Friday, 2:37 PM EST
ADRIAN — The leader of the national organization Priests for Life, speaking Thursday in Adrian, said he believes the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide will be reversed, but activists will need to find ways to reduce the number of abortions performed before the procedure will ever be banned completely.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, who has headed Priests for Life since 1993, spoke Thursday afternoon at Siena Heights University and delivered the keynote address at the 11th annual Lenawee County Right to Life benefit dinner that evening.
During his speech at Siena Heights, Pavone discussed forming alliances across party lines and denominational divides to work toward ending abortion, which he described as a violation of human rights.
“A human right is yours and can’t be taken away because you can’t ever be anything but human,” he said. Allowing abortion, he said, amounts to saying that the right to live “belongs to some members of the human family and not to all.”
Historically, Pavone said, when people have debated whether a particular group should be considered part of “the human family,” the trend has been toward inclusion. For example, he said, the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights movement were both about expanding the number of people who were considered to have basic human rights.
During the Civil Rights movement, Pavone said, black men drove home their point about human rights by marching in the streets with signs reading “I am a man.”
“Our unborn brothers and sisters, well, they can’t march,” he said. “They can’t wear any signs, they can’t speak up. They can’t even pray.”
Though he is a Catholic, Pavone said abortion does not have to be perceived as a religious issue, citing a group of atheist and agnostic abortion opponents with a Web site at godlessprolifers.org.
He also said abortion opponents should be willing to work with political groups that might not support a ban on abortion in efforts to pass laws and enact programs that can reduce demand for the procedure.
Responding to a question from Siena Heights professor Dan McVeigh, Pavone said he believes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision curtailing the ability of states to regulate abortion will ultimately be overturned. But although that would result in abortion becoming illegal in some states, he said, complete abolition will only come after the number of abortions performed in the country is reduced through other means, causing lawmakers to see a ban as more realistic.
That means abortion opponents need to put significant energy into providing good alternatives, Pavone said.
“This is what we’re doing,” he said — finding ways to provide emotional and financial support to women who might otherwise have abortions instead of just protesting or condemning people.
Pavone said pregnancy centers that once simply provided counseling are increasingly adding medical services, placing them “psychologically on a level playing field” with abortion clinics. He said one of the most important things abortion opponents can do is to “make sure you know what number to call when someone who needs this kind of help comes across your radar screen.” The number for OptionLine, a national network of pregnancy centers, is (800) 395-4357.
Ricardo Valdez, a senior at Siena Heights, said he’s heard Pavone speak before and was particularly struck by Pavone’s discussion of discouraging abortion by encouraging programs aimed at making people want to — and be able to — have children.
“We need to create a world that we can definitely welcome people into,” he said.
Patricia Thomas, a Siena Heights freshman, said the part of Pavone’s speech that most struck her was his statement that abortion causes more deaths than AIDS.
“That just really blew me away,” she said, adding that she was also impressed by Pavone’s description of the origins of Roe v. Wade and the plaintiff’s subsequent role as an anti-abortion activist.
Pavone’s speech at Siena was followed by an appearance at the Right to Life benefit, for which 316 tickets were sold, according to vice president Sam Pooley.
The organization normally presents its annual Advocate for Life award at the dinner, but did not this year because the recipients, the Rev. Gary Williams of Tecumseh and his wife, Barb, were out of town.