Sheriff’s prolife heart makes the
difference in an inmate’s “life story”
May 20, 2014 - So many in an unplanned pregnancy feel they are alone and have no other choice but abortion. With compassion and support, however, women feel they can choose life for their unborn child—even in difficult circumstances. Sheriff Kim Cole can attest to that.
Mr. Kim Cole has only served a short time as the sheriff of Mason County. Taking office in January 2013, Cole and Undersheriff Mr. Jody Hartley have prior experience as deputies, but are now responsible for more than 40 deputies and the county jail with 100 inmates. For Cole it can be considered a family business. His great-great-grandfather, Henry, served as Mason County sheriff from 1899 to 1903. Cole and Hartley are prepared to make decisions in emergencies as law enforcement officials, but faced a unique decision after only eight months as sheriff and undersheriff.
In August 2013, the county jail had four female inmates who were pregnant at the same time, an unusual occurrence. Sheriff Cole said having pregnant inmates takes some special care, but it’s nothing new for them. He was faced with a new situation, however, when a staff nurse informed him that one of the pregnant inmates, "Sarah," wanted to have an abortion.
Cole said the nurse told him they were planning on prepping her for an abortion, but he said he wasn’t going to sign off on that.
"If she wanted to get an abortion she would have to get a court order," Cole said.
It is common for prisons to require a court order to allow transport for an elective abortion. Cole consulted with Undersheriff Hartley and they both agreed that they made the right choice. Cole said he and Hartley are both men of faith who don’t believe in abortion.
Weeks went by with no further word on the matter leading Cole and Hartley to believe it was the end of the abortion request. While on vacation in Wyoming, Sheriff Cole received an unexpected call from Undersheriff Hartley bearing bad news; Sarah had gotten a court order to have an abortion. Sheriff Cole and Undersheriff Hartley knew the matter was out of their hands. Prayer was all they could now do for Sarah and her unborn baby.
On the return trip from Wyoming, Sheriff Cole received another unexpected call, this time a joyful message. While Sarah was preparing for the abortion, she had changed her mind. The Monday he returned to work, Cole asked Sarah to meet him in his office to discuss her change of heart. Over a dish full of peanut butter cup candies on his desk, Sarah sobbed as she explained her story. The time between her request for the court order and her abortion gave her an opportunity for reflection.
"She was grateful for the time she had to think things through," Cole said. "She had a lot of problems going on in her life at the time. She thought the abortion was the easiest way to solve her problems."
He listened to Sarah, praising her and offered her support. They connected her with pregnancy counseling and adoption resources to help her through her pregnancy. Sarah chose to place her child in an open adoption. Sheriff Cole told her that he had served with many heroes in uniform, but she too was a hero for choosing life for her child when it seemed impossible. While serving the remainder of her six month sentence, Sarah and Sheriff Cole met every few weeks to talk over peanut butter candies in his office.
"We formed a friendship we wouldn’t have had otherwise," he said.
After Sarah’s release, they fell out of contact, until one day in March. Sarah showed up at his office with a bag of peanut butter cups in hand to replenish the sheriff’s candy dish supply. She told the sheriff her due date was in a couple of weeks. Sheriff Cole gave her his business card and asked her to give him a call when her son was born so he could see him in person. Cole said he told Sarah she looked like she wasn’t going to make it to the due date. Sure enough, the next day she gave birth to her beautiful son. Cole rushed to the hospital to see him before they placed Sarah’s son with his adoptive parents. Cole had the opportunity to hold him, a child whose life was hanging in the balance months before.
"She made the right choice, and I admire her and love her for that," he said. "She’s given him an opportunity to write his own life story."
Cole had a picture taken of him holding the newborn, which he keeps on his desk at work. The photo is quite the conversation piece, Cole said, and he enjoys telling the story. He said recently a big, tough, Second Amendment supporter was in his office talking about gun laws, and the man asked him about the picture of his grandchild on his desk. The sheriff told him it wasn’t his grandchild. As Cole was recounting Sarah’s story the rugged man melted into tears.
The story has received media attention recently, first in the local Mason County papers and then in national prolife media. Cole said Sarah’s father has been reading reactions to the stories, which Cole said have been about 80 percent positive. As for the other 20 percent, Sheriff Cole said Sarah has told him it’s wrong for others to accuse him of pressuring her—it was her choice. Sheriff Cole is quick to say supporting Sarah was a group effort, including Undersheriff Hartley. There were also those who joined in with prayers, staff at their local pregnancy center and others.Most of all, he said credit needs to go to Sarah, who took the time given to her and her son to make the right decision.
"She made the choice, and along with her parents they deserve the credit," Cole said. "I tend to be the guy that gets blamed for everything," he added jokingly.
Sheriff Cole said he and Sarah stay in touch and she continues to pass on updates to him from her son’s adoptive family.
Cole said it’s wonderful that such a positive, life-giving story has received attention in his community. As a seventh generation resident of Mason County, he thinks many in their tight-knit community have a belief in the value of each and every human life, which helped him develop his respect for the sanctity of all human life. He also thinks back to his own mother, who was 16 when she gave birth to him.
"She allowed me the opportunity to write my own life story, and maybe that was part of it," he said.