DALLAS. Every 20 seconds in the United States, an unborn child is aborted. In Dallas alone, 50 abortions are performed on pregnant women each day.
The only way to stop abortion, a leading priest in the pro-life movement told a March 16 gathering of 1,100 abortion foes, is to have an active, united movement fighting it every step of the way.
Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, was the keynote speaker at the Bishop's Third Annual Catholic Pro-Life Dinner at the International Apparel Mart. In addition to his Eternal Word Television Network series, "Defending Life," Father Pavone is frequently featured in television and radio and travels throughout the United States urging clergy and lay persons to actively defend the lives of unborn children.
Describing abortion as "the defining issue" of our time, Father Pavone said many don't get involved in the fight against it because they see it as an old issue whose time for action has passed. He asserted, however, that it becomes a new issue every time another baby is killed.
"The babies who died today never died before," he said. "Today, it is a new issue. Today, it is 4,400 new issues. It is a new issue every 20 seconds, and a new tragedy demands a new solution."
Tracing the "first shedding of innocent blood" back to Cain, Father Pavone said that ever since Cain killed Abel, we have been answering the same question that God asked Cain. The question was, "Where is your brother?" Noting that Cain's answer was, "I don't know," Father Pavone said it is the same answer people use today in response to the debate over when human life begins.
"Brothers and sisters, the question is on the table for us," he said. "It is a question that we must answer and that if we try not to answer, answers itself nonetheless: Where is your brother?"
Father Pavone observed that people are judged by what they do and what they fail to do. Being concerned and intervening for the victims of abortion is no different than the concern and intervention shown toward drug addicts, AIDS victims and victims of war. He said it is time to supply an answer to people who ask, "Who are you?" to intervene with the decision a woman makes regarding her body.
"I'll tell you who you are," he said. "You are a brother and a sister of that child in the womb ... You are a follower of the one who said, 'Whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers, you do to me, and whatsoever you fail to do to the least of my brothers you fail to do to me.'"
Speaking specifically to those born after the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Father Pavone aid their antiabortion sentiments should be the strongest.
"For you, Roe vs. Wade is a personal insult because you were in the womb after 1973," he said. "The government said that at the beginning of your life it was all right to kill you."
Father Pavone said it is imperative that everybody pray for an end to abortion, but cautioned that prayer is more than just asking God to do something; it's a unity with God. And he noted that God's answer to a petitioner's prayer to end abortion might be compelling their involvement with the pro-life movement.
"He wants to stop it through you," he said.
Father Pavone said allowing abortion to continue legal makes a mockery out of worship and a mockery out of "a misused word called love."
"Love means I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person," he said. "Abortion is the opposite of love because it says I sacrifice the other person for the good of' myself," he said. "Why are we concerned? Why do we save them? Because we are deeply aware that God has done the same to us. God has saved us. God has rescued us."
Father Pavone argued that "loving the child does not mean we hate anybody,'' and that getting involved in the pro-life movement would only strengthen any relationships with loved ones who have had an abortion because "to be pro-life is to be pro-woman."
He offered three "very basic" things every pro-lifer could do to help put an end to abortion. Number one, he said is to wear pro-life insignia like the Precious Feet. He said they are a good catalyst for conversation, nothing that most people don't realize a baby's feet are fully developed so early in pregnancy. In addition, Father Pavone suggested using pro-life bank checks, which are generally seen by at least 15 people before the paid check is returned to its owner. And finally, he suggested displaying pro-life bumper stickers on cars.
"All of these methods save lives. We are not only called to make abortion illegal. We're called to stop it." he said, noting that a reduction in the number of abortions taking place would be a strong indication to lawmakers that making abortion illegal is a realistic goal.
Following his address. several people were recognized and honored for their service to the pro-life movement. Maryknoll Father Denis O'Brien, priest in residence at St. Pius X Church in Dallas and spiritual director of the American Life League, was named this year's Father Edward Robinson, OP. Pro-Life Person of the Year.
Others honored for their work under the Bishop's Five-Point Pro-Life Plan were: Cistercian Fathers Timothy Coble and Gregory Schweers for prayer; the Couple to Couple League of North Texas, for education; Danny Dannemiller. for political action; Ann Hollacher and Rene Nevarez, for public witness; Max and Jan Mattson and Charles and Mary Nyquist of Hunt County Crisis Pregnancy Services, for supportive services.