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Life Issues Forum: In The Direction of Life

By Chelsy Gomez
 
Recently we observed the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion throughout the United States. As in past years, hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington to pray, to march, to lobby and to work for the end to abortion. We mourn the lives that have been lost in 45 years of legalized abortion. At the same time, we look to the future with hope for those that might be saved.
 
Recent developments offer great promise in protecting the most vulnerable among us.
 
On Jan. 18, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its Office of Civil Rights. The new division more vigorously will enforce existing laws that protect the conscience rights and religious freedom of health care providers like Cathy DeCarlo, who was forced to participate in an abortion.
 
In recent years, these violations to federal laws have been ignored. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, as U.S. Catholic Conference chairmen, issued a joint statement applauding the new initiative "for its significant actions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom."
 
They continued, "For more than forty years—dating back to the Church amendment of 1973—Congress has enacted federal laws protecting rights of conscience in health care. We are grateful that HHS is taking seriously its charge to protect these fundamental civil rights through formation of a new division dedicated to protecting conscience rights and religious freedom."
 
On Jan. 19, President Donald Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, addressed those participating in the March for Life via a live satellite rally at the White House Rose Garden, pledging always to defend the right to life.
 
On the same day, the administration also rescinded the Obama Administration's 2016 guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that prevented states from withholding Medicaid funding from family planning providers that perform abortions. This action returns to the states the ability to direct these federal funds to institutions that do not provide abortion, allowing for pro-life advancements at the state level.
 
Also on Jan. 19, the House of Representatives passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act with a bipartisan vote. This bill builds on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act by offering mechanisms of enforcement and accountability. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would require any health care practitioner present when a child is born alive after an abortion to provide the same degree of care as would be given to any other child born at the same gestational age.
 
Those not complying with these guidelines would face penalties. Cardinal Dolan praised this action and encouraged the Senate to follow suit.
 
These developments may seem small in comparison to 45 years of legalized abortion; however, they demonstrate that we are continuing to make significant progress. These advances increase conscience protections, draw attention to the humanity of precious life in the womb, limit funding for abortion and advance our ultimate objective of making abortion unthinkable.
 
Now is not the time to despair but to redouble and renew our commitment to the Gospel of Life. Our sustained and collaborative efforts can continue to advance pro-life legislation.
 
As we remember and mourn all whose lives have been lost or wounded through the scourge of Roe, we look to tomorrow with hope and joy because we know that Christ has already conquered death. May He make His truth new in our hearts, that we may continue to move our country and our culture in the direction of cherishing all human life.
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Chelsy Gomez is program associate for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To sign up for pro-life action alerts, visit humanlifeaction.org/signup.
 

 
 
  • Published in Nation

March for Life in Washington, D.C.

In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration "will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life."
 
He invoked the theme of this year's march, "Love Saves Lives," and praised the crowd as being very special and "such great citizens gathered in our nation's capital from many places for one beautiful cause" -- celebrating and cherishing life.
 
"Every unborn child is a precious gift from God," he said, his remarks interrupted several times by applause from the crowd gathered on the National Mall. He praised the pro-lifers for having "such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have the support they need to choose life."
 
"You're living witnesses of this year's March for Life theme, 'Love Saves Lives,'" His remarks were broadcast to the crowd live via satellite to a Jumbotron above the speakers' stage, a first for any U.S. president, according to March for Life.
 
During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office, with their remarks broadcast to the crowd.
 
Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year's March for Life in person at Trump's request, introduced the president as the "most pro-life president in American history," for among other things issuing an executive memorandum shortly after his inauguration to reinstate the "Mexico City Policy." The policy bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.
 
Trump also has nominated pro-life judges to fill several court vacancies and a day before the March for Life the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Its aim is to protect the conscience rights of doctors and other health care workers who do not want to perform procedures they consider morally objectionable.
 
For the first time in a recent memory, the weather in Washington was more than tolerable for March for Life participants as they gathered on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The sun was shining and the blue sky was cloudless. By the time the speeches ended and the march to the Supreme Court started, the temperature had reached 50 degrees.
 
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, opened the rally by calling on everyone in the crowd to text the word "March" to 7305 and to show their commitment to ending abortion and join their voices in calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
 
"Do you agree that's important?" she asked the crowd. "Yes!" they shouted. March for Life, she said, is about educating people about abortion and mobilizing to end it and to love all those women and families who are facing a troubled pregnancy and other needs.
 
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was among several others who addressed the crowd.
 
"Thank God for giving us a pro-life president in the White House," the Catholic congressman said.
 
"Your energy is so infectious," he told the crowd, praising them for being "the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement."
 
Seeing so many young people "is so inspiring because it tells us this a movement on the rise," he said. "Why is the pro-life movement on the rise? Because truth is on our side. Life begins at conception. Science is on our side."
 
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, gave an emotional speech about the troubled pregnancy she faced about four years ago. She and her husband, Dan, were told their unborn child had severe defects, that the baby's kidneys would never develop and the lungs were undeveloped because of a rare condition. Abortion was their only option, they were told.
 
Today, that baby is 4-year-old Abigail. She and her younger brother and their father stood on the stage with the congresswoman.
 
"Dan and I prayed and we cried (at the news of their unborn child's condition) ... and in that devastation we saw hope. What if God would do a miracle? What if a doctor was willing to try something new? Like saline infusions to mimic amniotic fluid so kidneys could develop?" she recalled.
 
With "true divine intervention and some very courageous doctors willing to take a risk we get to experience our daughter, Abigail," Herrera Beutler said. She is a very "healthy, happy 4-year-old big sister who some day is going to be 'the boss of mommy's work,'" she said.
 
Herrera Beutler asked the crowd to imagine that 45 years of legal abortion had not existed and that 60 million babies had not been lost to abortion, and if out of those people had come those who could cure cancer and correct all manner of disabling conditions, including those that exist in utero, and eradicate poverty.
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Project Rachel

By Tom Grenchik, executive director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
 
For any of us who have joined in a Divine Mercy Chaplet a few times, the response is automatic.  We simply hear: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion…” and our lips are already responding with: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” 
 
How consoling it is to embrace our Lord’s Divine Mercy and be confident in His forgiveness.  We know He will forgive any sin, if we are truly sorry. But for some, especially those who have lost a child to abortion, trusting in that forgiveness is not so easy. Even if they trust in God’s capacity and overwhelming desire to forgive them, they still often struggle with forgiving themselves. 
 
Many in our culture are deeply wounded, including many Catholics who are in great need of God’s mercy and healing. Twenty-eight percent of women having abortions identify themselves as Catholic, which translates into as many as 10 million Catholic women affected by abortion. An equal number of men have been involved, even if the extent of their involvement was to abandon the woman on discovering she was pregnant. Then there are the grandparents, other family members and friends who have also been affected. The impact on our culture and our Church is far-reaching.
 
Rare is the individual who has not encountered the trauma of abortion in the suffering of friends and family members.
 
Immediately after the 1973 Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion in our land, the U.S. bishops not only condemned that action, but they also prophetically called for the creation of diocesan post-abortion healing ministries as an integral part of the Church’s pro-life response. Being pro-life means being missionaries of mercy to those now suffering from a past abortion.
 
Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s ministry to those who have been involved in abortion, is a diocesan-based network of specially trained priests, religious, counselors and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion. In addition to offering sacramental reconciliation, the ministry provides an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals. For many who struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness, Project Rachel can gently open the door to embracing His forgiveness and mercy, as well as learning to forgive oneself and praying for the forgiveness of one’s child.  
 
In a homily as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Boston Cardinal Seán Malley stated: “The Good News is that God never gives up on us. He never tires of loving us. He never tires of forgiving us, never tires of giving us another chance. The Pro-Life Movement needs to be the merciful face of God....”  
 
The bishops are firmly committed to extending that offer of God’s infinite mercy. More and more dioceses are increasing their pastoral outreach to women and men who have lost a child to abortion.
 
To find information on the Church’s resources near to you or a loved one, visit HopeAfterAbortion.org or EsperanzaPosAborto.org.
 
For information about the Project Rachel Ministry in the Diocese of Burlington, go
vermontcatholic.org/index.php?sid=5&pid=1050&subnav_id=100009
 
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This article was originally published March 21, 2014, in the USCCB Life Issues Forum.
 
  • Published in Nation

Pro-Woman Is Pro-Life

Recent cultural conversations on the importance of women's advancement have increasingly included abortion access, perpetuating a tragic assumption that 'pro-woman' and 'pro-life' are diametrically opposed viewpoints. This belief ignores the full reality of the beauty and dignity of all human life. To be pro-woman is to be pro-life; one cannot exist without the other.

Abortion has negative outcomes for both a woman and her child, with the two-fold loss including both the destruction of the child's very life and the destruction of the mother's well-being. The aftermath of abortion for a woman often includes psychological traumatization, and sometimes physical harm. Far from promoting dignity and freedom, abortion promotes the lie that a woman must harm herself and her child in order to be free.

The idea that abortion empowers women is one of many lies in society that are, in reality, incredibly harmful to women. How many other areas in culture have women been told to endure pain and a "quick fix" for their own advancement, whether through the fashion industry, eating disorders, or cosmetic surgery? Abortion advocates perpetuate the myth that women must "jump through hoops" and do violence to themselves in order to preserve their equality and the freedom to advance in the world. 

Many women have rightly rejected the myth that they must "jump through hoops" just to be acknowledged and valued as human beings. The authentic, pro-woman position demands a woman be loved and valued for her own sake, exactly as she is—not because she has compromised herself. Abortion is anti-woman because it attacks some of what is most true and beautiful within a woman. Abortion is the very antithesis to a woman's ability to nurture and bring forth new life. 

Abortion advocates treat pregnancy like a problem or a disease. Pregnancy is not the problem; it's the lack of care for the woman—for her own dignity and life-giving ability—that's the problem. When society devalues motherhood and the ability to nurture life, making these things a source of shame and inconvenience, it increases the likelihood of a woman feeling like she has no option other than to abort her own child.

We are called to love. A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy should never feel like she must face it alone. She needs to know that others truly care about her dignity and well-being, and that there is help through a variety of sources, especially from local diocesan resources like the Respect Life office, Catholic Charities office, or local pregnancy help centers and maternity homes. Both mother and child deserve experienced care and compassion; both deserve a future filled with hope. 

As we bear witness to and build the culture of life, in what ways can we show support, both for mothers facing unplanned pregnancies and for all women and the unique challenges they face? Society often objectifies women and tells them they need to reject their procreative and nurturing abilities just to be equal to men and to feel respected. But there is much we can do, in our personal witness, to counter these lies. When we celebrate and support women in all their unique gifts and contributions—including their life-giving capacity—they will be encouraged to make life-affirming choices for both themselves and their children.

To be pro-woman is to be pro-life. If we want to change the cultural conversation, we must be a part of it. 


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Kimberly Baker is Programs and Projects Coordinator for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on local help for any woman facing a difficult pregnancy, please visit www.heartbeatinternational.org.
  • Published in Nation
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