’s partnership with local Catholic hospitals. Additionally, six men volunteer as advocates to meet with the men who come to the center with their girlfriends.
“We’ve had 15 babies saved because of them,” Schieber said.
Now that her life is completely different, Chantelle is finding ways to help save babies like her daughter Robyn by helping other women who find themselves at a New York abortion clinic. She participates as a sidewalk counselor, and she hopes to volunteer at the center as well.
“It’s going full-circle,” Schieber said. “The message she’s sending her beautiful daughter for the future is simply wonderful with everything that has come out of her situation.”
Chaffett wants to give a message to other women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy as well.
“You can do this—you are not alone,” she said. “Your life will completely change, but it will also change if you have an abortion. People who work at pregnancy centers like AAA are there for you all the way. They are like an extended family you never knew existed.”
NORTH PLATTE, Neb. —
It started when Nebraska State Troopers responded to a call claiming there was a biker brawl going on in the North Platte area.
The troopers showed up and realized there was no brawl, only a group of men who share a love for motorcycles.
The State Patrol Facebook page said the men were traveling together and working on a bike in a parking lot.
The post went on to say that the men wanted to take a picture with the troopers before they left and that everyone walked away from the situation with a new friend.
Kickstands up: Harley-Davidson ‘Rides Home’ start, with riders on their way to Milwaukee for the 115th anniversary
Starting Tuesday, Harley-Davidson enthusiasts began leaving far-flung destinations, such as San Diego and Seattle, on a cross-country pilgrimage that will culminate with Harley’s 115th anniversary party in Milwaukee Aug. 29-Sept. 2.
It’s been a long wait for many riders craving another celebration in the city that Harley calls home, as the last big event for them here was the 110th anniversary five years ago.
FULL COVERAGE: Harley’s 115th anniversary
Early Tuesday morning, about 20 bikes left a Harley dealership in San Diego and headed for Milwaukee, some 2,118 miles away.
The balmy, overcast weather on that journey soon turned to 103 degrees in Yuma, Ariz.
Two of the riders, Lyn and Curtis May, of Beaumont, Texas, have been riding together for 28 years.
The secret to a long-term riding relationship?
“I trust him and what he does,” Lyn says.
“She doesn’t complain, so she makes it easy,” Curtis says.
Around 7 p.m. Tuesday, Karen Davidson, great-granddaughter of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A. Davidson, and creative director of Harley-Davidson MotorClothes, arrived in Scottsdale, Ariz., on her new 2019 Harley Road King.
The bike had zero miles on it when she picked it up in San Diego.
She and her brother, Bill Davidson, are on the nine-day ride from San Diego to Milwaukee. Their next stop is Gallup, N.M.
On the ride from Tacoma, Wash., to Milwaukee, about 2,000 miles, is Greg Amyotte from British Columbia.
He enjoys the camaraderie of other bikers and meeting new people.
“It’s all about loud bikes, beer, and I’d say women, but I’m married,” Amyotte said.
Dana Smith, from Belgium, Wis., rode his bike around Washington state for a while Tuesday, not realizing there was a helmet law — and he wasn’t wearing a helmet.
He figured it out by looking it up on the internet.
Smith is a long-distance biker. He recently rode from his home to Pittsburgh to check out a houseboat he might buy. Then, he rode nearly 2,600 miles to Tacoma, so that he can ride to Milwaukee.
For Harley-Davidson, the world’s largest manufacturer of heavyweight motorcycles, homecoming events are a company tradition, and not just during anniversary years.
For instance, in 1981, nine of the company’s 13 top executives took a four-day trek on bikes from Harley’s assembly plant in York, Pa., to Milwaukee — celebrating their buyback of the company from AMF Corp.
And there have been many other company rides, some of them several thousand miles, over the years.
The first of the “Rides Home” was for the 85th anniversary in 1988, according to Harley.
“There’s a history of Harley-Davidson jumping on the road to celebrate things,” said Steve Piehl, a retired Harley executive who started the Harley Owners Group, a worldwide network of riders that now has more than 1 million members.
To kick off Harley’s 100th anniversary, in 2003, Piehl joined a group ride from Las Vegas to Milwaukee, led by Willie G. Davidson, the grandson of company co-founder William Davidson, and other members of the Davidson family.
That ride grew so big, it was divided into two groups to keep it manageable with things like fuel stops and traffic flow.
During the 105th anniversary, in 2008, Harley executives led group rides from 105 dealerships.
“Every one of us had a different starting point, and that ride grew as we got closer and closer to Milwaukee, Piehl said.
For many Harley enthusiasts, the journey is as much about the people they meet along the way, as it is the destination.
“The one thing that comes out in almost every Harley event is you build relationships. I have friends I made on the 105th (anniversary) ride that I still stay in touch with,” Piehl said.
“It’s totally spontaneous. For the most part, you have no idea who will be on the ride. And you feel like you’re arriving home every day of the ride when you roll into a dealership that’s hosting a party,” he added.
Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley, and her husband, Kent, aren’t on any of this year’s Rides Home, but they can relate to friendships made on the road.
They’ve taken some epic motorcycle trips, as far as 2,200 miles, across icefields in Canada, down the Oregon coast, and through Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, to name a few.
Their major trips began 15 years ago when they met the “Rubber Knife Gang” during Harley’s 100th anniversary.
That group of Iowa motorcyclists, far from being outlaws, welcomed them into their homes and riding experiences.
“We love it. Every year there are some new people in the mix,” Kathy Ehley said.
On their travels out West, the Ehleys encountered bison in the Black Hills of South Dakota. During one ride, they went through dense fog all the way to the top of a mountain in Glacier National Park, only to have the skies clear at the top for a magnificent view.
But the best memories come from the people you meet, Ehley said.
“When you have a Harley, there’s a camaraderie everywhere you go. It gets the conversation going,” she said.
For the 115th celebration, Harley-Davidson has four organized group rides to Milwaukee from the “four corners” of the U.S.: Seattle; San Diego; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; and Portland, Maine.
Some people will make the entire journey to Milwaukee, while others will do part of it based on their interest or other commitments.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA TODAY Network has a journalist on each of the rides, including the San Diego ride led by Bill and Karen Davidson.
Amanda Kingsbury, a writer and editor at the IndyStar newspaper in Indianapolis for 10 years, is on the ride from San Diego.
She doesn’t own a motorcycle, so she’s following the bikes in a rental car. But she hopes to ditch the rental at some point, pick up a pair of leather pants and hop on the back of someone’s bike.
Coming from Seattle is Mark Hoffman, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photojournalist since 1992. He calls motorcycling “two-wheel therapy” and has done two rides of at least 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less certified by the Iron Butt Association.
On this trip, his motorcycle’s odometer will hit 100,000 miles.
Coming from Ft. Lauderdale is Joe Sneve, a metro watchdog reporter for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, where he has covered local government and politics in the southeast South Dakota region since 2015.
Sneve says his first passion in life was motorcycle riding, having raced dirt bikes as a child. He prepared for the Rides Home project by taking a long vacation — on his Harley.
Coming from Portland is Mandi Wright, a Detroit Free Press photojournalist who has been riding motorcycles since the late 1970s, and who covered the Iraq War in 2003-04. She’s also a certified Iron Butt, a feat she first accomplished on a Harley-Davidson Sportster in 2012.
On this assignment she hopes to capture “the rich culture of riding motorcycles and the people who have deep meaningful roots — not just in brand loyalty, but in their stories from the road and the goal to get somewhere bigger than themselves.”
Mark Hoffman of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.