Pro-Life Movement is Expanding Its Emphasis, Says Panelists

Carol Zimmerman

Document Publication: The Florida Catholic--Miami/Orlando/St.Petersburg, FL

Publication Date: February 05, 2004

The Florida Catholic

The pro-life movement, which has long emphasized the of the unborn, is now also stressing the harm that abortions can cause women, according to participants Jan. 23 panel discussion.

Society as a whole is beginning to understand the concept that abortion kills babies but it "still embraces abortion, saying it's good for women," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of planning and information for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

She took part in a discussion, "Abortion and the American Woman," at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. Moderating the event was Catholic University law professor Helen Alvare, former pro-life spokeswoman for the bishops.

Ruse noted that women who have begun speaking out about the physical and emotional pain they endured after having their abortions are "our new prophets who will bring us to the end of this. These women are the rest of the story."

And these women are talking. They are telling their stories, while holding signs with the words "I regret my abortion," at rallies across the country. The rallies are part of the Silent No More Campaign launched last year and co-sponsored by the Catholic organization Priests for Life and the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life, known as NOEL. [NOEL was renamed Anglicans for Life in March 2007]

Panelist Georgette Forney, executive director of NOEL and co-founder of the Silent No More Campaign, told students and faculty members at Catholic University that she helped launch the campaign as a means to raise awareness about the full impact of abortions.

She noted that those who support abortion laws often come across as pro-woman, while the reality of how women suffer physically and emotionally after having abortions is never talked about.

Forney knows this all too well because she had an abortion at the age of 16 and at the time, she said, she felt so overwhelmed she "simply shut down the emotion, denied it and pretended from that moment on that it never happened."

"So many women silently suffer because they think everyone else is OK with (their abortions). You just don't hear women talking about abortions," she added.

But with this campaign, she said, a new grass-roots movement is under way and the prolife movement is beginning to look at why women are having abortions and what it can do to help them.

Ruse said the last leg that the Roe v. Wade legislation legalizing abortion is standing on is that many people view it "as the compassionate response to women."

But she is convinced the women speaking out will change that, primarily because "it's the ultimate unpolitically correct thing to do, to talk about what is so acceptable."

Another panelist, Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, agreed, saying that in the abortion debate it's "so easy to scream and get into corners," with people on both sides focusing on divergent points of view, instead of really looking at the women who find themselves at the center of this debate without the support or resources to see any alternatives.

Ruse noted that in recent surveys women have said that the main reason they had their abortions was "lack of financial assistance or emotional support."

If nothing else, she said that simply proves that "abortion is a reflection that we've failed to meet the needs of women."

It is also a wake-up call to help these women, according to Forney.

"The pro-life movement has the resources and the people power," she said. "It should take its energy from babies to women." - CNS

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