Pro-life Movement’s Signs of Confidence
Father Frank Pavone on the Power of Its Message
New York, Jan. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Father Frank Pavone sees a dead-end to
the pro-abortion movement, as it contains the seeds of its own destruction.
On the eve of major pro-life marches, the director of Priests for Life shared
with ZENIT how he sees the movement. Part 2 of this interview will appear
Q: A Walk for Life is scheduled this January in San Francisco, where
until recently there were more abortions than live births. Last spring,
pro-lifers were a big presence at the pro-abortion March for Women’s Lives in
Washington, D.C. Is the pro-life movement taking a different direction, by going
into "unfriendly territory" and reaching out to the many women who have had
Father Pavone: To go into unfriendly territory is, in fact, an
essential element of the pro-life movement from the beginning because it is an
essential element of evangelization. The message of respect for life means we
respect even the lives of those who hate us, disagree with us and support what
The fact that the Walk for Life is expanding into areas such as San
Francisco, and that pro-life people are going into the heart of pro-abortion
marches, is a sign of the movement’s continued confidence in the power of its
While standing with a pro-life sign at the March for Women’s Lives,
Janet Morana, our associate director at Priests for Life, had a pro-abortion
woman come up to her and say, "I can’t march with these people anymore—I want to
join with you." The woman tore up the pro-abortion sign she had been carrying
and started holding one of our pro-life signs.
These events are also a sign of the youth of the movement, because many of
the participants in both events are young people, carrying a new awareness of
how abortion harms women and harms them.
The outreach to those who have had abortions is particularly strong these
days, because the evidence of the harmful effects of abortion is more plentiful
Q: The attention given to high-profile pickets outside clinics in
years past seems to have subsided a bit. What has been happening with the clinic
protests? What tactics are being used? What is their success in recent times?
Father Pavone: Physical presence at the clinics continues, and two of
the most successful forms of that activity presently are the
Helpers of God’s Precious Infants
Face the Truth tours.
The Helpers, founded by my colleague Monsignor Phil Reilly of Brooklyn, bring
hundreds of people at a time out to abortion clinics. Usually led by a bishop,
these vigils provide people a sense of safety and comfort because they start in
church with Mass, are escorted by police, consist of the recitation of the
rosary and lead back to church.
The presence of a bishop, of course, also assures people that there is
nothing about this activity that is contrary to the Church’s teaching. The
carefully outlined series of rosary prayers also makes practicing Catholics feel
at home. They know what to expect.
The Face the Truth tours are also becoming more popular. Sometimes held in
front of clinics, but often on other streets as well, these tours consist of
people prayerfully holding large signs that show what aborted babies actually
This is becoming more popular as people understand that there are principles
of social reform that are not hard to discern from the history of past social
movements that worked to uproot injustice by visually portraying the victims of
The civil rights movement, the child-labor reform movement and the
abolitionist movement are just three examples of movements that have achieved
their goals by forcing society to see the violence that those who permit it want
We at Priests for Life sponsored a
10-day Face the Truth tour in all five boroughs of New York City in 2003.
Women came up to us on a daily basis, saying that they were planning to have an
abortion, but the signs changed their minds right then and there.
Q: When has the movement been most successful in helping to limit and
end abortion? Has the movement changed the culture, or simply achieved piecemeal
limitation aimed at limiting access to the procedure?
Father Pavone: Actually, abortion itself has done more to turn people
away from abortion than the pro-life movement has done. What I mean is that it
contains the seeds of its own destruction, as all evil does.
I believe in the "dead-end rule," which is that if you go down a dead-end
road and ignore the signs that say it’s a dead end, you will soon learn by
personal experience that it’s a dead end.
Many have ignored the signs that the pro-life movement has set up, telling
society that abortion is not a solution. But having gone down that road, they
learned for themselves how devastating it is. Now they are coming back,
repentant and healed, and they become the sign.
That is why Priests for Life co-founded the
Silent No More Awareness Campaign, to give women wounded by abortion the
opportunity to bear witness to that pain and to that healing. The voices of
these women are having a profound impact, undermining the stance of the
pro-abortion groups, who all claim to be "pro-woman" and in favor of women’s
lives and health.
The culture is changing in favor of life. The legislative and political
victories have also been real, but are by definition incremental and gradual.
The pro-life legislation signed by President George W. Bush has laid significant
foundations in the law for the eventual restoration of protection to the unborn.
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