Vowing to fight the introduction of the abortion pill RU-486 into the United States, two national pro-life leaders visited the Burlington area last week.
As part of a weekend series of protests against the Burlington testing of the abortion pill, Father Frank Pavone of the New York-based Priests for Life organization and Rev. Phillip "Flip" Benham of the national Operation Rescue organization addressed a pro-life rally at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Colchester Dec. 2.
The leaders urged attendees to step up their pro-life activities and stop RU-486 from entering the U.S. drug market.
Last month, the Burlington office of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England was selected as one of six U.S. testing sites for the abortion pill.
Of those sites, Burlington is one of three cities targeted for a possible Operation Rescue campaign next Easter. The other sites under consideration are Pensacola, Fla. and New Orleans.
Organized by Our Lady of Grace pastor Father Brian Mead and Rev. Michael McHugh, director of the ecumenical American Rights Coalition, weekend activities also included a Dec. 3 protest outside the offices of Planned Parenthood.
Addressing the crowd of more than 250 at the Colchester rally, Father Mead welcomed the two leaders to his parish. He reminded those attending that every life is a "precious gift of God."
"We don't know what we are destroying when we destroy a single human life," he said.
Before introducing Father Pavone, Rev. McHugh noted that advocates of RU-486 are trying to turn doctors into "Pontius Pilate," by making the actual act of abortion the mother's responsibility. "They are trying to convince doctors that they will be able to wash their hands of the reality of abortion, if they do not kill, but only authorize to kill."
Rev. McHugh expressed hope that through the constant pressure of pro-life groups in the courts and in the legislature, RU-486 may be litigated out of existence.
Father Pavone urged abortion pill opponents to take to the streets in support of their cause.
Noting that people can find ways to tune out other media, only through direct contact in their community will the message be heard. "They can't hide from us there," he said.
Father Pavone said that we are in the midst of the greatest human rights battle in human history. "Many people are under the mistaken impression that the pro-life movement began in 1973, with Roe vs. Wade," he said. "But in fact the pro-life movement began with the dawn of time and it has been challenged ever since."
Father Pavone said that those who oppose them have a difficult time defending abortion. "They'll dodge the question," he said. "They cannot defend the act of dismembering a child.."
"When you finally press them, their strategy is summed up in two words: shut up ... or ... go away. Because it's the last defense they have," he said.
He urged those at the rally to make a renewed resolution. "It's one that you've made a hundred times," he said. "We need to stand up all over again and resolve that we will not go away."
He noted that working to stop abortion is a Christian duty. "One of the scariest things people say to me is 'good luck in your work,"' he said. "The fact is, it's our work," he added. "All of us."
RU-486 is one method abortion proponents are using to try and hide abortion, Father Pavone said. "People seem to think the commandment 'Thou shall not kill' goes away when you change the method of killing," he concluded.
"Continue to come out on the streets and publicly take a stand against abortion," Father Pavone concluded. "May God bless our feet."
Speaking with a booming voice that gave the rally the tone of a tent revival meeting, Rev. Benham proclaimed that the pro-life movement "never was a women's issue; this is a Gospel issue."
Relating abortion to the recent killing of two South Carolina children by their mother, Susan Smith, Rev. Benham said the case should open people's eyes.
"(Her children) were murdered because they seemed inconvenient," he said. "But that kind of thing is not unusual. It happens 4,400 times a day in this country (through abortion)."
Quoting Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who earlier this year chided President Bill Clinton for his support of legalized abortion at a White House prayer breakfast, said, "Abortion is the greatest destroyer of love and peace."
Given that, pro-life advocates cannot compromise on the issue, Rev. Benham said. "We are not going to negotiate with this enemy," he said.