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Right-To-Life Advocates Discuss Rights, Politics
at Convention

By Mary Frances McCarthy
Catholic News Service
July 2004

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) Jennifer O'Neill, celebrity spokeswoman for the Silent No More campaign, said that speaking at the National Right to Life Committee's convention is like "preaching to the choir."

At the closing banquet July 3, O'Neill shared the story of her own abortion and offered encouragement to the men and women involved in the pro-life fight.

Every four years the National Right to Life Committee holds its convention near Washington, in the suburb of Arlington, to "remind Congress, the Supreme Court and the president of the grand principle expressed in the Declaration of Independence, namely that the right to life is an unalienable right 'endowed by the Creator,"' said Wanda Franz, president.

For three days, 1,000 people gathered to learn more about the issues that concern members of the pro-life movement and what they can do to help the cause move forward.

At the opening session, President Bush greeted convention participants via video. "You believe as I do that every person, however frail or vulnerable, is a blessing and has a place and a purpose in this world," he said. "We must stand for an America in which every life counts and every life matters. Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man."

Expanding on the theme of the convention - "Infinite Possibilities" -Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said that "a lifetime of memories" and "the ability to contribute to society" are "snuffed out in abortion."

He quoted Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "How can the dream go on if we murder our children? If the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King is to live, we have to let our babies live."

The conference had the feeling of a political convention at many sessions. Speakers urged people to make their voices heard at the voting booth and to encourage others to do so. Attendees were urged to vote not by party affiliation, but to make their choices after examining their conscience and the issues clearly.

"It is not morally responsible to go into the voting booth and vote according to the letter following the name," said Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. "There is nothing wrong with belonging to a political party. There is nothing wrong with being loyal to a political party.

"But there is something very wrong when our loyalty to a political party is greater than our loyalty to God and to basic moral principles," he added.

Father Pavone advocated evaluating what candidates stand for on the issues.

While there are many issues to consider - such as health care, homelessness and world hunger Father Pavone said the right to life is still the most important right because- without life no other rights can be applied. And, he said, "if a politician cannot respect the life of a little baby, how can he respect yours?"

Murder will never be moral, whether it is the murder of an adult in a robbery, the murder of an unborn child through abortion, or the murder of a defenseless woman, like Terri Schindler Schiavo, through starvation and dehydration, Father Pavone said.

Schiavo's case, he said, is "not about somebody's 'right to die' because their suffering is too great. This is about the 'right' of some people to kill because their inconvenience is too great."

Bobby Schindler, Schiavo's younger brother, addressed the conference at a July 2 prayer breakfast. He said, "My sister has fallen victim to their agenda and her alleged wish that she would rather be starved to death than be cared for by her family."

According to Pat Anderson, attorney for the Schindler family, in the state of Florida it is against the law to starve a dog to death, but she said a judge ruled last October that Schiavo's estranged husband had the "right" to starve her to death by having her feeding tube removed. It was removed Oct. 15, and Schiavo was expected to die within two weeks.

But six days later Gov. Jeb. Bush ordered the feeding tube restored under an emergency measure passed by the Florida Legislature; in May a judge overturned that law as unconstitutional. The decision is being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, and Schiavo remains on a feeding tube and lives in a Clearwater, Fla., nursing home.

"Terri lives the life of solitary confinement that, had it been happening to a death-row inmate, the ACLU would be all over it," Anderson said.

"Terri has shown us in the way that counts that she wishes to live - by continuing to live for 14 years," she said. "Who would choose death over life considering the tender love of a younger brother or considering the all-consuming, tender love of a mother and father? According to the judge, Terri would."

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