A large majority of women who have had abortions (85 percent) say they felt forced or coerced to abort, according to Father Frank Pavone. "That means this was not their choice, it was somebody elses' choice."
Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, was in Rapid City January 4-6. His visit was sponsored by the Diocesan Pro-Life Commission. He gave sermons at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, St. Therese the Little Flower Church and Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City. He also spoke at St. Thomas More High School.
In addition, he offered encouragement at a Sunday evening dinner to pro-life workers, and Monday for four hours he met with priests working in the Diocese of Rapid City.
Pavone encouraged the priests in their work as leaders of pro-life efforts. He discussed how they might be more effective in doing so by good preaching; appropriate counseling of the victims of abortion, namely the parents of the aborted child; and by motivating lay Catholics for action in pro-life work.
In his talk for the public Sunday afternoon, Pavone said Americans live in a "society of images. Images have been successfully used by pro-abortion people. To convert the nation away from abortion, we must learn to use images, tools with which they can use their powers of reasoning."
But he cautioned that reason is "a little boat on a powerful ocean. It's difficult to define with words the destruction of an unseen baby. (Because of the very facts of abortion) pro-abortion forces cannot use reason, so they resort to emotion. We must do more."
His concrete suggestions of images for pro-life people to educate themselves and others about:
1. Put forth the image of the baby in the womb. Technology has provided excellent tools for seeing the baby in the womb. Show the living images of early term babies, since 90 percent of abortions happen then. There are films available of children as young as nine weeks in the womb waking up, turning, twisting, yawning. Get that information out.
2. Educate people about the image of the woman who considers or has an abortion -- who is she and what is it like for her? People who abort think they are taking advantage of a safe and legal freedom, but that is far from reality. They do not do so because they have freedom of choice -- they do so because they feel trapped. Their behavior is much like that of an animal caught in a trap; it gnaws off its own leg to get out of the trap. The image that needs to be gotten out is one of a woman who has relationship problems, lacks family support, or whom the father has abandoned. Abortion is never a magic wand -- it is an isolating event. Put a face on the survivors -- the parents of the lost child.
3. Examine the image of the abortionist and his/her support workers -- what kind of person is this and what is the cumulative effect of abortion for that person? They don't feel good about what they are doing. Very important is to ask yourself if the abortionist is a competent doctor -- there are many incompetent, unscrupulous people doing abortions. A powerful image to put forth is to ask, Does legal really mean safe?
4. Consider what kind of an image pro-life people put forth -- who is creating that image and is the image real? What do people feel when they hear the word "pro-lifer"? Do they feel fear and revulsion because their accepted image of "pro-lifer" is one of a fanatical person who shoots abortionists ? That's not our philosophy about ourselves, but it is theirs about us. We need to do a better job on our own image. One way to do that is to stress the heroic activity of pro-life people, like taking in pregnant women, giving good examples, putting our lives and reputations on the line. Bring all this to the attention of the local media, how pro-life workers help with the pain after abortion, provide welcome, forgiveness and peace. We continue to be a culture of life.
In speaking to teens Monday at St. Thomas More High School, Pavone said his desk is piled with letters from women saying they felt deceived and damaged by abortion.
"Most people who get an abortion simply feel there is no other solution. They feel afraid and trapped. They feel alone and desperate. Sadly, what they feel above all is that there is nobody to help them. They feel unprepared to have a child and they say, 'What else can I do?' " he said.
He advocates educating people that help is available.
He listed help available, including payment of all medical expenses, a place to live, legal advice, counseling, a friend to speak to, assistance to keep and raise the child, job and education opportunities.
Referring to a woman who drove a pregnant friend to an abortion clinic and was glad the pregnant woman changed her mind at the last minute, he said, "Friends help friends have the courage to do what is good, not to assist them in doing what is wrong. Have you seen the advertisement, Friends don 't let friends drive drunk? Why does a friend not let a friend drive drunk? Because they don't want them to die? They could kill other people, too. What I'm telling you is very simple -- just like the drunk driving campaign -- friends don 't let friends get abortions. There is a life at stake -- the life of that child and of the friend.
"There is another whole area of which you need to be aware: Abortion not only destroys children; it destroys the parents -- the mother and the father. I have talked to hundreds of people who had abortions or whose wives or girlfriends had abortions. Do you think any of them are happy about their choice?... Let me tell you, there is not a day, not an hour, that they don't remember that child."
Pavone said not to think of abortion as a simple, safe procedure to do today and forget about tomorrow. He explained that abortion is a half billion dollar industry m the United States. Abortion sales workers are well trained in selling techniques. They never say the word, "baby." They tell you that abortions are safe, and they do not answer questions on alternative solutions.
"No crime, disease or disaster takes; more human lives," he said. In a handout he showed the abortion toll to be at 30 million lives, more than the combined total of casualties from all wars fought by Americans (which add up to 1,160,571: 25,324 in the Revolutionary War, 498,332 in the Civil War, 116,708 in World War I, 407,316 in World War II, 54,246 in the Korean War, and 58,655 in the Vietnam War).
To the pro-life workers at the Sunday dinner, Pavone said that "in the name of religion, violence is done. Some people claim abortion is o.k. because they don't know when there is a soul in the body. That is difficult to explain. It's easier to explain that there is a commandment that says, 'Thou shall not kill.' "
He advised pro-life workers to "get to know people in the media, and let them get to know you. Interact with them, those who create the headlines, those who decide what appears in the evening news. Interact with pro-abortion people."
Pavone said that chemical methods of abortion "happen because the pool of those who will provide surgical abortions is shrinking. It is an appalling psychological ordeal for the women who use chemical means of abortion. Be continually vigilant; find out where the drugs are sold, and by whom."
Does Pavone encourage protesting near abortion clinics? "A person who was at one time pro-abortion once remarked to a priest, 'You'll never know how many minds are changed by seeing protesters -- especially priests.' "
Priests for Life is a national pro-life organization headquartered in Staten Island, New York. Pavone has been its national director since September 1993.
Copies of a video made of Pavone while he was in Rapid City are available as are Priests for Life audio tapes talks Pavone gives during his travels. Contact Sue Jimmerson, 4819 Copper Hill Drive, Rapid City, SD 57702, telephone 605-348-2353.
Pavone gave the following phone numbers for seeking pro-life resources for finances, employment, housing and medical assistance:
Nurturing Network 1-800-TNN-4MOM
Pregnancy Hotline 1-800-848-LOVE
Bethany Christian Services 1-800-238-4269
Several Sources Foundation 1-800- NO- ABORT