Cecile’s Legacy

This post originally appeared on DaTechGuy Blog.

The Twitterverse murmured #ThankYouCecile the other day to mark the end of Cecile Richards’s tenure leading the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Hats off to the Babylon Bee for skewering that bit of social media hashtagging: “Woman Celebrated for Killing 3.5 Million People.”

That satirical bull’s eye came just a few days after another one from the same source: “Planned Parenthood Defends Bill Cosby: ‘Sexual Assault Is Only 3% Of What He Does’”. I wish I’d written that.

But in all seriousness, Richards is a consequential woman. It would be a mistake to pretend otherwise. Planned Parenthood has had high-profile leaders before and will have them again. What sets Richards apart are the sheer bloody numbers and her solid brass determination.

PP is now the nation’s leading abortion provider, with more than 321,384 “abortion services” provided in FY 2016 alone. In the same year, according to PP’s annual report, revenue was $1.459 billion, of which $543 million came from taxpayers.

That transfer of funds from your pocket into PP’s, on such an appalling scale, was made possible because of a false message that Cecile Richards delivered unceasingly and confidently: abortion is health care. She didn’t invent the message, but she honed it to a fine edge and wielded it like a surgeon.

She knew that quibbling over what abortion terminates wasn’t good for business. Even seeing abortion as a “right” wasn’t enough to fulfill her vision. Selling abortion as health care, as a positive good, was the message she used to elevate PP to the economic and cultural position it now holds.

The political influence, the virtual extortion of funds from taxpayers and fellow nonprofits alike (cf. the Komen breast-cancer charity), the serene composure with which she dismissed the damning videos documenting the sale of fetal body parts by some PP affiliates: all of it can be explained and defended by buying into her defining message, abortion is health care.

Politicians don’t want to support taxpayer dollars going to the nation’s largest abortion provider? (Hey, I can dream.) They’re after your health care. A pastor speaks out in defense of human life? He’s after your health care. A journalist documents commerce in fetal body parts; a court upholds an abortion regulation, however mild; peaceful pro-life witnesses pray silently outside a PP facility: what they’re really after is your health care.

Abortion is health care is a hellishly lucrative legacy for PP. It’s the message that keeps half a million of your dollars going to the nation’s leading abortion provider. No wonder Richards was rewarded with compensation in excess of half a million dollars a year.

Health care and abortion are two different things. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort for the truth to regain its rightful place. Don’t ever doubt that one person can make a difference. Look at what Cecile Richards left behind.

“Decisive Strategies” Needed, Says Fr. Imbarrato

Fr Imbarrato at PP by Phyllis Woods

Father Stephen Imbarrato (at left, in black) leads prayer at Planned Parenthood, Manchester NH. Photo by Phyllis Woods.

Father Stephen Imbarrato of Priests for Life paid a visit to New Hampshire recently, leading a prayer vigil outside Manchester’s Planned Parenthood office before speaking to an attentive audience about effective pro-life action. “We aren’t doing enough: that has to be our starting point.”

Fr. Imbarrato, an EWTN television personality and longtime pro-life activist, was a guest of New Hampshire Right to Life. About 25 people joined him for prayer outside PP, at midday on a workday. A larger group attended his presentation afterward at a nearby retreat center.

I was drawn by Fr. Imbarrato’s story, and despite my differences with Priests for Life – more about that below – I found his message worth hearing.

The Foundation for His Work

He has a unique personal story, with an astounding array of experiences that leave each listener with something with which to identify. A priest who’s an adoptive father, grandfather, and father of an aborted child – thereby hangs a story, to which he referred only in passing in his New Hampshire appearance. We’re left with YouTube to lay the foundation for Fr. Imbarrato’s work.

Basics: “We’re Not Doing Enough”

In New Hampshire, Fr. Imbarrato began his presentation by referring to his Priests for Life colleague, Fr. Frank Pavone. “As he says, our work should begin with repentance. The biggest obstacles [to a culture of life] are within ourselves. We aren’t doing enough; that has to be our starting point.”

“Enough” starts with prayer, with Fr. Imbarrato recommending that activists – and those Catholics who should be activists – pray to God daily, with this petition: “What can I do, through Your grace, to save a child today?”

He is not a supporter of the “faithful citizenship” or “consistent life ethic” model advocated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, fearing that it dilutes opposition to abortion and euthanasia by introducing other issues including immigration and the environment to a list of topics for the faithful to consider when casting a vote. Politically, he said, this is “pandering to Catholic Democrats.” He called the split Catholic vote in the United States “a scandal.”

“Abortion and euthanasia are foundational. You can’t be wrong on those. These are the pre-eminent issues of our time.” He recommended Pope St. John Paul II’s Gospel of Life (1995) and the USCCB’s Living the Gospel of Life (1998) as documents that clearly affirmed this. “Read and share them.”

Fr Imbarrato in NH by Phyllis Woods

Fr. Stephen Imbarrato speaking in New Hampshire. Photo by Phyllis Woods.

At the Ballot Box

The leader of Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone, was NHRTL’s featured speaker at their 2016 banquet. The point he pressed the most in his speech, aside from opposition to abortion, was the imperative of electing Donald Trump to the presidency,and the evils of not doing so. (The election was only a few weeks away at that time.) I was repelled by both major candidates, and I eventually voted accordingly. In his NHRTL speech, Fr. Pavone pretty much ordered voters like me off the island, so to speak. Fr. Imbarrato, without mentioning the 2016 election directly,  was obviously on the same page.

Every general election candidate choice is easy, he said: “is a candidate pro-abortion or not? There’s one issue and one issue only.”

(Indeed – and I was skeptical last fall of a presidential candidate who made pro-life noises but had no pro-life roots. But I digress.)

He is optimistic about the pro-life possibilities under President Trump. He called the prospect of presidential personhood proclamation part of a “decisive strategy” toward changing a pro-abortion culture. As for urging the President to take such a step, he said, “we have direct access to this President” via social media, an avenue never exploited to such an extent by previous presidents.

Pro-life Leadership in the Catholic Church: “Not United”

Fr. Imbarrato was unsparing in his indictment of American bishops as factors both cultural and electoral tolerance of abortion. “The bishops aren’t united” in recognizing abortion as the foundational pro-life issue. Further, “We’re not hearing our shepherds talk about chastity. That has repercussions.”

How can Catholics respond to this? He suggested three ways to “up our efforts.” First, “pray inconveniently” – meaning in front of abortion facilities, in season and out of season. With that, “fast – that’s always inconvenient.” Finally, “almsgiving – acts of charity and mercy.” They add up to witness, he advised, that can move even bishops.

He added this to the list later in his talk: “invite people to Mass.”

“Decisive Strategies”

Fr. Imbarrato urged his listeners to embrace “decisive strategies to end abortion,” ranging from political to spiritual.

•”Heartbeat bills,” which would make abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, early in pregnancy. “All our efforts” – presumably he meant political ones – “should be toward that.” He cited Ohio’s heartbeat bill as an example. Perhaps due to time constraints, he did not mention that Ohio governor and former presidential candidate John Kasich vetoed the bill last December, citing concerns that it would lead to unwinnable litigation. At the same time, Kasich signed a 20-week ban without exceptions for rape or incest.

•Resisting the use of tax dollars to support abortion. He mentioned a proposal for a “national tax strike,” advanced by Mark Harrington of the Center for Bioethical Reform.

•Sustained peaceful, prayerful protest outside abortion facilities. He said he has no problem with the use of what he called “abortion victim imagery,” a longtime point of contention within the pro-life movement. (40 Days for Life, for example, does not employ that tactic, and I personally consider the bloody-baby photos counterproductive.) No apologies for that from Fr. Imbarrato: “let’s start upsetting people.”

•A personhood proclamation from the President. “Start talking it up. Personhood is the right strategy.”

His New Hampshire audience was appreciative, all too aware that in our state, abortion is legal throughout pregnancy with nearly no regulation. (While New Hampshire has in place good cultural markers like parental notification and a partial-birth ban, neither one addresses a preborn child’s fundamental right to life.) The people around me, without exception, seemed to be refreshed by Fr. Imbarrato’s bracing words.

Whatever my differences with him, I recognize that anyone who energizes people to peaceful action in defense of life has something of value to offer. Anyone who challenges Catholics to take their civic responsibilities seriously is doing important work. Any man with Fr. Imbarrato’s experience speaks with an authority that must be respected.

Cross-posted at Leaven for the Loaf.

A small step in the right direction: less of your tax money to UNFPA

Cross posted from DaTechGuy Blog.

President Trump’s State Department has told the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to get along without U.S. financial support. There are people who think this is a bad idea. I’m not one of them. Neither is Reggie Littlejohn.

DSCF9824

                                   Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (Ellen Kolb photo)

I met Reggie very briefly a couple of years ago, when we were speakers at a pro-life convention in New Hampshire. My job was to talk about effective use of social media. Reggie’s job was to talk about China’s coercive abortion policy. She got better billing – and deserved it. Her stories were compelling and persuasive.

She became interested in Chinese policy when as an attorney she represented a Chinese woman seeking political asylum in the United States. It was Reggie’s first exposure to the wretched effects of the One-Child Policy: forced abortion, forced sterilization, and gender imbalance as boys are more valued culturally than girls. The revelations changed her life. She later established Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition dedicated to fighting forced abortion in China.

Wherever she speaks, she points out the support China’s policies have received from UNFPA. She has called repeatedly for U.S. de-funding of the organization. She released a statement the other day when de-funding was finally announced.

“We are thrilled that the U.S. is no longer funding forced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.  The blood of Chinese women and babies will no longer be on our hands. My very first press release, in 2009, was entitled ‘You Are Funding Forced Abortions in China.‘ I have consistently advocated for the defunding of UNFPA over the years…

“The UNFPA clearly supports China’s population control program, which they know is coercive. Under China’s One (now Two) Child Policy, women have been forcibly aborted up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Some of these forced abortions have been so violent that the women themselves have died, along with their full term babies. There have been brutal forced sterilizations as well, butchering women and leaving them disabled. Where was the outcry from the UNFPA? In my opinion, silence in the face of such atrocities is complicity.   Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ The UNFPA’s silence in the face of decades of forced abortion has been a sword in the wombs of millions of women and babies of China. I rejoice with them that the foot of the UNFPA is finally off of their necks.”

Well done, Mr. President.

I remember listening to Reggie speak around the time China shifted to a Two-Child Policy. She was unimpressed by the change. “What matters is they’re telling people how many kids to have and they’re enforcing it with forced abortions.” She elaborated on that in a 2015 press statement about the policy shift.

“Characterizing this latest modification as ‘abandoning’ the One-Child Policy is misleading. A two-child policy will not end any of the human rights abuses caused by the One Child Policy, including forced abortion, involuntary sterilization or the sex-selective abortion of baby girls….Noticeably absent from the Chinese Communist party’s announcement is any mention of human rights. The Chinese Communist Party has not suddenly developed a conscience or grown a heart. Even though it will now allow all couples to have a second child, China has not promised to end forced abortion, forced sterilization, or forced contraception.

“…In a world laden with compassion fatigue, people are relieved to cross China’s one-child policy off of their list of things to worry about. But we cannot do that. Let us not abandon the women of China, who continue to face forced abortion, and the baby girls of China, who continue to face sex-selective abortion and abandonment. The one-child policy does not need to be modified. It needs to be abolished.”

Let’s hear UNFPA speak up for Chinese women that way. Until then, the agency can get along without U.S. taxpayer support.

A Party’s (Dis)Unity, a Party’s Priorities

Adapted from a post at Leaven for the Loaf.

The New Hampshire House has voted to kill a “right-to-work” bill. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are noisy with the cries of RTW advocates who are upset that SB 11 failed on the Republicans’ watch. Right-to-work is in the state GOP platform. Republican leadership in legislative and executive branches promoted the bill.  It failed anyway, by 23 votes.

*Yawn.*

No one who has seen pro-life bills fail in the New Hampshire House under Republican majorities can be shocked when “party unity” fails. Continue reading

Pro-life women have been disinvited from a “Women’s March”

First published at Leaven for the Loaf.

 Telling pro-life women to shut up and go away is a waste of time. Some people who don’t get that are about to be enlightened.

The “Women’s March” on Washington has rejected participation by New Wave Feminists, who are pro-life. First, the organizers ignored NWF, then just a couple of days ago agreed to list them as a participating group in the Women’s March, then yanked the invitation today after press coverage ensued and Twitter hit the fan.

You have probably heard of this planned “Women’s March,” which will take place next Saturday, January 21 in Washington. I refuse to drop the quotation marks, or link to any official site for it, since now I know for sure what I’ve suspected all along: the organizers are under the thumb of leading abortion advocates who don’t think pro-life women count as women. The “Women’s March” is supposedly a way to declare resistance to President-elect Trump (hey, I’ve been on that train for awhile, girls; catch up).

Now we know that while Trump might be the excuse for the march, he’s not the reason. Continue reading

A pro-life journey: “you know what changed my mind?…”

Originally published on Leaven for the Loaf.

This is why I don’t want anything to do with bloody-baby pictures outside abortion facilities or on billboards or anywhere else.

Consider these two tweets from @LetiAdams:

I wish I could get it across to ppl just how much “abortion kills a baby” didn’t work to get me to understand the truth about abortion.

You know what changed my mind? Grace. Plus encountering Christians who didn’t shout at me about how wrong I was about everything.

Thank you, Leticia. Your tweets hit me where I need to be hit.

I was always squeamish about demonstrations showing the dead bodies left behind by abortion. The “ewwww” factor was overwhelming.

Then a few years ago I read Abby Johnson’s Unplanned, and her more recent The Walls are TalkingI met my near neighbor Catherine Adair. Together, they burst my bubble. Troublemakers, the pair of them.

Catherine has said, “The worst thing we can do [when meeting abortion workers] is be confrontational, antagonistic. I think the best thing we can do is smile, say hello – just be that peaceful, kind, loving presence they need.” This from a former worker at an abortion facility, who knows what a sidewalk looks like in the hands of people being antagonistic.

Surprise: it wasn’t the truth in bloody pictures that changed her heart, or Abby’s. It was the truth in relationships.  Patience, love, grace, and time were relevant, urgently so.

I need those reminders. Anyone who’s heard me testify at the State House (as has been my custom for the better part of 30 years, God help me) knows that patience is not my strong suit. Dang, some of those political types are dense. No names, please.

And yet…”You know what changed my mind? Grace.”

How did I pick one that out of this morning’s torrent of mostly-forgettable tweets? No matter. Twitter’s existence has been justified for another day. Carry on.