NAPLES -- Despite the outcome of this past election, those in the pro-life movement still have much work to do, Father Frank Pavone told more than 400 people at the Naples Pro-Life Council annual dinner on Feb. 8.
"The course of the moral character of this nation and the fate of unborn children for the next 40 years was decided in this election. It was literally the difference between life and death," said the national director of Priests for Life. "It cannot be overstated how important it was that the election brought us pro-life government officials."
The danger following the successful election of pro-life officials is in the temptation to think that they will do all of the pro-life work now.
"The opposite has to be the case," Father Pavone said. "On the local level, we must work all the harder because God has given us an opportunity to advance the culture of life. Our work will go farther and have more effective results."
Father Pavone praised President George W. Bush's recent reversal of the Mexico City policy, which stopped federal funds from supporting international family planning groups. The reversal saves lives and protects the consciences of people who do not want their tax money used to fund abortions, he said.
The new administration holds much promise for life issues, Father Pavone told The Florida Catholic. With the president and Congress under Republican control, he anticipated the government to pass a ban on partial-birth abortion; parental involvement laws; and restrictions on the abortifacient pill, RU-486.
Both sides of the abortion issue admitted that this election was really an election of Supreme Court justices in addition to that of a president. Depending on how many justices Bush has the opportunity to name, Father Pavone looked forward to the overturning of Roe v. Wade someday.
Father Pavone outlined trends that he sees in the pro-choice movement's opposition to the partial-birth abortion ban as a way to predict what pro-choice advocates will do in the future.
Ever since the partial-birth abortion procedure was first described in 1992, it was touted not as a way to save the life of a mother, but as a health issue because it was supposedly a safer procedure than other methods.
However, the partial-birth abortion procedure has risks as well, Father Pavone said. The child must be rotated inside the uterus to a breech position and then partially delivered using instruments in the birth canal.
It will not be long before the connection is made that since the partial-birth abortion procedure has dangers, it would be safer to deliver the baby entirely and then kill it after it is outside of the womb, Father Pavone said.
An interesting point in the partial-birth abortion discussion is that no one denies that it is a child that is involved, he said. The discussion focuses on the idea that the procedure is simply safer than other methods. If this is so, Father Pavone asked, "Why not use one safer still?"
The partial-birth abortion perspective explains the position of Princeton professor Peter Singer, who believes that parents should have the right to choose whether or not to kill their child up to the time that their baby is a month old. Singer explains that logically, one has to either oppose abortion or endorse infanticide because the moment of birth has no moral significance that changes the status of the child.
"Either we will become a nation that opposes the killing of children whether born or unborn, or a nation that accepts infanticide," Father Pavone said. "We are defending life itself."
The danger that extends beyond infanticide, then, is determining where to draw the line at any age, he said. "If it is OK to kill an infant, it must be OK to kill a teenager or anyone at any other age. Abortion, infanticide, euthanasia - we oppose them all because all life is sacred."
He went on to ask people attending the dinner to not be afraid to speak of abortion to their children since they are particularly receptive to the pro-life message. "It is time that we move forward without fear in conveying the horror of abortion to our young people," he said.
Many priests think they should not preach definitively about abortion because they are concerned about arousing the pain of women who have had an abortion, he said. "We need to preach clearly about abortion in order to heal those who have had them," he told The Florida Catholic. "We need to preach of the horror of abortion so we can face the reality of it and so healing can begin. If we are silent about it on the pulpit, healing can never begin."
Church communities can respond as well by supporting local, diocesan and national hotline numbers and services that are alternatives to abortion, where the bulk of the work of the pro-life movement is directed. For example, he suggested that parishes list a phone number for a local pro-life hotline on the cover of their bulletins next to the parish information.
Father Pavone offered a national toll-free number, 1-800-848-LOVE, where a person who calls can be directed to local help wherever they are.
"This is what we're about. The church doesn't just say this is wrong. It extends a practical hand that enables others to do what is right," he said. "That is the meaning of freedom. We give freedom when we empower others to do what is right."