FAIRMONT, WEST VIRGINIA - Pro-life activists gathered at the annual West Virginians for Life convention Oct. 13 in Fairmont. Teens joined adults for the general sessions and broke into separate workshops on impacting legislation, political action, the basics of abortion, and abstinence. Children had their own program, including clowns, face painting, and performances.
Father Peter West, priest associate of Priests for Life, pointed to the decline of respect for life in the United States since abortion was legalized.
"By denying an entire class of human beings the welcome and protection of our laws, we have betrayed what is best in our tradition and we have put at risk every life which someday someone might find inconvenient," he said.
Father West noted Dr. Albert Schweitzer's observation that, "Once you fail to respect a human being simply because they are a human being, you open up the door to the degradation of all humanity
Father West also recalled Pope John Paul II's 1987 challenge to the United States: "This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival - yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person especially the weakest and most defenseless ones - those as yet unborn."
Georgette Forney, director of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life, reminded the group of the good news: abortion rates, teen pregnancy rates and the number of abortion providers are going down. Forney had an abortion at age 16, but it was 19 years later when she sought help and dealt with the pain of her abortion.
Forney said that, after reconciling with her child and with God, she was able to forgive herself. With God's help, Forney said she found the strength to get involved with pro-life work. Forney said she learned how much pro-life people care about every human life, from conception to natural death.
"Whether we're talking about a two-day old embryo that's being destroyed for stem cells," Forney said, "a six month old baby in utero that's just been diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, the 30 year-old woman who's just aborted her child because the baby doesn't fit in with her career plans, or the 104 year-old woman who's sitting alone in the nursing home, you care about each of these lives."
Olivia Gans, director of American Victims of Abortion, said that 4,000 human lives end in this country through abortion every day. Speaking of the role of pro-lifers since the Sept. 11 tragedy, she said, "We already understand the value of each human life.
"What was brought home to Americans on that day in a profoundly terrifying way was that each of those individuals was a human life - totally irreplaceable."
During the prayer breakfast, West Virginians for Life president Charlotte Snead said, "One of my favorite pro-life bumper stickers is the quotation from Pope John Paul II: 'A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.' We in the Pro-life Movement offer a broken world that hope, and love, forgiveness, and a new beginning."
Derrick Jones, director of Youth Outreach for the National Right to Life Committee, stated that adults, as role models and mentors, are the ones to bring the teens into the pro-life movement.
Kristan Mercer, president of West Virginia Teens for Life, told how she started a pro-life club at Brooke High School. The winner of the oratory contest, Allison Young of Beckley, presented her speech on euthanasia. The Oratory Contest was held Oct. 12, prior to a teen lock-in and concert.