STATEN ISLAND—"In fact, Joy Davis, who ran six abortion mills, says that a single priest praying in front of an abortion mill tremendously slows down the work inside. The patients become more hesitant and the workers get emotional, often to the point of crying."
That motivating revelation for pro-lifers came from Fr. Frank A. Pavone just prior to Priests for Life's decision to launch a radio and TV interview campaign with Joy Davis, who for 12 years was regional manager of six abortion centers in Alabama and Mississippi, and with Sarah Smith and her mother, Betty.
Sarah, now a young lady, was almost aborted more than a score of years ago when her twin was aborted instead.
Fr. Pavone is national director of Priests for Life, an association of Catholics who ''give special emphasis to promoting and defending the sanctity of human life." Its chief aim is to persuade and encourage priests in every diocese and city of America to speak out from the altar, and to become active in exerting influence against abortion, euthanasia, and other violations of human life.
"Joy, Sarah, and Betty have marvelously meaningful stories to tell, and they're ready to share their testimonies against the horrors of abortion over radio and TV," said Fr. Pavone, a 35-year-old priest of the Archdiocese of New York who, with the consent of John Cardinal O'Connor, devotes all his time to heading Priests for Life from its main office on Staten Island:
"But traveling to a number of cities for interviews, and for talks to special groups, costs money. Continued donations from Catholics are needed to bring these powerful messages to many thousands more. You see, they will tell priests why it's so important to speak up, and they will astonish people who will hear them explain what really goes on in the abortion industry —and what it's like to have almost been aborted."
Fr. Pavone recently spent a number of mornings and afternoons with Joy, Sarah, and Betty in Birmingham, Ala., taping 13 radio and TV programs. He pronounced their testimonies truly remarkable:
''Betty's story centers around the fact that neither she nor her abortionist knew she was expecting twins. After her son--whom she later named Andrew-- was aborted, Betty returned home not knowing that Sarah, a twin, was alive in her womb. Soon after when little Sarah started kicking, Betty decided, no matter what, she had to give birth to her baby--a decision for which she is still thanking God."
Priests for Life now has more than 1,200 priests along with several thousand lay members. Begun in San Francisco by Fr. Lee Kaylor who first realized the necessity of establishing a network of priests who were preaching on the evils of abortion, the group was officially recognized by San Francisco's Archbishop John Quinn in April, 1991.
Since then, with Fr. Pavone and the associate national director, Fr. James Heyd of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Priests for Life has branched out. Its newsletter, published six times a year, not only carries important up-to-date commentary on life issues, but it addresses obstacles that often stop priests from preaching on abortion.
To one fairly common obstacle for priests, "Am I 'turned off' by the eccentricity of some prolifers?," Priests for Life responds:
''There are 'eccentrics' in every movement. But if our own prevailing impression of pro-lifers is that they are 'eccentric,' it may indicate that we ourselves have had very little exposure to the people in the movement. Pro-lifers are among the most dedicated and selfless people in the world. They love those who cannot love them back, and endure ridicule, cost, and injury in the process. "The pro-life movement is the largest grass-roots movement in the history of the United States. Of course, there are eccentrics. There are also many saints. (Sometimes these categories overlap!) Studies show that the pro-life movement, vast and varied as it is, is more a reflection of America than the pro-abortion movement."
To, "Do I see the 'consistent ethic of life' as incompatible with a focus on abortion?," Priests for Life counsels:
"The 1985 Reaffirmation of the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activists of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, 'Focus on abortion and the Church's firm commitment to a consistent ethic of life complement each other.' Consistency does not mean watering down anything. It means speaking up! Consistency also means that if abortion is murder, we need to treat it that way.''
Fr. Pavone is no armchair prolifer. Recently, in Birmingham, Ala., after praying with more than a score of pro-lifers congregating outside a local abortuary, Fr. Pavone read aloud the names of some of the women killed by abortion in the United States. The effect this had on passersby was, in the words of one pro-lifer, "numbing because of its stark reality. Linking abortion with the death of mothers has an unforgettable impact."
It is Fr. Pavone's hope that with more and more priests speaking out, the number of abortions will drop markedly among American Catholics, as was the case in Poland where the latest figures reveal only 777 abortions for all of 1993. In 1987, in then-Soviet-dominated Poland, there were 123,534 abortions. Later, with new laws outlawing abortion and with priests permitted to hammer against it in the churches, the total number of abortions dropped to 30,878 in 1991, to 11,640 in 1992, then to the latest low of 777.
Special donations to help spread the testimonies of Joy, Sarah, and Betty may be sent to Priests for Life, P.O. Box 141172, Staten Island, N.Y., 10314. In addition, both priests and laity may join Priests for Life, which is supported solely by individual contributions, by sending $15.00 for a one-year membership.