When the speaker at the podium, Stephen Peroutka, predicted that Roe v. Wade would be overturned within three years, the crowd at the Ball for Life roared with approval. I've been to quite a few pro-life fund-raisers, but this was the first time that any speaker dared to set a timetable for an end to the 1973 Supreme Court decision.
A last-minute surprise speaker, Senator Brownback of Kansas, drew laughs when he said, "Here I am in the bluest of the blue states. Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore." Because overturning Roe would simply return abortion legislation to the states, the senator said he recognized the difficulty of changing the abortion laws in New York. "But if it happens here in New York," he said, "it will affect the whole world. Whenever anything happens here in New York, millions follow."
He reminded the crowd that Russia is paying dearly for its liberal abortion policy: It is now having to pay couples to have babies. Japan also is struggling to replenish its population.
Still, the idea that the majority of New Yorkers will ever be persuaded to support the pro-life position would make many incredulous. Yet more and more of them from all walks of life are becoming increasingly vocal in the defense of life. Why? "For the times, they are a-changing."
A rookie Giants wide receiver, David Tyree, was a guest speaker at the Ball for Life last Friday. He admitted that he was not always a pro-lifer. "In fact, I made a lot of mistakes in my life, one in particular that I sincerely regret and I promised I would never do that again," he said.
He then pledged his lifelong support for such organizations as the Good Counsel Homes, for which the fund-raiser was held. Christopher Bell and Father Benedict Groeschal co-founded the group, which provides shelter for pregnant women and their children. One of the residents of Good Counsel, Antoinese, related the moving story of her rescue last November, when she was seven months pregnant, caring for her 4-year-old child, and had no one to turn to.
Another guest at the bash was Bobby Schindler, Terry Schiavo's brother, who received a standing ovation for his tireless fight for his sister's life. Another warrior in that battle will be appearing at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University, on the 12th floor of the Lowenstein Building, at 5 p.m. today. Nat Hentoff, a self-proclaimed Jewish atheist, libertarian, and unabashed pro-lifer - and the only real reason to continue reading the Village Voice - will be introducing the author of "Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics," Melinda Tankard Reist. She compiled the inspiring stories of women who defied the calls to terminate their pregnancies for a variety of health reasons.
Just glancing around the ballroom, I noticed some members of the clergy and a few men wearing yarmulkes, but most noticeable was the number of beautiful young people. There are more and more of them coming to these events, and Mr. Peroutka, the chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center, used their growing numbers to explain why he believes Roe v. Wade "is going down."
"Anyone born after 1973 is a survivor, for they were born into a world where one out of four are aborted," he said. "That's a higher casualty rate than any war. That's why you see thousands of them marching for life in Washington, D.C., every year. They're survivors."
Another reason he sees for the imminent downfall of Roe is that, unlike the established clergy, the priests and ministers coming out of the seminaries today are geared for this pro-life battle. After Father Pavone, founder of the Priests for Life, gave the benediction, I overheard a man at the next table say to his dinner companion, "The priests in my parish care more about other issues than being pro-life." This started a fascinating discussion that raised questions about the New York archdiocese's commitment to the pro-life movement.
"It's great that the priests are concerned with education, immigration, gun control, and other issues, but we're not compelled in our faith to act on them. But we are compelled to respect life," one man said. "It seems as if the archdiocese doesn't want to offend the liberal New Yorkers who want to distance themselves from what they view as the religious right. But this is just wrong."
I'm sure that Edward Cardinal Egan is as committed to the pro-life movement as Father Pavone. He needs to make sure that others in the archdiocese also respect the movement that Pope John Paul II called "the greatest work in the history of the world."
For heaven's sake, we do not need another politically correct church.