If the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion nearly 40 years ago was supposed to be a positive one, it would make sense that pro-choice advocates would hail its coming anniversary.
But don’t count on it.
Instead, hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates encircle the nation’s Capitol every January to call attention to the ongoing injustice of Roe v. Wade. Others are joining the growing West Coast tradition of the Walk for Life in San Francisco and local events throughout the Phoenix Diocese.
Youth and young adults are counting themselves more and more among the crowds. Teenagers from St. Joan of Arc’s youth group are traveling with a group of St. Mary’s High School students for the West Coast Walk for Life Jan. 21.
“It is important for youth and young adults to attend these events with each other, and not just because their family has always gone to them,” said Cindy
Leonard, director of the diocesan Office of Natural Family Planning.
“They need to see themselves as critical in communicating pro-life messages to the larger society and to realize that the torch for pro-life work will be passed on to them.”
Many are responding to that call. Leonard has been working with 269 high school students through the Catholic Academy for Life Leadership which launched last fall. The three-year program focuses on relationships and theology of the body.
So far, students have felt encouraged to speak publicly for pro-life and chastity issues and left better positioned to embrace chastity.
“It can lead me to have a pure, chaste heart to seek only good,” an anonymous comment read, “Chastity is a joy and is meant to guide us to true love.”
Healing the Culture, a pro-life organization, also helps individuals find the true source of happiness as a way to sidestep the abortion issue. Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer and Camille Pauley founded the organization in 2003 and base its materials on Fr. Spitzer’s four “levels of happiness.”
Starting later this spring, they’re launching what they deem a comprehensive, multi-grade, philosophical pro-life program for high school students. The first of four books in the Principles and Choices curriculum defines happiness and meaning then applies it to quality of life and love.
Supplemental e-texts, webisodes, interactive websites, DVD productions and related social media will also go live this spring. The remaining three books will follow in 2013.
“It’s not enough to teach young people the facts about abortion and fetal development,” said Pauley, president of Healing the Culture.
That hasn’t turned the tide, she said, namely because of ego-centered identities and a materialistic culture. Some 1,200 students in two distinct markets have already tested the program and been transformed.
“When students embrace deeper meanings of happiness, love and quality of life, they begin to understand why these principles are so important,” she said, “that helps them to understand why abortion and euthanasia never solve any human problem and should never be legal.”
Such programs may have helped some of the 10,300 men and women registered with the Silent No More Awareness campaign. That’s how many people from 67 countries are reportedly registered with the group. It offers healing and encouragement after an abortion plus public education and witness to make abortion unthinkable.
Nine local post-abortive men and women including one from Flagstaff, with the support of area Knights of Columbus councils, will be at the Walk for Life West Coast. Two local Catholics will share their stories with the tens of thousands expected to attend.
Monica Jordan, a Ss. Simon and Jude parishioner and co-regional coordinator for Silent No More Awareness, is one of them. She was 17 when she had the first of three abortions.
“It’s important to let the Supreme Court and people in the political environment know what we’ve been through. It hurts men and women,” Jordan said. “We are affected. It’s not a quick fix.”
She knows post-abortive parents made “terrible mistakes” and was relieved to find supportive crowds hear her testimony, including in Washington, D.C. last year. Jordan was glad to see people of many faiths there, especially teenagers, young children and pro-life groups.
“They’ve seen our tears. They’re going to remember us,” she said, noting it will be an attitude of, “I remember that lady, that man. And I don’t want to walk that walk.”
Jordan hopes her testimony will empower youth and young adults to realize that they can stand, teach and guide their friends. That’s the only way to create change, she said.
Local Catholics will gather in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa to inspire each other to continue the pro-life fight. Area youth and young adults will kick things off Jan. 21 with the 10th annual rally and hike at Arizona State University in Tempe.
It’s important for the culture to see the public witness of the injustice of abortion, said Trent Horn, coordinator of respect life parish leadership support for the diocese. He will be among three speakers at the youth rally, talking specifically about why young adults must be pro-life leaders.
It’s also important for that age group to show the culture that they’re “gracious ambassadors” to post-abortive parents, he said.
“We wish to create a society that is free of abortion’s tragic consequences,” Horn said.
Arizona Right to Life invites the greater community to its annual march and rally for life Jan. 22. Msgr. Philip Reilly, founder of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants will be concelebrant at the Mass at St. Francis Xavier and a key speaker during the rally following at Steele Indian School Park. The rally also features music, inspirational stories and political leaders.
The following evening, a pro-life event will debut in the East Valley, the Let Freedom Ring for Life concert. It’s sponsored by the East Valley Pro-Life Alliance and will include pro-life booths, musicians including Doug Slater from nearby Christ the King Parish, a diaper drive and the HOPE Ultrasound Mobile Unit.
Two veterans started the organization after realizing that the prayers offered through their
veterans’ group weren’t pro-life
“We were very concerned about the Constitution not being adhered to,” explained Joe Perron, referring to the inalienable right to life. “Most older people, when it comes to exercising their’ right to vote, they don’t understand Roe v. Wade. They vote from tradition.”
When he brought up the pro-life issue, he said some in his group had no knowledge of it. He hopes the concert will help and allow young people, including Catholic musician Doug Slater, who was adopted, tell their story.
Perron sees the event as an alternative for East Valley residents who couldn’t travel to the Phoenix march due to schedule conflicts and mobility restrictions.
“We’re trying to show them the amount of money from their taxes that goes back to Planned Parenthood to kill babies,” he said.