The timing could not have been more exquisite. Mere hours after the House of Representatives began debate on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA), pro-lifers honored two great champions at the Eighth Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner: Fr. Frank Pavone and Lawrence Garvey.
The UVVA is not a pro-life bill per se. But in nudging Congress in a direction of recognizing that "wanted" unborn children killed in the commission of federal crimes truly are victims, the bill helps Americans see the unborn in a new light.
Fr. Pavone, founder of Priests for Life, in his acceptance remarks talked a great deal about the need to change American culture in a more life-affirming direction. Mr. Garvey, whose remarks were also delightful, is a longtime pro-life champion, whose pro-life commitments including helping to make possible a number of NRLC's on-shifting advertising campaigns. Indeed, part of what made the debate over the UVVA "as charged as any of the abortion debates of past years," according to the New York Times was a series of educational ads that retraced the tragic story of a Wisconsin woman, Tracy Scheide Marciniak. Marciniak was attacked by her then husband when she was nine months pregnant. Her son, Zachariah, was stillborn. The UVVA passed the House on April 26 by a vote of 252- 172.
The large audience that gathered April 25 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City could not have been more complimentary to the two honorees.
Both honorees were terrific in different ways. Mr. Garvey is a quiet man, Fr. Pavone much more demonstrative. Mr. Garvey, along with his brother Donald, founded Radiofone in 1958. He was a pioneer in the industry that developed the cellular phones that we all now find so indispensable. He has received numerous awards for his business and charitable accomplishments. Among those honors are a Tree of Life Award of the National Jewish Foundation and several commendations from the Archdiocese of New Orleans and New Orleans Right to Life.
Fr. Pavone is more in the public eye as the founder of Priests for Life. His columns, appearances on television, and willingness to crisscross America with the message of life are a tribute both to his dedication and his stamina.
Fr. Pavone is a man blessed with a Reaganesque knack for making his audience not only hear what he is saying but also experience it. For example, at one point when Fr. Pavone said pro-lifers are winning, he asked Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano to stand.
For those who may not recognize the names, these are the two women exploited by the conscienceless Abortion Establishment in the 1973 cases that signaled America's formal declaration of war against its own future. McCorvey was the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade; Cano the "Jane Doe" of the companion case Doe v. Bolton. Each had lived hardscrabble lives, making McCorvey and Cano just the kind of down-on-their-luck women the elitist pro-abortion attorneys could use unmercifully to gut the protective abortion statutes of all 50 states.
But as Fr. Pavone proudly explained Wednesday night, both are now firmly on the side of life. Ordinarily when pro-lifers speak of putting a "human face" on the abortion controversy, it is to remind people that a human life is lost in every abortion. But what Fr. Pavone so artfully accomplished in his speech was to remind us (a) that abortion's exploitation also includes women, a pattern that has a long and sordid history; and (b) that Cano's and McCorvey's journey that culminated in an embrace of our Movement is deeply symbolic of a wider cultural shift in our direction.