By Kelley Kepler
SUPERIOR -- The Diocese of Duluth, Minn., will host a summer rally for life on June 28. The event will include speeches from a number of pro-life activists, and it will conclude with a keynote presentation by Fr. Frank Pavone, who has served as national director of Priests for Life since 1993.
In 2001, Pavone was honored with the Proudly Pro-life award from the National Right to Life Committee. He has been active in the pro-life movement since 1976 and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New York in 1988. Pavone said Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of the Supreme Court's abortion decision Roe vs. Wade, was "the catalyst that brought me into the Catholic Church."
The Catholic Herald conducted an interview with Pavone, via e-mail, in which he wrote about Priest for Life's involvement in life rallies, the bill banning partial-birth abortions and the current growth and success of the pro-life movement. The full interview follows:
* How long has Priests for Life led pro-life rallies? Have the rallies been successful?
Priests for Life has led pro-life rallies in all 50 states and several continents since 1993. Our four full-time staff priests travel continuously, and their trips normally involve some type of pro-life rally, big or small.
As is explained in our booklet "Our Media is the Street" (found on our Web site: www.priestsforlife.org), any time people exercise their First Amendment right to publicly protest the injustice of abortion, they are successful. Their success lies in the fact that they do not permit the local community to go on with business as usual while the violence of abortion continues in their midst. Violence flourishes when it is hidden. Rallies bring to the attention of the public an issue that it may prefer to ignore. People look at these events and ask, "Why are these people gathering? Is something wrong? What are they calling for?"
The rallies are also successful in that they gain new recruits for the pro-life effort and build the enthusiasm and commitment of the people who take part. I have seen this happen time and time again across the country, and I know I'll see it happen again in Duluth.
* What is the biggest pro-life concern right now?
One of the biggest concerns right now is the confirmation of judges that have been nominated by the president to serve on the federal courts. In an unprecedented act of obstruction of the workings of our Constitution, a block of senators is preventing well-qualified judges from serving in our nation's court system. This blockade is due largely to the fear that the justices may rule against "abortion rights."
This battle over the confirmation of judges is a prelude to the battle that will ensue if one or more Supreme Court justices decide to retire at the end of this month. Both sides in the abortion debate know that a change on the court, even of one person, can mean a shift in the court's balance in favor of justices who are willing to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The key here that we in the pro-life movement want to stress is that justices don't write law; they apply it. Their position on the issues should not matter. If a right to abortion is not in the Constitution, it is not the role of a justice to put it there, or say it is there, even if he or she is personally pro-abortion.
* How is the pro-life movement doing?
Great. Public opinion continues to move in our direction. Over half of the abortion clinics in the U.S.A. have closed in the last decade. Pro-life candidates are winning in elections, and more and more pro-life laws are being passed, especially on the state level. Moreover, the pro-life side recently won a Supreme Court case, the Scheidler v. NOW case, in which the court upheld our right to protest abortion, even if it deprives the abortion clinics of business.
* What are your thoughts on the bill recently passed by Congress to ban partial-birth abortions?
This bill marks a significant moment. For the first time since Roe v. Wade, our nation is going to actually ban an abortion procedure. For years we have regulated the procedure in different ways, but have never banned it. The bill does not have an exception "for the health of the woman" because it does not need one. Partial-birth abortion is never the only way to preserve a woman's health. Dr. Martin Haskell, one of the key practitioners of the procedure, told me that personally. Moreover, in all the hearings about this procedure, nobody has ever identified a medical condition for which the only solution would be a partial-birth abortion.
* Have any other new developments caught your attention recently?
You may have noticed that in January, at pro-life gatherings across the nation recalling the Roe v. Wade decision, hundreds of women came out publicly holding signs saying "I Regret My Abortion." This is part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which Priests for Life helps to co-sponsor. The trend is that many women who have had abortions are now at a point where they are ready to speak out and say that abortion solves no problems, but creates a whole lot of new ones, and that women deserve better options than abortion.
* What presents the greatest challenge to the pro-life movement?
The greatest challenge to the pro-life movement is not Planned Parenthood or any of the pro-abortion groups. Nor is it the media or the Supreme Court.
The single greatest challenge is the apathy of so many churches and the silence of so many pulpits. I thank God for the Catholic bishops, who have been so consistently vocal on this issue. But the key to victory lies in the follow-through on the level of each diocese, parish and school. We need to devote more resources -- that is, money, personnel and lots of time -- to the concrete work of ending abortion in our communities.
* How would you go about changing the mind of the average pro-choice advocate? What will it take to put a stop to abortion?
The average pro-choice advocate is conflicted about abortion. He knows abortion is basically wrong but sees it as a necessary evil in order to solve a woman's (or society's) problem. I therefore point out to him the fact that abortion harms women, brings them more trauma than they would otherwise have and makes the problems of society worse rather than better. I also point out that abortion clinics are unregulated, and regularly harm, abuse and kill women. I also advocate showing people what an abortion looks like. On our Web site, we have galleries of images of aborted babies. No single item we have ever put on our Web site has created more converts to the pro-life cause than these pictures. We get e-mails about it constantly, and many testimonies of conversion are there on the site.
It is going to take a lot of things to end abortion, but ultimately, abortion destroys itself. I believe in the "dead-end rule;" namely, that if you go down a dead-end road and ignore the signs that say it's a dead end, you will eventually learn by personal experience that it's a dead end. Our nation, and its post-abortion population, have learned that very well, and each day their voices grow stronger to convince the rest of us.
Editor's note: Pro-life individuals are invited to gather at 10 a.m., June 28, outside the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth. During the rally, participants will take part in a peaceful march to the Building for Women, a site where abortions are performed. Participants are requested to bring flowers to place in front of the building as a sign of mourning for the deaths within. They are also requested to bring signs that reflect their identity (Grandma for Life, Student for Life, Farmer for Life, etc.).