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New trends change pro-life and pro-choice messages


Mary Ann Wyand

The Criterion -- Indianapolis


October 10, 2003

By Mary Ann Wyand

Second of two parts

SAINT MEINRAD - Two surprising new trends are changing the images of both the pro-life and the pro-choice movements in America, Father Frank Pavone, founder and director of the international Priests for Life organization based in Staten Island, N.Y., told Saint Meinrad seminarians, faculty members and other pro-life supporters during a two-day program on Sept. 12-13 that addressed preaching and teaching the Gospel of Life.

The national Silent No More Awareness Campaign is destroying the myths about abortion, Father Pavone said, by encouraging post-abortive women to speak out against abortion and to carry "I regret my abortion" signs in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and at other pro-life events throughout the nation.

"Today we are seeing a new manifestation of people coming forward and wanting to tell the world that abortion is a dead end," Father Pavone said. "They are counteracting the whole message of the pro-abortion people who say, 'We stand up for women. We're offering a benefit for women.' They're counteracting it because they know better. The shame of abortion has kept them silent until now. But by coming out publicly [about their abortion experience], not only is that a step forward in their healing, that's also a result of their healing."

It's been 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy in its Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions in 1973, Father Pavone said, and many women who were victimized by abortion during the past three decades are now finding the strength to stand before the world and tell their stories about how abortion has hurt them and changed their lives forever.

The Silent No More campaign is a joint project of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life* and Priests for Life.

"Myth number one is, 'This is not a baby,'" Father Pavone said. "Myth number two is, 'Whether it's a baby or not, this procedure helps women.' We know that scientifically, for a very long time, we have had more than enough evidence to refute myth number one that this is not a baby. Now we have more evidence than ever to do away with myth number two, not only in terms of the studies that come out showing the harmful physical and emotional effects of abortion, but also in terms of these living testimonies."

But a startling new trend in society involves the misuse of religious messages to justify abortion by the pro-choice movement, he said, which attempts to discredit the faith based ministries of Churches and pro-life organizations.

"The abortion rights advocates are very concerned that they're losing touch with the American people precisely because [pro-life supporters] are the ones talking about morality and God," he said, "whereas the abortion rights people just keep talking in cold, sterile terms about a medical procedure that a woman has a constitutional right to have in consultation with her doctor. They've come to the conclusion that they've got to spiritualize their [prochoice] language, and now they're doing it very well."

Formerly, he said, the pro-choice campaign would insist that, "Abortion is a decision between a woman and her doctor."

But now, Father Pavone said, pro-choice lobbyists and abortion providers promote the shocking message that, "Abortion is a decision between a woman and her God."

Members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and other abortion rights organizations now say they are pro-choice not despite their faith, but because of their faith, he said. "Sometimes priests will hear women who have picked up on the rhetoric of the other side say, 'Father, I know this is a child, and I know that God gave me this child, but I'm just not ready yet so I'm going to give the child back to God. When I'm ready, he'll send the child back.' "

Pro-life supporters must continue to expose the truth about abortion, Father Pavone said, and educate people that abortion kills babies, harms women and is a direct attack on God.

"We're not just confronting a legal procedure that kills human beings," he said. "We are confronting a false religion. People who pray outside abortion mills are not just a group of citizens protesting an unjust law or a group of concerned people trying to save the lives of their brothers and sisters who are being killed. All that is true, but what's also happening on the street [outside an abortion clinic] is the true Church confronting the false church."

The majority of Americans oppose at least some abortion procedures, he said, but they would object to all abortions if they knew more about the gruesome ways that babies are destroyed in the womb.

"More and more, it becomes true to say that unless we embrace the Gospel, we will not live at all," Father Pavone said. "This is the magnitude of the pro-life effort. There's nothing more important for us to do."

Seminarian Brian O'Brien, a first-year theology student from the Diocese of Tulsa, Okla., helped coordinate Father Pavone's visit to Saint Meinrad.

"Every seminarian here is pro-life," O'Brien said, "but I think until now we didn't know how to do pro-life ministry in the parish or how to do counseling when a woman says 'I'm thinking about having an abortion' or 'I've had an abortion.' I think, in the future, when the guys are priests and serving in parishes that if the situation comes up they're going to reflect back on the words that Father [Pavone] said here and they will be able to help a lot of people."

*National Organization of Episcopalians for Life was renamed Anglicans for Life in March 2007


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