by Nancy Valko, RN
“Pro-life Groups Don’t Really Protect the Unborn,”1 blared the headline of an opinion article that appeared September 4, 2013 on the Yahoo news site. The author was Elizabeth Jahr, described as a senior at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, majoring in politics and theology and religious studies. Obviously, this Yahoo opinion piece, which also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor the same day, was especially aimed at young people.
Ms. Jahr states bluntly that “Religious and political groups that funnel tremendous resources into a legal war to limit and even ban abortion in America are at best, wasting time, and at worst, damaging efforts to protect the unborn.”
The comments that appeared on the Yahoo version of the article were outrageous applauding the author for exposing people in the pro-life movement as politically aggressive morons.
This is stunning, especially when you consider that Planned Parenthood, the most visible face of abortion in the US, received 542.4 million taxpayer dollars in 2012 alone2 while nonprofit and volunteer groups like Birthright and Our Lady’s Inn here in St. Louis struggle to help countless women in crisis pregnancies and even after birth.
It is no accident that too many good people feel intimidated about expressing their pro-life beliefs, sometimes even with friends and family members. Ridicule, anger and scorn are difficult to handle but, as the old adage goes “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
If any group ever needed a great publicity agent or public relations firm, it would certainly be the pro-life movement. However, the pro-life movement never has had the time, money, or inclination to burnish its image. People in the pro-life movement have been too busy saving lives and assisting the vulnerable to defend their work and motivations.
One of the Greatest Volunteer Movements Ever
I consider myself a latecomer and draftee to the pro-life movement. I was a 23-year-old intensive care unit nurse when the Roe v. Wade decision came down. Like most people, I was shocked when abortion was legalized. I was vaguely aware of the Roe case, but, like most people I knew, I didn’t believe the case had a chance. Abortion was a nasty business only whispered about when I was growing up. As a medical professional, I couldn’t imagine good doctors and nurses condoning much less participating in such a brutal act. And I couldn’t imagine that Roe and its companion case Doe v. Bolton would extend abortion for the entire pregnancy.
However, I was professionally offended by the pro-life argument that legalizing abortion would lead to the legalization of infanticide and euthanasia. It was one thing to deny the truth with an early and unseen unborn baby but it was quite another to imagine any doctor or nurse looking a born human being in the eye and killing him or her. So I remained relatively silent but supportive except with people I knew well until almost 10 years later. It was 1982 when I found that my newborn daughter with Down syndrome almost became a victim of lethal medical discrimination because of the abortion mentality generated by Roe. I finally discovered the truth that the pro-life movement had predicted years before. It was then that I discovered that no group was fighting harder for people like my daughter as well as the inherent right to life of all of us than the growing pro-life movement.
What I found when I finally joined the pro-life movement was a large and diverse group of people committed to serving as well as saving the most vulnerable among us. I saw people who volunteered time and personal effort to ensuring that pregnant women had the resources to give birth and raise their children as well as find real help after the trauma of an abortion. Others were involved in programs assisting the poor and elderly. Some were caring for large families or ill family members themselves but still made the time to help in some way. To this day, I never met a pro-life person who was not involved in actively helping others. The pro-life movement is committed to people and principle, not politics.
I was also impressed by how much the pro-life movement was doing at the state and national level to legally protect the vulnerable as much as possible. Over the years, I saw pro-life laws like informed consent, safety regulations for abortion clinics, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, laws against assisted suicide, etc. proposed and even passed with great time and effort by pro-life people.
Although I was impressed with how much the pro-life movement was doing, I was initially discouraged to discover that even duly passed common sense pro-life laws are routinely held up sometimes for years by judges and special interest groups with deep pockets, like Planned Parenthood. For example, the widely supported Illinois parental notification law for minor girls was just now finally upheld after 18 years.3 Was it expensive? Yes! Was it worth the trouble? Of course. After all, pro-life legislation is educational for the public as well as protective for women and others at risk. Even when legislation fails, more and more people find out important truths about the abortion and euthanasia issues from the discussion.
Enforcement of these laws can be even more challenging. For example, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act has been widely ignored.4 The Kermit Gosnell post-abortion killings show the wisdom of the Act and are now putting pressure on states and government officials.
After staying in the pro-life movement now for more than three decades, I recognize the argument that legalized abortion would lead to infanticide and euthanasia was absolutely true. As a nurse as well as a mother, I have been horrified to see the ever- increasing expansion of what we now call the Culture of Death to include the disabled, elderly, frail and seriously ill as well as the unborn.
But pro-life people are nothing if not resilient and creative.
With dedication and commitment, I have seen the pro-life movement increase in numbers and rise up to meet every new challenge to the right to life. I see smiling, positive people who refused to be permanently discouraged by setbacks or media stereotypes.
As a result of those initial efforts, today we see more and more abortion clinics closing (a record 44 so far this year!)5, waiting lists for adoption of babies with disabilities, few doctors and nurses jumping on the assisted suicide bandwagon, and other signs of progress. Despite the media hype and propaganda like Ms. Jahr’s article, the pro-life movement is alive, well, and growing.
And most importantly, hearts and minds are being opened and thus lives are being saved!
Editor’s note: the URL above no longer leads to this article, as of October 28, 2013. The article (without reader comments) can also be accessed via: csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2013/ 0904/Pro-life-groups-don-t-really-protect-the-unborn.
2 American Life League’s STOPP International “Analysis of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Annual Report 2011-2012.” January 13, 2013: stopp.org/pdfs/2012/STOPP_PPFA_ 2011_2012_Final.pdf.
3 Naomi Nix, “Illinois Supreme Court backs parental notification for abortions.” July 11, 2013. Chicago Tribune: articles. chicagotribune.com/2013-07-11/news/chi-abortion-parental-notification-20130711_1_illinois-supreme-court-said-lorie-chaiten-parental-notification.
4 Kathryn Jean Lopez, “How About Enforcing the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act?” May 15, 2013. The Corner at the National Review Online: nationalreview.com/corner/348430/how-about-enforcing-born-alive-infant-protection-act-kathryn-jean-lopez.
5 Operation Rescue Staff, “Two more abortion clinics close: that makes 44 this year” LifeSiteNews.com. September 20, 2013. Online at: lifesitenews.com/news/two-abortion-clinic-closures-up-the-tally-to-44-this-year?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com+ Daily+Newsletter& utm_campaign=83c2820b88-LifeSiteNews_ com_US_Full_Text_06_19_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0caba610ac-83c2820b88-326224910.
Nancy Valko, a registered nurse from St. Louis, is a spokesperson for the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses and a Voices contributing editor. She and her family live in St. Louis.
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