STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - From new social media to old fashioned marches, Father Frank Pavone and his Priests for Life (PFL) in New Dorp are accelerating their pro-life advocacy ahead of the 40th anniversary next week of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
PFL and its affiliated ministries continue to play major roles in the annual pro-life blitz on Washington, D.C., with the National Memorial Service, followed by the March for Life and the National Silent No More Awareness Gathering, all on Friday.
While the basic mission of eliminating abortion has stayed the same, PFL has embraced social media as a way of reaching not only pro-life advocates but women contemplating terminating their pregnancies and people who are undecided about the topic. The movement that began at the kitchen table has gone worldwide with over 1,000 pro-life gatherings each year sponsored by various groups.
“The pro-life movement has grown more sophisticated,” said Father Pavone, PFL national director since 1993, adding, “we’ve grown with social media.”
The group has learned to use new tools. The 40th anniversary day will be marked by the Prayer Webcast: Remembering Roe at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, led by members of PFL and other groups, with sign-up at Rememberingroe.com.
On an every-day basis, key-word advertising and search-engine optimization are some of the ways that PFL “can target people trying to find help” and connect them 24/7, not only to pro-life web sites such as Priestsforlife.org, but to real people who provide information, referrals and emotional support. Web sites are used for petition drives and fund-raising, Father Pavone noted.
Released last week to coincide with the anniversary was “Recall Abortion,” as an e-reader and book, by Janet Morana, PFL executive director and founder of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign.
“After 40 years of a medical procedure that destroys the life of an unborn child and causes physical and psychological damage to mothers, fathers and extended families and society as a whole, isn’t it time we recall abortion?” asks promotional literature for the publication.
During a recent Advance interview in the PFL offices, Father Pavone and Ms. Morana seemed more committed and enthusiastic than ever, despite the fact that more than 53 million surgical abortions have been performed since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy in 1973.
The “element of lived experience,” with celebrities and regular folks alike giving first-person accounts of abortions that they regret, is something that PFL is using increasingly in its ministries. Women who have had abortions will make statements for about three hours, beginning at 2:30 p.m., at the Silent No More gathering on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday.
Also, the web site, Silentnomoreawareness.org, is loaded with comments. Celebrity Kourtney Kardashian has publicly stated that she decided to continue with her pregnancy for son Mason based on the statements of women who had abortions that she found on the internet.
A number of recent setbacks — most notably a financial hit that the group took that weakened PFL’s ability to educate voters about pro-life issues for the last presidential and congressional elections — haven’t deterred PFL.
“I could have invested more energy in the elections,” said Father Pavone, had the PFL finances been in the black.
The PFL financial woes have been chalked up to the lackluster economy and also because his supporters were “confused” by the public way in which some PFL ministries finances were questioned by his superior, Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, in September 2011. Father Pavone said that his supporters understandably held back on donations until he was cleared by the Vatican last June, when “people began to kick back in with their support.” The PFL then sent out many emails asking for donations.
The PFL court battle continues with the Obama administration over the HHS mandate requiring employers, even religious ones, to provide free contraceptives as part of employee health plans. In December, the government agreed that PFL does not have to abide by the mandate until the issue of religious exemptions is further clarified.
The Archdiocese of New York is among the religious entities that have filed lawsuits claiming violations of religious liberty which have resulted in conflicting rulings, making it more likely that the issues eventually will be taken up by the Supreme Court, Father Pavone said.
The National Memorial Service will be held fittingly close to the White House, at DAR Constitution Hall, at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. The prayer service, with leaders representing denominations across the Christian spectrum, will include prayer specifically for President Obama and his administration.
“We need public servants who know the difference between serving the public and killing the public,” said Father Pavone.
“In other words, we pray that those in authority will know how to protect life, not destroy it.”
Father Pavone said he expects a proposed bill to eliminate federal funding for abortions will be opposed by the president and voted down by the Senate. With scant support at the federal level, increasingly the PFL is targeting states to pass laws that regulate abortion clinics and/or assist women in making informed decisions, measures which effectively reduce the frequency and availability of surgical abortions. While New York and California have gone decidedly pro-choice, the PFL counts 33 governors nationwide as pro-life.
The pro-choice movement falsely makes abortion seem to be a “safe, simple procedure, it’s billed as a no big deal thing” Ms. Morana said.
Most women have abortions because they feel pressured or coerced, she explained, and pro-choice groups have aggressively fought initiatives that would provide a pregnant woman with more information and time to think about potential complications to herself and her unborn child. The more information that women have about the abortion process, the less likely they are have the procedure, Ms. Morana maintained.
“It’s not about offering a real choice, it’s only about selling abortion to women,” Ms. Morana said of the pro-choice movement.
A Prayer Vigil will be held at 8 a.m. on Thursday in front of Planned Parenthood in Washington. For the second year in a row, the March for Life Youth Rally will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill. The March for Life Rally will begin at noon on Friday at the National Mall in Washington.