Tag Archives: abortion

Moral magnanimity is legendary

Because of their affection for St. Aphonsus Liguori, a certain Pennsylvania couple, devout in their Catholic faith, named their son after him. And the young Alphonsus Liguori Casey (1893-1956) learned about hardship and poverty at an early age. He was orphaned when he was 11. To support his brothers and sisters, he worked as a mule boy in the anthracite coal mines of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He labored during the day and studied at night. Alphonsus never forgot the lessons he learned in his youth. He graduated from high school and in his 30s earned a law degree and set up a law practice representing miners in their claims against the company.

Dr. Donald DeMarco

His son Robert achieved enough distinction in his life to justify writing an autobiography (Fighting for Life) in which he recalls his earliest memories of the scarred hands of his father. He revered the legacy that Alphonsus brought to him from the mines of Scranton that included a visceral identification with the weak and the endangered. Abortion, he would say, is not a question of when life begins. It is a question of when love begins. “No insignificant person was ever born,” he stated, “and no insignificant person ever dies.” He asserted that his Democratic Party’s position on abortion “is inconsistent with our national character,” and that it can “never prosper if it does not protect the powerless—before and after birth.”

After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1953, he received a law degree from George Washington University three years later. He became governor of the state of Pennsylvania in 1986. Four years later, he was re-elected, defeating a pro-choice Republican by more than a million votes while carrying 66 of 67 counties. It the largest margin of victory in Pennsylvania gubernatorial history. While governor, he did as much as he could to protect the unborn given the tight restrictions of Roe v. Wade. “In this country, the greatest country in the world,” he stated, “every child deserves to be born.” Planned Parenthood sued over his state’s Abortion Control Act and the case was heard by the United States Supreme Court (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). The 1992 decision, which Casey called “a victory for the unborn child,” affirmed the legality of a 24-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion, informed consent about health risks for women seeking abortion, parental consent for minors seeking abortion, and detailed record keeping on the abortion industry.

Casey was shunned by his own Democratic Party. At the 1992 Democratic convention in New York, he was kept from the podium by the Clinton-Gore ticket. After being rejected as a speaker at the 1986 Chicago convention, Casey demanded that “those who believe in the right to life be accorded the right to speak.” The ill treatment given to him by his own party embarrasses and contradicts its alleged commitment to fairness, democracy and social justice issues.

Casey aspired to run for the presidency in 1996, but his health was waning. He had bypass surgery in 1989. Four years later he underwent a rare heart-liver transplant. In the aftermath of a remarkable recovery, which extended his life and his trials by seven years, The New York Times dubbed him a “folk hero” for his courage and determination. His autobiography won the 1997 Christopher Award.

On May 30, 2000 Robert Casey passed from this world. Princeton University’s Robert George lamented the loss, stating that “the pro-life movement has lost a champion, the Democratic Party its conscience, and American politics a model of principled statesmanship.” He was survived by his wife, four sons, four daughters, and 20 grandchildren.

It takes a man of humility to be a man of magnanimity. This is the central irony of the moral law. The man of pride can neither see straight nor love right. There is a moral line that flows from a St. Alphonsus Liguori to a young Scranton coal miner and his numerous descendants that offers us the hope that humility will one day save the world.

DR. DONALD DEMARCO is a senior fellow of Human Life International, professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University (Waterloo, Ontario) adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College (Cromwell, CT), and regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His books, including How to Remain Sane in a World That Is Going Mad, are available through Amazon.com.


New law to protect preborn from abortive pain

During the Presidential Campaign of 2016, candidate Donald Trump wrote to me and several other national prolife leaders asking us to be part of a “Pro-life Advisory Coalition” that the campaign was forming to assist Mr. Trump and his team to formulate policy priorities for the Pro-life cause.

Fr. Frank Pavone

That coalition now advises the president and his team.

His letter outlines several very specific commitments which represent key priorities for the pro-life movement. He has been following through on every one of them, such as putting a pro-life Justice on the Supreme Court.

Among those commitments was also to sign a piece of legislation that represents the next significant step in ending abortion. It is a measure which has already been enacted in various states and indeed already introduced in Congress. Crafted by our friends at National Right to Life, it is called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and it would protect the lives of children in the womb from 20 weeks of development and beyond, because of their ability to feel pain.

A few important points to keep in mind about this legislation:

First, this is a measure that enjoys the support of a majority of Americans and their legislators. According to a January 2017 Marist poll, six in ten Americans support banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This includes even most people who call themselves “pro-choice!”

Second, the fact that the legislation does not protect every child in the womb does not mean we approve of earlier abortions, and neither does it absolve us of our responsibility to protect those whom our legislators are not willing to protect now. Every abortion is equally wrong and we are committed to protect every child. And when it comes to lateterm abortion, our legislators at the state and federal level are in fact willing to do so now – and so must we be.

Third, educationally, we always proceed from the more obvious to the less obvious. The name of this bill starts with the word “pain,” which everyone understands from experience. The pain of others evokes our compassion, and helps us identify with their humanity. This bill focuses on what abortion does to the unborn baby, and rather than simply regulating or de-funding abortion, it actually protects the babies from it.

The time is now for a measure like this to receive our full, enthusiastic support. As influential members of our local communities, we need to encourage our state and federal lawmakers to pass this particular measure. Remind them that our current abortion policy in America – allowing the killing of children throughout pregnancy — is among the most extreme in the world, and has never had majority support. As influential members of your parishes, urge your priests and lay leaders to educate the congregation about the pain children feel in abortion and the opportunity we have now to protect them.

And if the legislators who represent you embrace a pro-abortion position, challenge them publicly with a simple question: “Do you believe that healthy children carried by healthy mothers should be protected, in the latest stages of pregnancy, from painful dismemberment?” If a public official cannot answer that question with a clear “yes,” he or she does not belong in public office, and we need to say so.

Priests for Life is ready to assist you and your local chapters in pursuing this next crucial step in the protection of the unborn. To keep up on the latest developments and action alerts, and to help us make this a major campaign issue in the 2018 elections, sign up at www. StopAbortionNow.org.

FR. FRANK PAVONE, one of the most prominent prolife leaders in the world, has led the Priests for Life movement and its family of ministries since 1993. See PriestsForLife.org for more information.

The stunning illogic of Roe v. Wade

In its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the laws against abortion in all 50 states. This decision is still the guiding precedent for the Supreme Court on abortion cases. Because of it, our nation continues to deny unborn human beings any rights whatsoever and allows (even encourages) their deliberate killing. As slavery was the central issue in the 19th century, so abortion is central in our time.

Dr. Patrick Lee

Writing for the majority in Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun claimed to find in the 14th Amendment an implicit right to abortion, when it said the state must not deprive a person of liberty without due process of law. That argument has been soundly refuted many times. But Blackmun’s most egregious errors occurred when he addressed the fetus’ personhood and humanity.

Texas (the defendant in this case) argued that the human fetus is a person and so deserves equal protection of the law, provided by laws banning abortion. Significantly, Blackmun admitted, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, then the case against striking down the abortion laws collapses.” However, he then argued that the word “person” is neither defined, nor used to refer to fetuses as persons in the Constitution, and so human fetuses are (he concluded) not persons in the Constitutional sense.

But this argument does not hold up. Nowhere in the Constitution are toddlers referred to as persons either, but one cannot deny they are persons in the Constitutional sense. Clearly, the word “person” is used in the Constitution as a descriptive term. That is, it refers to whatever can truly be called a person, whether the authors of that phrase had them explicitly in mind or not. Now, since human fetuses (unborn humans) are identical with beings who later quite clearly show they are persons — by reasoning, making deliberate choices, and so on — it follows that they are persons when in the womb, and so the 14th Amendment applies to them, and they deserve equal protection of the law.

Texas also rightly argued that, apart from the question of whether fetuses are persons according to the Constitution, they certainly are human beings, and the state has a compelling interest to protect every human being. Blackmun’s reply was stunning: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

But as a matter of fact science — embryology — does settle that issue: What is killed in abortion is without doubt a distinct, living human individual. (There are different positions on whether this is a “person” — but it’s a matter of science that from conception on, what is growing within the womb is a distinct human being.)

Moreover, the question at issue is a practical one, not just theoretical. If it were a question only of theory — for example, what is matter? what is time? — we could suspend judgment. But this is a practical question about how we will treat a certain class of individuals. The question is: Should we treat unborn human individuals as the same kind of beings as ourselves or not? The United States must settle this issue: It will either treat the unborn as human beings, deserving of equal protection of the law or not. So Blackmun saying the Court would not settle the issue was simply false. By striking down abortion laws, the Court determined that unborn human life would from then on be treated as mere sub-personal objects.

What should Blackmun have concluded? First, even if he stuck to his erroneous view that there was no consensus on the question whether the fetus is a human being, the Court should have left the issue to legislators, recognizing the limits of the judiciary’s role (its role is only to interpret the Constitution and the law, not make it).

But even at that time there was — and still is — a consensus in science. Blackmun should have therefore concluded that since what is killed in abortion is in fact a human being — as determined by the science of embryology — to deny unborn human beings the equal protection of the law is unconstitutional.

May the Lord help us! A civilization cannot long survive — or deserve to —that relegates a whole class of human beings (in this case unborn human beings) to the status of mere objects that can be shredded and then thrown into the trash can.

PATRICK LEE, PH.D.,is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Abortion leaves an awful hole

In the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, a suicidal George Bailey is given a vision of what life would have been like for his family, his friends and his community if he had never been born.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Marjorie Dannenfelser

George sees his beloved wife Mary as a lonely spinster, and his town of Bedford Falls as a seedy “Pottersville,” named after George’s avaricious rival. He learns that his war hero brother Harry died because George wasn’t there to rescue him when he fell into a frozen pond as a child; the soldiers Harry saved during the war perished, too. Clarence Oddbody, the angel sent to bring George this vision, remarks, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

I often wish that parents who learn through prenatal diagnosis that their child has autism, Down syndrome or another disability could be granted a vision, too — a glimpse into the future to see what a wonderful life awaits them because their child is in the world. But far too often, whether out of fear, convenience, or lack of information on modern advancements — and support for people with Downs and their families — some parents choose to create an “awful hole” in their futures. They end the life of their unborn child through abortion. One-third of individuals with Down syndrome are aborted. New blood tests to accurately and non-invasively diagnose anomalies at an earlier stage of pregnancy will push that number even higher.

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis acknowledges this reality and affirms the infinite value of every child. “Scientific advances today allow us to know beforehand what color a child’s hair will be or what illnesses they may one day suffer…. It matters little whether this new life is convenient for you, whether it has features that please you, or whether it fits into your plans and aspirations. For children are a gift” (#170).

The idea that every child is a gift has been under vicious assault in the United States in the four decades since Roe v. Wade. Far too often the unborn child is viewed as disposable, or even worse, a commodity whose body parts are bought and sold. Couples turn to genetic technologies to design babies to their specifications and rent wombs in which these babies can grow. A review by the Charlotte Lozier Institute shows that sex-selection via preimplantation genetic diagnosis and abortion is a persistent problem here and around the world. Babies diagnosed in utero with disabilities are destroyed at an alarming rate.

Despite these horrors, there is hope. Majorities in both houses of Congress support legislation to ban abortion nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which an unborn child can feel pain. A bill to defund Planned Parenthood passed last year; only President Obama’s veto kept it from becoming law.

Indiana and North Dakota have enacted laws stopping abortions for reasons related to the baby’s sex, race or disability. Similar measures have been introduced in Missouri and Ohio. Among the most ardent supporters of these initiatives have been parents of disabled children. Their experience confirms research published in 2011 in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, which found that the vast majority of families are enriched by having a child with Downs. Nearly 80% of parents said their outlook on life was more positive as a result; 97% of siblings aged 12 and above said they felt proud of their brother or sister with Down syndrome, and 88% were convinced they were better people because of their sibling. A study of adults with Downs found that 99% said they were happy with their lives. What a contrast to the prevailing attitudes of adults who don’t have Down syndrome!

In my own family, we too can testify to the joy of life with a special needs child. Our oldest daughter Hannah recently reflected as a young adult on what it means to have a sister with disabilities: “My life, my decisions, my relationships, and my communities are a thousand times stronger for having her.”

Dr. Jerome Lejeune is often called the “Father of Modern Genetics” for his discovery of the genetic cause of Down syndrome and other disabilities. He was also a devout Catholic who said, “The enemies of life know that to destroy Christian civilization, they must first destroy the family at its weakest point — the child. And among the weakest, they must choose the least protected of all — the child who has never been seen.”

But the enemies of life can only win if we leave the battlefield, and the pro-life movement shows no signs of giving up. Indeed, it’s energized as never before to fight for the wonderful life of every baby, no matter its circumstances. Like George Bailey’s angel Clarence, we know that the loss of even one life leaves an “awful hole” that diminishes the family, the community and the world.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is president of the Susan B. Anthony List and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.

Ireland: Catholicism under siege

Scandal and secular influence have eroded the Emerald Isle’s Catholic culture

On paper, Ireland is still a staunchly Catholic nation.


More than 20,000 people gather on Jan. 19, 2013, for a “Unite For Life” vigil in Merrion Square, near government buildings in Dublin (John McElroy photo)

The Irish constitution begins like a prayer,  containing the phrase, “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority.”

The preamble also refers to the Irish nation’s “obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial.”

But in reality, the forces of secularization have eroded the Emerald Isle’s Catholic culture. Less than 20% of adult Catholics attend weekly Mass. The numbers of declared atheists and Irish citizens not identifying with any religious group are exploding.

Intense backlash

In May, Irish citizens voted overwhelmingly to amend their nation’s constitution to allow same-sex “marriage,” making Ireland the first country in the world to adopt that change through a popular vote.

A similar campaign is now underway to repeal a pro-life amendment in the constitution — and recent polling indicates that a large majority of Irish citizens are in favor of “significantly widening” access to abortion in Ireland. A nascent effort is also underway to legalize euthanasia.

“The people who run the country — the politicians, senior civil servants, many of those in academia and law — have almost a uniform view that the Catholic Church in Ireland has had undue influence that needs to be repudiated,” said David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, a Dublin-based advocacy organization that promotes the value of marriage and religion in society.


David Quinn

Quinn, a member Legatus’ Dublin Chapter, also explained that the Catholic Church in Ireland has been weakened through a horrific clergy sex abuse scandal and the experience that several generations had of the Church as a heavy-handed, totalitarian institution in the decades after Irish independence.

“There was a backlash against the Church,” Quinn said. “The backlash came, and it has been extremely intense.”

Against that backdrop of increased hostility, Amnesty International recently produced a video entitled “Chains” advocating the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, passed in 1983 to safeguard an unborn child’s right to life.

Irish actor Liam Neeson narrates the short video, which Amnesty International launched in Belfast on Oct. 19. The video begins in black and white and shows the faint outline of a church as Neeson says that Ireland is haunted by “a cruel ghost of the last century” that “blindly brings suffering, even death, to the women whose lives it touches.”

ireland-1The 90-second video goes on to identity the ghost as one of “paper and ink,” referring to the amendment. The camera pans over the ruins of a church and graveyard with haunting music as Neeson says that Ireland “doesn’t have to be chained to its past.”

Quinn said the video encapsulates the prevailing view that many influential people in Ireland have of the Church.

“It really captures, to a T, the liberal, secular view of the way we were — and that everything associated with the Catholic Church must go,” Quinn said. “We were living in a truly dark period.”

Propaganda campaigns


Niamh Uí Bhriain

Niamh Uí Bhriain, an Irish pro-life activist and founder of the Dublin-based Life Institute, described the “Chains” video as anti-Catholic propaganda that makes “farcical, untrue” claims that people’s lives are in danger because of the Eighth Amendment.

“It wasn’t about protecting women or repealing something they believe is an unjust law,” Bhriain said. “The whole thing smacked of intolerance, anti-Catholic sentiment, and a disregard to protect unborn babies.”

Bhriain said Ireland has become a “focal point” for the international abortion lobby, with organizations like Amnesty International spending millions of dollars in ads to sway public opinion in favor of liberalizing the country’s abortion laws. Despite the public relations campaign, Bhriain said Ireland’s pro-life culture is still intact and she believes there is not much public support for abortion on demand.

“The polls show only 28 to 35% of Irish people actually want to see abortion legalized as a matter of choice,” she said. “There is still a gap between public sentiment and the public messaging for abortion, despite all the media work and the slick campaigns.”

The strategy of those trying to repeal the Eighth Amendment, Quinn said, is to focus on extreme “hard cases,” such as rape, incest or a mother who receives a poor prenatal diagnosis that her baby will die soon after birth. Irish law currently allows for abortions only when the mother’s life is at risk.

Quinn said polling shows there is public support in Ireland for allowing abortions in certain situations, but that most voters do not support permitting abortion in all circumstances.

“If we can persuade the public that repealing the Eighth Amendment will in short order lead to what amounts to abortion on demand, that gives us our best hope,” Quinn said.

Several Irish Catholic bishops issued pastoral letters and spoke out against the same-sex “marriage” referendum, but for the most part the nation’s Catholic priests and leaders in recent years have been hesitant to speak out from the pulpit.

A major reason for the silence is because the Church in Ireland is still recovering from sex abuse scandals. A 2009 government report found that Irish clergy had sexually and physically abused thousands of children and teenagers in previous decades.

“The scandals were revolting beyond belief, and they understandably caused public distrust,” Quinn explained. “There was already this trend in terms of secularization, but the scandals obviously offered tremendous fuel to the fire.”

Turning the corner

Carmelite nuns cast their ballots in Ireland’s marriage referendum at a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, on May 22 (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

Carmelite nuns cast their ballots in Ireland’s marriage referendum at a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, on May 22 (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

Quinn said the Church in Ireland today “finally has a handle” on the problem and has instituted policies to prevent abuse. He is also hopeful that a new generation of Irish bishops will be able to devote more time to evangelization.

“Ireland has gone from a country where people picked up their Catholic faith almost by osmosis,” Quinn said. “The culture did the work of evangelization. Now, it’s quite the opposite.”

Father Shenan James Boquet, president of Human Life International, said the Church in Ireland is at a crossroads.

Fr. Shenan James Boquet

Fr. Shenan James Boquet

“It has been wounded, but it is not beaten. Its people and culture have a rich Catholic soul, which is still beating,” said Fr. Boquet, who traveled to Ireland in September for a 10-day tour with other HLI officials to encourage and strengthen the faithful — and to expose the false and illusory language used by secularizing forces.

During the “Be Not Afraid, Catholic Ireland” tour, Fr. Boquet said he encountered many faithful Catholics, pro-life and family leaders, and groups who are using their apostolates to promote the Catholic faith and to witness to the beauty of the Church’s teachings on life and family.

“There is great hope and strength there,” Fr. Boquet said. “We must never forget that the beautiful faith and grace strengthened in them through the inspiration of St. Patrick didn’t go away. That beautiful seed is still there.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

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Unborn humans are persons with equal basic rights

Biology shows that abortion kills a human being — a human embryo or fetus. This should be enough to settle the issue of whether human embryos or fetuses have a right to life, since every human has equal and inherent fundamental rights.

Patrick Lee

Patrick Lee

However, some philosophers argue that, although a human embryo or fetus is a human organism, it is not yet a person. In order to be a person, they object, a human organism must have some additional characteristic — usually a capacity for higher mental functions, such as for self-consciousness. The argument may sound plausible at first: Are we not different from other animals precisely because we possess the capacity for higher mental functions?

Human embryos, in one sense, have the capacity for higher mental functions. If provided a suitable environment, they will actively develop themselves to the stage where they perform all of those types of actions. So the objection must be that human embryos or fetuses are not persons (bearers or rights) because they lack the immediately exercisable capacity for higher mental acts (that is, a capacity that can be exercised now or in the immediate future).

However, if this argument were correct, it would also follow that human infants are nonpersons and it would be morally permissible to kill infants, subject to parental approval. Some philosophers (Peter Singer, for example) say that intentionally killing infants — subject to parental approval — can be morally right. Still, most people still believe killing a newborn is wrong.

A second problem with this argument: If it were right, then it’s hard to see why it would be wrong to kill someone in a temporary coma. A human being in a coma lacks the immediately exercisable capacity for self-consciousness, although still a human being. The clearest reason why it’s wrong to kill a human in a coma is that he is the same kind of being as you and me: He is an individual with a nature that orients him to having self-consciousness and shaping his life by deliberate choice. But this same point is also true of the unborn human being.

Someone might object that, unlike an unborn human being, the individual in a coma did have self-consciousness in the past. And this being is a person, a bearer of rights, only because of that past self-consciousness, and that is why killing him is wrong. But suppose I had surgery that put me in a coma from which I gradually regained consciousness and knowledge and experience, but none of the memories and skills I possessed before the coma. In other words, I survived but never regained any of my past memories, skills, habits, and so on.

Would it be right to kill me after the surgery while I was in a coma and recovering? Of course not! But that would not be because of my past self-awareness, since all of that is gone forever. Rather, it would be wrong to kill me because it would deprive me of my future as a rational being, a being that, although not now conscious or self-aware, has a nature orienting him to develop to the stage where he will perform all of those distinctive human actions.

The best explanation of why it would be wrong to kill me in such a situation is that I am identical with the thing that eventually will have rational consciousness. So what makes you or me valuable as a subject of rights is the fundamental kind of being (substance, in philosophical language) we are. It’s wrong to kill you or me because we are beings with a rational nature, a nature orienting us to rationality and shaping of ourselves by our choices.

But a human embryo or fetus is the same kind of being as you and me. He or she also is an individual with a rational nature; only, it will take this being some time to actualize his or her rational nature. Another way of putting this is that every human being is a person, using the word “person,” though, to mean (as St. Thomas Aquinas used it) an individual substance with a rational nature.

You and I once were adolescents, before that we were children, before that we were infants, and before that we were fetuses and embryos. And just as it is wrong to kill you or me now, it would have been wrong to kill us when we were adolescents, wrong to kill us when we were infants, and wrong to kill us when were fetuses or embryos.

PATRICK LEE, PH.D., is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Pain-capable abortion legislation

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER writes that new pain-capable legislation is a pro-life game-changer . . .

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Marjorie Dannenfelser

by Marjorie Dannenfelser

For the first time since Roe v. Wade, we are very close to protecting an entire class of unborn children from abortion. These children will not be spared because of a parental notification law or because their mothers rejected the gruesome reality of abortion after informed consent.

Although these laws are good, just, and lifesaving, they regulate around the child. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would save the lives of children simply because they are children. Boy or girl. Created by God. Sent into the world for a specific purpose, without whom we are a lesser nation.

We may have lost faith at times along the way, but it’s telling of the pro-life movement that we did not stop. While we have been waiting to change the law, we have been on our knees in prayer. We have been in front of abortion facilities counseling. We have welcomed women into our hearts and into pregnancy care centers and have welcomed their children into the world by the tens of thousands.

But our nation is finally getting to the point where we are living up to the aspirations of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Living up to those aspirations — to protect and enrich the lives of the most vulnerable — means that we are continuing a pathway begun by our Founders. In their wisdom, these men set up a system of government where, when there was an injustice to be confronted, the American people had the tools to fight and to overcome. It’s simple: There needs to be a law.

Every other successful human rights movement has come to this moment. It is that moment to understand where you are in history, to seize what is before you. It is that moment to freshen resolve because the fight it not over; there is a seminal battle ahead of us. And for the right to life movement, the battle has two fronts: at the ballot box and in the halls of Congress.

First, at the ballot box. The 2014 midterms revealed that abortion-centered feminism is dying, if not dead. Pro-choice candidates in the last election were advised, almost unilaterally, not to speak of the abortion issue. Retreated from their own abortion-centered position, the abortion lobby and its candidates are talking about pay equity and family life. Meanwhile, our candidates and volunteers are going on offense to expose hidden abortion extremism.

The Susan B. Anthony List saw this on the ground in 2014. We saw how person-to-person interaction, on doorsteps across five states, can make the difference in a tight race. Our pro-life activists were ready and willing to talk to their neighbors about the importance of voting pro-life. Moreover, they were ready to bring our message to outlying communities. We have learned that being bold with our pro-life ideals, taking our message to Democrats, women, independents, and Hispanics, yields important fruit.

Our candidates are echoing the message. Fourteen declared and likely Republican presidential candidates have spoken out in support of the Pain-Capable bill and are now calling out their Democrat counterparts for their unwavering allegiance to abortion on demand. With a broad coalition of candidates going on offense, cheered on by an equally broad coalition of pundits, pro-life leaders are poised to flip the script on abortion.

The pathway to success in 2016, to electing a pro-life president, will require going on offense like this. Taking the White House is the last key step in passing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on May 13.

That journey was not without its own struggles. In the interim months since the bill was delayed, pro-life activists rallied by generating thousands of phone calls and messages to Congress requesting a vote. Fortunately, our pro-life champions in the House heeded the calls of the grassroots.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is ready to move with this proposal in the U.S. Senate and will introduce the legislation with an impressive number of original co-sponsors. When the time comes to have the debate in the Senate, Graham said, “It will be a joy; it will not be a burden.”

Passing this legislation and seeing it signed into law by a prolife president, who we must help elect in 2016, will be no small accomplishment. This compassionate legislation will save 15,000-18,000 children a year! When we consider the effort that goes into saving just one life, imagine what it will means to save 40 per day! We are on the cusp of this reality and we must see it as a beginning. This is the beginning of the end of abortion.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life

FR. JAMES BRAMLAGE writes that followers of Jesus could never condone abortion . . .

Fr. James Bramlage

Fr. James Bramlage

Pro-life or pro-choice? This is one of our society’s most divisive issues. That dichotomy, however, masks the true issue — whether we have the right to end the life of an unborn child.

It wasn’t until the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision opened the flood gates to legal abortion that the matter of “choice” in abortion began to concern large numbers of Americans. At first, most of those supporting the “right to choose” tried to hide what they were choosing under the pretext that the fetus was merely “tissue.” But science has coalesced around the fact that a unique human being begins its life at conception.

So choosing abortion is clearly choosing to end a human life, and those who support that choice are face-to-face with the fact that Christianity has consistently taught that human beings are not the authors of their own lives. We are not free to dispose of life as we choose. Every individual’s life has its origin in God and must respect God’s lordship of life.

How can so many who claim Christianity as their faith reject something so fundamental to that religion as the sanctity of human life — and the consequent immorality of deliberately ending another’s life?

The answer lies in a failure to acknowledge God’s total lordship of life. That failure is rooted in a deep-seated individualism that permeates our society. We want to be free to do whatever pleases us. We want to be free to do whatever makes our lives easier. To do that, we have to be the ones who make the rules for our own lives. Individualism puts me in command of my own life. I may nominally accept God’s sovereignty over my life, but it’s only to the extent that God’s law agrees with what I want God’s law to be. Ultimately, though, I decide what is right for me, not someone else — not even God.

Secularism is the other great contributor to many in our society who claim to be Christian while rejecting basic tenets of that religion. Secularism compartmentalizes life. Religion, whatever that religion may be, can have a legitimate role to play in one’s personal life, but that role must not be allowed to overlap into other parts of one’s life. Religion must not be allowed to play a role in secular or public life, for example. That needs to be a religion-free zone.

Christianity, however, recognizes no such distinctions or separations. Jesus did not preach a gospel that applies to our personal lives but not to our social lives. He did not preach a gospel that applies to some but not to others. His is a universal religion that, because of its universal nature, is intended to draw the entire world together in recognition of the one sovereign Lord.

Beginning with Paul VI’s encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), there has been a growing movement not only to preach the gospel to those who have never heard it or who have never accepted it, but to preach it anew to those who count themselves as Christians but who have never fully accepted the gospel. There are many in the Church who have not yet humbled themselves before God and declared him their Lord and Savior.

To do that places one’s whole life in God’s hands. It does not allow partial submission of one’s life to God’s rule. It does not reserve certain parts of life for self-rule while leaving God to be Lord of the rest. God only truly rules in our lives if we accept his lordship over the whole of our lives.

If God is Lord not only of my life, but of every human life, then I am not free to do deliberate harm to another and certainly not to take the life of an innocent human being except in an effort to preserve my own life.

There is a wonderful consistency to the gospel message the Church has received from Jesus himself. That consistency does not allow us to pick and choose teachings that fit the cultural values of our age and reject others. On the contrary, faithfulness to Jesus and the gospel he preached requires a readiness to stand in opposition to the values of a culture that are opposed to the gospel. To say that Jesus is Lord is a statement of submission to him in all things and the sincere desire to make his teachings the rock foundation of our lives.

One of the particular challenges to Catholics in today’s society is to give witness to the belief that Jesus is the Lord of life — my own life and the life of every other human being.

FR. JAMES BRAMLAGE is the chaplain of Legatus’ Cincinnati Chapter.

Birth of a mission

David Bereit left a lucrative sales position to save babies and co-found 40 Days for Life . . .

David Bereit

David Bereit

David Bereit was a successful pharmaceutical sales rep with a company car, expense account, and substantial paycheck when he got a phone call that led him to give it all up for the pro-life cause.

“I will never forget,” Bereit explained. “It was June 26, 2001, and I was calling on doctors in Hearne, Texas, when my cell phone rang.” It was Lauren Gulde, executive director of the Coalition for Life, who told him that Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, had aborted 10 more children that day.

Bereit was crushed. Just three years earlier, he had joined the coalition formed to oppose the opening of the Planned Parenthood facility, eventually becoming board chairman. Once the clinic opened, the coalition put together a plan to close it, but within a month, nothing had been done.

“I knew we had things we could be doing and weren’t doing,” Bereit said. “Maybe,” he told Gulde, “I need to quit my job and do this — make it happen.”

He talked to his wife, Margaret, thinking she would object. But to his surprise, she signaled her support, saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Changing hearts

Little did Bereit know that his decision to become executive director of the coalition would lead three years later to 40 Days for Life — a prayer and fasting campaign outside abortion clinics that since has gone global, reaching 539 cities in every U.S. state and 24 other nations. With 625,000 volunteers and 3,039 campaigns, the effort has seen at least 8,973 lives saved, 56 clinics closed, and 101 clinic workers leave the abortion industry.

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis, who got to know the Bereits while they were students and he was pastor of St. Mary’s Parish at Texas A&M University in College Station, said he could not have predicted that Bereit would take the route he did.

“David always came across as very professional and competent, but the career path I thought he was going to follow had to do with sales, marketing and corporate America,” said Bishop Sis, who heads the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas.

As he helped Bereit discern leaving his sales position, Bishop Sis said he could see that the young husband and father trusted in God’s providential care for his family and was guided by a sense of mission to defend the unborn.

Bishop Sis said he believes the 40 Days campaign that grew from Bereit’s decision has worked because it’s prayerful and peaceful.

“Sometimes you have protesters who kind of presume ill will in the hearts of those they’re opposing. This movement trusts in the power of God to change hearts through a loving, peaceful presence.”

That’s precisely what Abby Johnson, who left her job in 2009 as Planned Parenthood director in Bryan, Texas, noticed when 40 Days for Life began outside her clinic in 2004.

When she started working there, she said, pro-life advocates stationed outside tended to be more hostile toward the clients and the clinic workers. With the onset of 40 Days, she said, “It was as if they had reclaimed the sidewalk for peace. The people who were shouting and condemning were gone, along with their huge, graphic signs. What was left was a group of people who were prayerful, kind and peaceful.”

Those keeping vigil knew her name, told her they were praying for her, and offered her help if she ever wanted to leave. When she did decide to quit, she said, “I knew that I had a safe place to land.”

Praying for the vulnerable

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

The idea to fast and pray for 40 days outside abortion clinics was born when Bereit and several other Coalition for Life leaders gathered around a conference table in 2004 to pray for direction. Over the previous three years, they had maintained a presence outside Bryan’s Planned Parenthood and sought to educate the community, but their efforts had slowed while the number of abortions increased.

As they prayed, Bereit said, “There wasn’t some booming voice from on high, but we started having ideas pop into our heads.”

The first was to do something for 40 days because God had used that number in the Bible for periods of transformation. Next came a plan to maintain a 24-hour-a-day prayer vigil in the right-of-way outside the clinic. Finally, they knew they needed community outreach. One of their members, Shawn Carney, devised a plan to reach 35,000 households with a team of college students.

The coalition kicked off the campaign on Sept. 1 with more than 1,000 participants. At the end of 40 days, the number of abortions had decreased 28% in Bryan.

Over the next three years, the concept spread to Dallas, Houston, Green Bay, and Kitsap County, Washington. But when the coalition learned that a group in Charlotte, N.C., had organized a 40 Days for Life without any help from the Texas coalition, Bereit said, “That’s when we knew we’ve got something bigger than just three, four or five cities.”

Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson

By 2007, Bereit started organizing a nationwide 40 Days for Life while working for the American Life League. As the effort took off, ALL released him to set up a separate organization.

Catholic connection

In devoting himself to pro-life work and developing 40 Days, Bereit, the son of a Presbyterian minister, has kept his

Christian faith at the center. A winner of Legatus’ 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award, Bereit isn’t Catholic. His wife and two children are.

As he has learned more about Catholicism, Bereit said, he has come to admire the Church and to respect its commitment to human life. He continues to discern whether God may be calling him into the Church. “I always pray, ‘God, don’t let me stand in the way of where you want me to be.’”

Bereit said his wife has never pressured him to convert, but his daughter Claire is more aggressive.

A 16-year-old high school junior, Claire confesses she would like to see her father enter the Church. She said it’s been difficult knowing that he doesn’t share all her beliefs, especially when the family goes to Mass together and he cannot join them in receiving Communion.

“It makes me really sad sometimes, but I know he has a really strong faith and he is already an amazing man.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.


David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

Legates for Life

Just as he was able to take what he learned in sales and transfer it to the pro-life movement, David Bereit said he believes Legatus members could employ their abilities to benefit ministries like 40 Days for Life.

Legates, he said, may not even recognize the skills they possess as valuable to the pro-life movement and other ministries, but most people doing such work don’t have high-level business skills.

“If Legates are willing to tithe some of their experiences, insights and incredible gifts to ministries promoting a Culture of Life, I think they could revolutionize the pro-life movement.”

Bereit said he also has been strongly influenced by the franchising model described in Legatus founder Tom Monaghan’s book, Pizza Tiger, and his idea of taking a concept and replicating it to build an effective organization.



Learn more:



Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-Life Award

David Bereit

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O'Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

Reggie Littlejohn
Rita Marker
John Smeaton

Richard Doerflinger
Chuck Donovan
Michael Schwartz

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke
Steve & Vivian Koob
Thomas S. Monaghan
Dan Zeidler

Alveda King
Sam & Gloria Lee
Monsignor Philip Reilly

George W. Bush
Kathleen Eaton
Cardinal Francis George
Johnny Hunter
Dinah Monahan

John Haas
Molly Kelly
Janet Morana

Chris & Joan Bell
Denise Cocciolone
Sisters of Life
Sr. Paula Vandegaer

Joan Byrum
Peggy Hartshorn
Thomas W. Hilgers
Jerry Horn
James Hughes
Bernard Nathanson

James Bopp Jr.
Fr. Tom Euteneuer
Karen Garnett
Magaly Llaguno
Barbara Lyons
Germaine Wensley

Theresa Burke
Mark Crutcher
Nellie Gray
Fr. Frank Pavone
Austin Ruse

Sal Bando
Bishop Victor Galeone
Sen. Rick Santorum
Joseph Scheidler
Phyllis Schlafly
John & Barbara Willke

Judie Brown
Sam Brownback
Greg Cunningham
Fr. Paul Marx
Colleen Parro
Deby Schlapprizzi

Rep. Henry Hyde

Papal visit to South Korea

Legate STEVEN MOSHER writes that abortion is out of control in North and South Korea . . . 

Steven W. Mosher

Steven W. Mosher

When Pope Francis landed in Seoul on Aug. 14, he was greeted by cheering crowds of jubilant Catholics — a fitting welcome from a country with Asia’s second largest Catholic population.

From across the border in North Korea, the Pope received a welcome of a different sort. As his plane touched down, Pyongyang defiantly fired no fewer than five short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan. It was a stark reminder that the North was still technically at war with the South — and that the North’s communist dictator, Kim Jong-un, perhaps objected to the Pope’s visit.

Catholicism has been all but extinguished in the officially atheistic North. Those who did not manage to flee during the Korean War ended up in a concentration camp. Of the estimated 40,000 Catholics in North Korea today, as many as half may be imprisoned. In a sense, the entire country is one large prison camp.

But the two Koreas, as different as they are in every other respect, have one thing in common: They both have high rates of abortion.

Some years ago I sent investigators to Pyongyang to gather information on North Korea’s abortion practices. They found that not only is abortion legal throughout pregnancy, but also that pregnancy itself is considered to be a crime under some circumstances. For example, if a women returning from China is discovered to be pregnant, she is taken in for an abortion. Why? Because the authorities assume the father is Chinese and are under orders that no “half-breeds” are to be born.

The Kim dynasty has long imposed other restrictions on pregnant women as well. Women living in the capital city of Pyongyang are banished to the countryside if they become pregnant. Things are even worse in North Korea’s vast network of concentration camps. Here, pregnancy is strictly forbidden. Pregnant women are forced to run around the camp — or beaten — until they miscarry. There are credible reports from defectors that women who somehow manage to give birth in the camps see their babies murdered before their eyes, and then the woman is executed.

Add to these atrocities the grinding poverty and periodic famines that are characteristic of communism, and it will come as no surprise to learn that North Korean women are averaging fewer than two children — not enough to maintain the current population over time.

I was taken aback to discover that the South Korean birth rate is even lower, and its abortion rate even higher, than the impoverished North. In fact, South Korea has one of the highest abortion rates, and one of the lowest birth rates, in the entire world.

Each year almost half of Korean children are aborted. There were an estimated 340,000 abortions in 2012, compared with only 440,000 live births. In all, perhaps 20 million children have been aborted over the last half-century, a huge death toll in a country which is only the size of Indiana. The total fertility rate has fallen to an anemic 1.25 children per woman.

How did South Korea, a country that, unlike the communist North, enjoys freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and freedom of speech wind up killing half its children? And why did a country with a booming economy and regular elections decide to commit a kind of collective suicide? (If you think that this is putting it too strongly, consider that South Korea is aging rapidly, its workforce is shrinking, and its population has started to decline.)

I can give you the answer in two words: population control. Back in the late 1960s, the U.S. pressured South Korea to reduce its birth rate on the grounds that it was “overpopulated.” Seoul went along with Washington’s demands and adopted a two-child policy.

Anti-child propaganda was introduced in the media and the schools. Couples with more than two children were publicly criticized, while government officials with more than two children lost their jobs. Abortion became the primary means of birth control, as couples sought to conform to the policy. The abortion holocaust had begun.

Today, a half-century later, most Koreans understand that the two-child policy was a tragic mistake. The government has not only abandoned the two-child policy, it is instead rewarding couples who have children. But abortion has become a way of life in Korea, and the birthrate continues to fall.

Pope Francis understands this as well. This is why he chose to visit a “Cemetery for Aborted Children” during his time in Korea, and to pray for the children to whom it is dedicated — tiny martyrs to a population control program gone mad.

STEVEN W. MOSHER is a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter and the president of the Population Research Institute.