Following is the transcript of the web teleconference
held on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 by Priests for Life. Over
1000 leaders and activists participated.
: Good evening, Brothers and Sisters.
This is Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests
for Life. Thank you so much for joining our conference call
tonight. We have people joining us from coast to coasts,
hundreds of individuals who are now listening through their
computers and over the phone, and we will have hundreds more
joining us in the course of this hour.
I want to thank you
all in advance for the work that you do in this great
movement. And tonight, of course, we're going to talk about
one very specific aspect of that work, which is our national
elections and the work that we need to do in electing
Pro-Life candidates and in challenging our nation regarding
the very nature of abortion.
We have some very special guests here tonight whom I'm
going to introduce in just a moment. We want to remind you
that the purpose of tonight's call is not in any way to
endorse candidates. This is a non-partisan activity that
we're engaged in tonight. It's issue-oriented rather than
candidate oriented. And we're asking the question, "How can
we best, in the course of this election cycle, alert people
to what abortion is and encourage them to make their
political responsibility real and effective in building a
culture of life?"
I want to begin by welcoming our Priest Associate, Father
Denis Wilde, who is an Augustinian. He has been working
full time with Priests for Life for some ten years, now, and
I would like Father Denis to open us in prayer. Father
Denis, thank you very much.
Father Denis: Good evening, Father Frank. Thank
you. Let us pray. Loving God, Author of life, we gather
together in prayerful deliberation across this country that
we love to open our hearts to Your inspiration for action.
Your law, Oh Lord, is our delight, the Psalmist regularly
acclaims; yet Your eternal law is trampled on today by the
ongoing slaughter of innocent human persons under the
charade of choice.
This evening, we want to listen not only to the speakers in this hour, but especially as ongoing seekers of Your truth in the months ahead. Give us the wisdom to mobilize a coast to coast grassroots effort that will bring citizens to vote first and foremost to preserve threatened innocent life from conception to natural death.
Help us cooperate in the maximum degree by giving us humility right now to seek the common good in defining those mobilizing efforts rather than our own. Strike a flame in us the courage of the Apostles who told their menacing accusers they would rater obey You than men, and more than ever, infuse in us the assurance that You are with us always even until the end of time, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.
Father Frank: Amen. Thank you, Father Denis. Brothers and Sisters, what are we going to cover in this hour long conference call? First of all, we're going to hear from several experts about the importance of this election, and the role that the abortion issue plays in electoral politics; the reasons why we need to be motivated in this election no less than we have been in the past.
After going through those points, we're going to talk about a key project that we're promoting for this election cycle called,
Is this What You Mean? And there are two key ways that each of you can participate in this project, both in your local community, and by assisting our efforts in the halls of Congress.
We're going to talk about those two ways, and we're going to show you on the website, and those who are joining us by computer will be able to click on the licks of the explanation of exactly how this project can be carried out.
And then finally, we will conclude by looking at some of the post-abortion healing aspects of this project, as well as hearing form Dr. Alveda King regarding the Civil Rights Dimensions of what we are doing here.
But I'd like to now ask a Pro-Life hero for all of us, someone who has served in the United States Congress and continues to serve there for justice, for peace, for life, not only in the United States but throughout the world, Congressman Chris Smith, who is joining us live on this call tonight.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. And can you start us off here by telling us how can we motivate those on our side who might not be as enthusiastic about this year's elections as they have been in the past?
Rep. Chris Smith: Thank you, Father Frank, and thank you for the great work that Priests for Life and you personally do on behalf of the unborn. You know, I've been in the Pro-Life movement for 36 years. I've been in Congress for 28, and Pro-Life Caucus Chairman for 26 of those years in the House.
Never in my life have I been more concerned and more alarmed at what might happen if this election goes the wrong way. So, I think the first thing we need to do is to be absolutely clear as to what's at stake. We have to sound the alarm that all that we've worked for, labored for, prayed for, fasted for, is at risk of being reversed, some of it with the stroke of a pen by way of executive order.
And we know that Barack Obama will reverse all of the executive orders that George Bush has done, and the culture of death will really take us to new lows. Obama has said – I know this is an education-oriented broadcast, but Obama has said that his first priority is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.
That legislation would not only nullify and void the partial birth abortion ban; it would compel tax payer funding for abortion and modest restrictions throughout the states that have saved tens of thousands of lives. That is to say waiting periods, women's right to know laws, the parental notification and consent laws; all of them would be nullified again when – God willing, he never does get to sign that legislation.
It is above and beyond Roe vs. Wade. So, we're talking about, you know, an extremist in Barack Obama who has said again, this is his first legislative priority. And, you know, let's not sugar coat this and act as if, "Well, maybe he won't. Maybe he won't." He will, and I take him at his word, and this is a man who, when he was in the Illinois legislature, voted against legislation, the Born Alive Act, that requires a standard of care for a child who is born as a result of a later term abortion, and then survives maybe for a few minutes, maybe for a few hours, or maybe for the rest of his or her life.
…and he voted no on that. So, we've got a man here, regrettably, who will also be on the world stage in Africa, in Latin America, Poland, Ireland, all over the world is a very pitched battle to defend the sanctity and the dignity of unborn life and all who are weak and vulnerable.
He will have a bully-pulpit and enormous amount of foreign aid, basically a blank check, to give to Planned Parenthood, Marie Stokes International, and all of the other organizations that are a raid in battle formation to promote the culture of death.
They're doing it already. It's being fought in a very courageous and prayerful way in all of these countries, but frankly, it has been the Bush veto, and the fact that we have a third of the House and the Senate to sustain that veto that has prevented our Waterloo from happening during this congress.
These Democrats would love to control the key positions of the House and the Senate; love to unleash the culture of death. They're biding their time because Bush will veto anything that nullifies any existing Pro-Life law, and they will open up those flood gates beginning with the inauguration.
And I think people have to realize that and stop saying, you know, "Well, you know, it's been so long. We're disappointed. We haven't," – I'm disappointed, too. I wish we would have won this a long time ago. I've been in this from almost all of my life as are so many other people. But it could go from bad to worse in a race to the bottom, and this next four years could be our Waterloo.
Father Frank: Well, Congressman Smith, you certainly know the ins and outs of this battle, and we all want to say thanks for what you've done. You never do any of this for any kind of praise because I've always seen in you the spirit of the Gospels that say, "Look, we've only do – we're only doing our duty," and I thank you for encouraging us tonight to do our duty and get active in this election.
Rep. Chris Smith: If I could just say, there's already requests for additional monies for Title Ten; a hundred million more, a doubling of foreign aid for family planning, so called. They're trying to integrate all of our foreign aid into an abortion modality including the HIV AIDS money, which will go to $50 billion over five years.
So, the whole infrastructure of healthcare delivery in Africa, and increasingly in the United States, because we know Planned Parenthood is on a building boom, and they do about 300,000 abortions in this country every year.
They're on an all out assault, and if we don't have the right person in the White House, God willing, more Pro-Lifers of both parties in the House and Senate, there will be a steamroller, and more child deaths, more wounded women.
Father Frank: Thank you again, Congressman Chris Smith. We are so glad you could join us tonight for the call.
Chris Smith: Oh, thank you very much
Father Frank: We'll look forward to talking with you soon.
Chris Smith: Thank you.
Father Frank: Now I want to welcome another great friend of life and of Priests for Life, the Executive Director of the National Right to Life Committee, Dr. David O'Steen is with us tonight. And Dr. O'Steen, thanks for joining the call.
Dr. O'Steen: Thank you very much for having me, and thanks for putting this together, Father Frank, and all the work Priests for Life does.
Father Frank: Well, thanks. You have done a lot of careful looking over the various electoral cycles that we've been through at how voters take abortion into consideration in their vote, and how that shapes the dynamics of our national elections. Can you give us a summary of that?
Dr. O'Steen: I'd certainly be glad to. First, as a very important overview, if it were not for the abortion issue, we would not have had a Pro-Life president for the last two presidential terms. Turning to 2006, post-election poling shows that fully 36 percent of the electorate said that abortion affected their vote, and 23 percent said they sought to vote for candidates who oppose abortion, and 13 percent sought to vote for candidates who favor abortion.
Now, that's what I call a soft increment. That's people who say abortion affected their vote. I'll get to the hard single issue voter in a minute. But that's a potential ten-point advantage, there. Now, if you turn from that to the 2004 election where abortion was a major, major issue; 42 percent said that abortion affected their vote, and of that 42 percent, 25 percent said they sought to vote for candidates who opposed abortion and 13 percent for candidates who favored abortion.
That showed a 12-point potential advantage for Pro-Life candidates, and when we looked at the presidential election itself, 24 percent of the electorate said that abortion affected their vote and they voted for George Bush
Fifteen percent said abortion affected their vote and the voted for John Kerry. Of the so-called single issue voter, people like probably most of us on the call, and certainly myself and Father Frank, I would imagine, for whom abortion is the most important issue, six percent said the main reason they decided to vote a certain way was abortion. Now, that's – before, I was talking about people where abortion affects their vote, and we reach out as broadly as we can.
But there is a small remnant, if you will, who realize that this is the paramount moral question facing America. And that varies from five, six, seven, eight, nine percent in every election. In 2004, it was six percent, and of those, five percent voted for Bush, one percent for Kerry, and that's the election.
And we've seen this in election after election. In every presidential election between 1984 and 2000, between 7 and 14 percent said that abortion was one of the most important issues, and the vote for the Republican candidate ranged, in all of those years, among those people, from 55 to 71 percent. And the Republican candidate, in each election – remember, it was a Pro-Life Republican and a Pro-Abortion Democrat.
National Right to Life is also a non-partisan organization, but our political action committee will support Pro-Lifers. And in every one of those elections, it was a Pro-Life Republican. And the advantage for the Pro-Life Republican candidate ranged from approximately 2 to 3.4 percent in every one of those. As I said, in 2004, the advantage – there was a net of four percent advantage for President Bush among the single issue life voter.
Now, what concerns me most in the coming election – and incidentally, this carries through whether you win or lose the election. You can lose an election and still get a Pro-Life increment, and that happened several times in 2006. It was a very hard election for a number of our Pro-Life Republican Senate candidates.
A number of them lost, but in every one we tracked of those people who voted on the basis of abortion, the majority of them voted for the Pro-Life candidate. And, in fact, we found that our post-election poling showing that were it not for the abortion issue, 15 more Pro-Life Republican Congressman would have been defeated and we would have had a far different Congress.
As it was, we've managed to hold the line and not a single Pro-Life policy has been disrupted. It would be a much different House of Representatives had we lost those 15 members who narrowly won within the margin provided by the Pro-Life vote. And in the State of Tennessee, one of the Pro-Life victories in 2006 – it was a narrow win by Pro-Life Senator Corker, and in that race, our poling showed 35 percent said the abortion issue affected their vote, and they went 26 percent to 9 percent for the Pro-Life candidate. And there's anther example of where a Pro-Life candidate won because of the Pro-Life vote.
Now, we have just concluding some poling that I will be discussing at the National Right to Life Convention next weekend. It's July 3rd, 4th, and 5th at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virgina, just outside of Washington. And incidentally, if you're interested in information, you can go to our website;
www.NRLC.org for information on the convention.
We certainly would welcome you attending, and I will be going over some poling data there, and I've discovered one, that the Pro-Life increment – the potential Pro-Life increment is there, you know. The Pro-Life advantage can be seen in this coming election. However, in a poll just completed last week, we found that 43 percent did not know Barack Obama's position on abortion – said they just didn't know.
Ten percent of the population believes he's Pro-Life. So, a majority either doesn't know his position or thinks he is Pro-Life, and that's very disturbing. And incidentally, Father Frank, the polls showed that Catholics were a little less knowledgeable than the population as a whole of Obama's position. It was a slight in the numbers. But again, less than half realized that he takes a Pro-Abortion position.
Fr. Frank: Yes.
Dr. O'Steen: So, there is a lot of educating that needs to be done on his position on abortion.
Father Frank: Well, that is a very helpful overview. I mean, the bottom line is no matter how small the percentage of the electorate who take abortion as the key issue in the vote, nevertheless, those who do so can swing these elections and have done so in the past and can do so again.
I want to reiterate what you said about the convention. Of course, I will be there and will be privileged to offer Mass each day for the participants as well as a number of workshops. So, again, folks, if you have any possibility of going to the National Right to Life Convention, it's next week; July the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, Crystal City, right outside of Washington Reagan Airport.
Dr. David O'Steen, thank you for your expert insight into this. David O'Steen, Executive Director of National Right to Life. Great to have you on the call with us.
Dr. O'Steen: Thank you, sir.
Father Frank: Brothers and Sisters, I now want to explain
the project that, taking into account everything we've heard
so far, can help to increase the number of people for whom
abortion is a critical issue in determining how they are
going to cast their vote.
Now, for those of you who are
joining us by computer, I want to point out that on the
conference screen on the lower right-hand section of the
screen, you see a button called, "Is This What You Mean?"
It's the big button with the maroon trim with the big arrow
pointing to it, and I would ask those of you now who are on
computer to click that button.
For those of you who are listening just by phone, we are
looking at a PDF file which we can make available to you.
It is available to you on our PriestsForLife.org website and
we will be in touch with all of you who are participating to
send you additional information by email, in the days ahead,
about what we are about to discuss.
This project can be used on the local level and first
we're going to describe the project itself and how you can
carry it out and then we're going to hear from one of our
pastoral team members about his experience in actually doing
what I'm about to describe. "Is this what you mean?" is a
project that attempts to get back to the basics and to
challenge pro-abortion politicians with this question. Is
this what you mean by abortion? And it starts by simply
quoting the words of the abortionists themselves. We quote
their words and we ask these supporters, "When you say the
word abortion, is this what you mean?"
Now please know what the abortion supporter says in
response is not what matters. Once the quote is stated and
the question asked, the project has accomplished its purpose
because what that person, if he or she is pro-abortion, what
they stand for has been revealed both to the person and to
everyone who listens. So if you see the document here, Part
A says, "Considerations regarding the project." Let's just
go through them briefly.
Number 1: Indisputable evidence. The "Is this what you
mean?" campaign relies on the words of the abortionists
themselves obtained from medical textbooks and court
testimony by practicing abortionists. It's evidence that
cannot be contradicted regarding what abortion actually is,
because it comes from those who do it and those who teach it
If you take one of these quotes, of which we'll look at
some examples at the bottom of the page, and you state these
quotes, there's no need to engage in any kind of debate.
We're not asking you to stand up in front of a group and
start debating a pro-abortion politician. It's not that at
all. You don't have to refute any slogans or arguments or
talk about the morality or legality of abortion.
Rather, again, the project just establishes a starting
point. What are we talking about when we say abortion? So
the whole project is as simple as reading an abortionist's
quote and asking, "Is this what you mean?" Once you do that
you have educated the listeners and it doesn't have to take
any more than 20 or 30 seconds.
Here's the dilemma for the pro-abortion politician that
we challenge in this particular way. They don't want the
people whose votes they're asking for to hear any
description of abortion. When they're challenged with the
quotes of the abortionists and they are asked, "Is this what
you mean?" here's the dilemma they face. Either they admit
that what they support is horrifying, or they demonstrate by
their evasion that they can't even admit what they support.
Either way it doesn't look very good for abortion and it
certainly doesn't look very good for them.
Now, where would you ask a question like this? The ideal forum is at a town hall meeting. And we're talking about people at every level of government. There might be somebody running for local school board, city council, a state representative, governor, U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator, or President of the United States. You go to a town hall meeting when one of these candidates is taking questions from the audience, you stand up, you quote the abortionist and you ask, "When you say the word abortion, is this what you mean?" Beside the town hall meetings this can be done in other circumstances like private meetings or in classrooms or on television or radio programs, where you can call in and ask a question, or in letters to the editor or on blogs and other Internet forums.
Where would you find this source material, all these quotes? You'll see on Part C of this document, those who are following on computer, that there is a link there to the main project page,
PriestsForLife.org/isthiswhatyoumean and on that page we will continue to add more and more quotes that can be used.
If you go to the bottom of this document you'll see the quotes in red. Let me just share a few of them with you to give you a feel for this project. You stand up or you're sitting with one of these people or your standing up in a town hall meeting and you say, "From the medical textbook called Abortion Practice written by Dr. Warren Hern, he says, 'A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus.' Sir when you say abortion, is this what you mean?"
Another example, "Sir/Ma'am, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales vs. Carhart decided in April of 2007, described the D&E abortion procedure, which is legal. It said, 'The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix.' Sir/Ma'am, when you say the word abortion, is this what you mean?"
Another example. Dr. Martin Haskell, when testifying in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in 1999, described the D&E procedure and said, "'We would attack the lower part of the lower extremity first, remove, you know, possibly a foot, then the lower leg at the knee and then finally we get to the hip.' When you say the word abortion, is this what you mean? Dr. Haskell also offered a quote that said, 'Typically the skull is brought out in fragments rather than as a unified piece.' Again, when you say abortion, is this what you mean?"
And brothers and sisters, the wisdom in this project is that you stop there. You don't debate the person. You don't have to. We're simply exposing what abortion is and the voters will get the point. This is what this person supports when they say they are pro-choice.
Back on Section C of the document you'll see a number of other resources that we're providing for you and you'll see the links to our online store where you can get these things. You can get diagrams of the procedure that have a lot of these quotes right on the back of the diagram,
8 ½ by 11 medical diagrams, you'll see the link there where you can obtain them.
There is also the possibility of using this project in a way that utilizes video and so, for example, we have a video called
The Procedure and we also have a number of videos on YouTube. If you utilize this project online by going onto a blog, for example, or a forum and challenge people on that forum with this question, then, of course, you can simply put a link, for example, to one of our YouTube videos describing and showing the abortion procedure. And again, you're saying, "Look at this. The source is the abortionists themselves. When you say the word, is this what you mean?"
This project is perfect for the 2008 election cycle. Why? We talked, we heard from Chris Smith, from Dr. O'Steen, we talked about the fact people need to be energized, they need to be mobilized. There's a lot at stake and if people have, somewhat, waned in their enthusiasm, there's nothing better to bring them back to it then getting back to the basics and look right in the face at what we are fighting.
If this is done by enough people in their local communities, used at every level of government, eventually somewhere by someone, a candidate, even for President of the United States, could end up being challenged with this question.
Moreover, this project can be used after the elections. It can be used all year round. It can be used with people who are already in office, not just running for office, and it can be used not just with politician but people in academia, people in the media, people in our own families, among our friends, among our coworkers, even some clergy who don't seem to be very excited about the abortion issue. That is Part 1 of the project, what you can do in your own community.
There is a second part and we welcome our pastoral team member, Paul Schenck, with whom I have worked closely for many years and who heads up the National Pro-Life Action Center in Washington, D.C. He's going to speak with us in just a second about this Part B of the project which is this; at a specified point in time in the near future – and we're not necessarily going to announce the date yet, we want it to be an element of surprise for the people in Congress – but what we are going to do is to visit the members of Congress. The Priests for Life Team is going to get together and, literally, walk the halls of Congress.
We're going to walk into the offices of pro-abortion members of the House of Representatives of pro-abortion members of the U.S. Senate and we are going to go in there and do exactly what I just described. We are going to bring the quotes of the abortionists. We are going to bring the diagrams of the procedure and we're going to ask a very simple question, "When you say the word abortion, is this what you mean?"
Now, brothers and sisters, this is not just about what we're going to do. This is about what we're inviting you to do, because we are asking you to lend your names to this project because we're going to be visiting – if your Representative in Congress is pro-abortion or you have one of your two – one or both of your U.S. Senators are pro-abortion, we want to go in there and we want to put down on their desk thousands of names of people who could vote for them or against them in the next election and we want to say, "It is not only we at Priests for Life who are asking this question. Your constituents are asking this question along with us and here are their names and addresses."
As I invite Paul to come on here and speak to us about this, I also want you to look, if you would, at the conference page, again, and in the lower right hand section of this page you're going to see a link that says, "Challenge Congress." If those of you who are following by computer, if you would click on that link, you'll see a form that allows you to sign up, and you can do it even right now as we're speaking, sign up to give us your name and say, "Yes. When you go to Congress, when you walk into those offices, when you walk through those halls, let my Representative, let my Senator know that I, too, am asking this question, 'Is this what they mean when they say abortion?'" And this is an aspect of the project that is critically important.
Before Paul shares with us the dynamics of what takes place or what can take place in Congress, let me ask Jim Pinto to share his experience of how he actually implemented Part A of this project, which, as I described, is conducted, ideally, at a town hall meeting. Jim, tell us about the town hall meeting you went and how you carried out this simple project.
Jim Pinto: Right. My beloved wife, Joy, was reading the paper one evening and she saw that this town hall meeting was being advertised and that the public was being invited to ask any question they wanted of one of our Congressmen. So we recognized that this Congressman was well known to be a pro-abortion supporter, pro-choice supporter so we felt like this would be the perfect opportunity.
So we made our way down to the town hall meeting and even though we were a half hour late, we always felt like this is what we needed to do and just went in and said, "Well, how do we ask a question here?" And they said, "Well, just simply raise your hand."
So I made my way right to the front row. It was a little bit like church, nobody sitting in the front row, maybe one person so I took that position right across from the Congressman and really just let my heart fill with prayer, with love and just kept raising my hand and trying to make eye contact with him.
And then, you know, finally the time came and he called upon me and I just simply stood up and I thanked him, sincerely, for the town hall meeting, what a great opportunity for the public. I thanked him for everything that he's done that was good for our state and then I said that, you know, "Your position on abortion rights and on choice are very well known and my question is to that end." And I said that I had recently read, "Some quotes from doctors who actually do abortions," and I did what you described earlier. I said, "Dr. Martin Haskell, who does abortions, says this, 'It's not unusual at the start of a D&E, dilation and evacuation procedure, that a limb is acquired first and that the limb is brought through the cervix.'" And Father, at this point I could sense rumbling in that room. "'When you're doing a dismemberment, a D&E, usually the last part to be removed is the skull itself and it's floating free inside the uterine cavity. So, typically, there's several mis-directions, his attempts to grasp and finally, at some point, either the instruments are managed to be placed around the skull or a nip is made on some area of the skull that allows it to start to decompress. And then once that happens, typically, the skull is brought out in fragments, rather than a unified piece.'"
And then I held up the two procedure diagrams for the D&E procedure and the suction procedure and I just, I said, you know, "I'm gonna quote from this professional medical diagram on how abortions are done." And I just quoted the body parts are grasped and here we see a leg being pulled out and an arm being pulled out and the remaining parts are then grasped and pulled out and the head is grasped and crushed in order to remove it from the vaginal canal.
And then I looked straight into his eyes, the eyes of the Congressman, and I solemnly and I deliberately said, "So my question to you sir is this. When you say you support abortion, when you support choice," and I was pointing to the diagrams at this point, "Is this what you mean? Do you mean the same thing as these doctors who give testimony regarding abortion? Is this what you mean by abortion? Is this what you mean by choice?" And I mean, it was like dead silence.
But he went on, you know, he just kind of avoided it, you know, like you said, he danced around it. He talked about criminalizing teenage girls who have abortions. He talked about morality, religion, politics, all of this, nothing that I had addressed, and at some point he said that he had supported partial birth abortion, the ban on it. And so I did say to him at that point, I know that this isn't exactly a part of how we do this, but he mentioned it so I just said, "Well why did you support the partial birth abortion ban even though you're pro-choice?" So he said, "Because it went too far." And I said, "What do you mean by too far?" And he just kind of looked at me and so I just said to him, "Well do you mean that the baby is almost fully delivered, moving in the hands of the doctor and he sticks a scissor in the back of the baby's skull, opens it up and sucks the brain of the baby's head. Is this what you mean by going too far? Is this what you mean by abortion? Is this what you mean by choice?"
And so, you know, he kind of just addressed the crowd a little bit and then he wouldn't speak with me any further so I sat down and then at the end of the time I made my way to him and presented him, you know, I shook his hand and I thanked him again. I thanked him for supporting the partial birth abortion ban then I said, "I'll work with you in any way I can to curtail abortion." And I presented him with the diagrams and I said "I really didn't come in here to talk about morality or religion or anything else but what abortion really is, please look at these diagrams. I look forward to speaking with you further." So that was it.
Father Frank: Right. Well, Jim, I want to thank you for doing that and showing that it can be done and of course, as you know, and as we're stressing with everyone here on the call that the goal was accomplished as soon as you read that description.
Jim Pinto: That's right. That's right.
Father Frank: The people there in that room, many of them supporters of this pro-abortion Congressman, they heard for the first time the words of the abortionists themselves describing what this horror actually is. And that's the project. Because then the voter really has to make an informed decision.
Well, thanks Jim. I want to remind a number of people have come on the call in the last few moments that we're talking about how to implement this, "Is this what you mean?" project. And if you're joining us by the computer at the lower right hand section of the screen you see a link called, "Is this what you mean?" Click on that for the PDF file that describes and equips you with the quotes for this project, download that to your computer, print it out, save it on your hard drive and use it as you begin, then, to implement this particular project.
You will see, by the way, in the middle of that document, the link to the main project page which is
PriestForLife.org/isthiswhatyoumean. On that page, brothers and sisters, any of you who do this project in the way that Jim just described, for example, we ask your feedback. We ask you to be in contact with us. There's a form there that you can use to share with us what has happened, how you did it, ask questions and we'll guide you through the process.
That's Part A of the project. Part B, as I already explained, the Priests for Life Team is going to walk the halls of Congress, we have the dates already set, we have time for you to join us by simply lending your name when we go to see your Representative and your Senator and again, at the lower right hand section of our conference call screen here tonight, you'll see the link that says "Challenge Congress."
You can put your name there right now as we're having this call and this will enable us to say to your Representative or to your Senator, "It is not only we asking this question, it is your constituents back home."
Paul Schenck, from our Washington, D.C. office, director of the National Pro-Life Action Center, thanks for being on the call tonight. Tell us the importance of the participation of our listeners tonight in actually lending their names and the impact this can have when we go into these Congressional and Senate offices with this question.
Paul Schenck: Thank you, Father Frank. Of course, the National Pro-Life Action Center on Capitol Hill is the only pro-life initiative geographically located on the Hill, directly across the street from the Supreme Court, just 60 paces from the Justices' private entrance and exit to the court.
That means that we have access to all of Capitol Hill, literally, within minutes and that's the staging ground for our efforts to bring the Gospel of Life to Capitol Hill, all three branches of our Federal Government including most of the Federal Judiciary.
And we have to remember that Capitol Hill belongs to the people. This is not a political class that owns and operates the Federal Government of the United States. The people own that Hill and the House of Representatives and the United States Senate are the people’s houses, as is the Supreme Court and the White House. Security is a little tighter these days in the wake of 9/11 but nevertheless these are the people’s houses so we have access to the United States Capitol and to all of the offices of our representatives, both in the House and the Senate. When Father Frank and I discussed this initiative, “Is this what you mean?”, we talked about making surprise calls on our representatives in the House and in the Senate. We can approach those offices. We can do so with audio and video equipment. There are no regulations that prohibit the use of cameras or audio equipment in the United States Capitol. It makes it a little more of a challenge to get in but of course technology now makes these devices so small that they’re readily passed through the magnometers and so forth that are used for security purposes. So we can access the building very easily with no difficulty. We don’t have to have appointments made in advance. We don’t have to give notice that we’re going to be arriving. Instead, we would make a surprise call. Now some people may say, “Well wouldn’t it be better if you knew your representative was there, if you knew the Senator was in the office?” But attempting to make the appointment is far greater risk of them deliberately absenting themselves than making the surprise visit and even if you’re not able to talk directly with the representative or the senator, each staff will meet with you and the very same questions can be asked. In fact, I would suggest that it is equally as effective to speak with the staff and to confront them with this question as it is the elective representative themselves because that staff, we want to reach their hearts and their minds as well. We want to plant a very serious question in their minds and this kind of visitation is very effective, that any individual would be willing to make their way to Washington at expense of money and time and effort speaks volumes to the representative. Now, to the clergy, when a collar walks through those halls and the collar appears, be that individual Catholic priest or identified readily by a business card or some other insignia as a Protestant minister, a rabbi, even an imam, who might be a part of that group, remember that the representative is looking at a person who represents a key element in their constituency and both parties today are very eager to connect with the religious community and so they are going to give an additional deference to the clergy and we find that the clergy are with very few exceptions, and the few exceptions are the very high profile office holders, but the most, the majority will give special deference to the clergy and will give them the courtesy of a hearing, at least a meeting with a key staff member.
Fr. Frank: This is going to be very exciting especially the video portion of this to put up, both aspects of this project to get these video clips and to get them up on YouTube, someone like Jim Pinto standing up in this town hall meeting and exposing abortion for what it is in the presence of a pro-abortion member of Congress and then Paul, you and I and our other priests bringing the names of thousands of people like those that are listening to our call tonight and dropping those names on top of the desk and dropping that abortion diagram and quoting those quotes, OK tell us once and for all is this what you mean? This is going to be fantastic and Paul I want to thank you for your leadership there in Washington and throughout the country. It’s a pleasure to work with you and have you part of the team and we look forward to this project being fully implemented.
Paul Schenck: We do as well.
Fr. Frank: Brothers and sisters I told you in the announcement of tonight’s conference that we would have a special message from the Vatican and in fact, one of our good friends there in Rome, Cardinal Renato Martino has left us a recorded message. He has encouraged our political responsibility efforts in countless ways. Cardinal Martino is a very close advisor to the Holy Father, under John Paul II and now under Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Martino heads up not one but two key offices at the Vatican. One is the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the other is the office that takes care of questions of migrants and refugees. Cardinal Martino used to be in New York as the Holy Father’s Permanent Observer at the united Nations and so has worked worldwide in the defense of human rights and now in his position at the Vatican, essentially oversees and coordinates all of the Catholic Church’s work throughout the world when it comes to human rights, social justice, international development, and world peace -- many of the issues of course that are of key concern to voters in this election. I’d like you to listen to this message now from Cardinal Martino regarding what issue the Holy Father has indicated is most important and how we are to advance it.
Cardinal Martino: The Holy Father speaks of the protection of life as the fundamental realization and respect for human rights. Without that realization, without that respect for the right to life, no other discussion of human rights can continue. What better motivation can we have to be involved or become more active in the making our societies, our world, a better place and what could be easier than being an informed and active voter? Voting is a right as well as a duty. But it is also essential to be informed and to vote as your heart, as your conscience tells you.
Fr. Frank: A very clear affirmation of the centrality of what we are talking about here tonight, the abortion issue. As the Cardinal said, no discussion of other human rights can even continue unless this right is secure. Well, Theresa and Kevin Burke are also with us tonight. Theresa and Kevin founded Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, the largest ministry in the world for post-abortion healing and we are privileged to have Rachel’s Vineyard as a ministry of Priests for Life. Kevin and Theresa are full time pastoral associates of Priests for Life and they’re on the call with us tonight. Kevin and Theresa, we need to ask you this simple question. We’re talking about exposing abortion quite graphically here and publicly through these quotes. What kind of impact can this have on those who’ve had abortions as a catalyst actually towards their healing, and if people implement this project how can they point people who hear them, these graphic descriptions, towards the healing that Rachel’s Vineyard provides?
Kevin Burke: Let me start Father by talking about the issue of denial because this campaign very powerfully confronts the denial in our culture to protect the public from seeing the reality of the abortion procedure but I’d like to also point out that there’s actually powerful denial of the reality, the truth that abortion deeply wounds those who participate in the procedure.
Fr. Frank: Yes.
Kevin Burke: So we could really think in a sense that these two things are kind of a mirror image of each other. The images of the abortion procedure, when the procedure’s described, the horror of that, that’s also reflected in the heart and souls, the lives, the relationships of those who suffer after aborting their son or daughter or who have participated in any way with abortion and when they come to realize the horror of the reality of that, that’s reflected in their lives. Those realities are deeply painful and disturbing and neither can remain hidden without a horrible cost to both the unborn and the lives of those who have participated in abortion. Maybe Theresa you can maybe touch on that because this campaign is confronting that denial and underneath that denial is the pain and anger that some may have because they’ve been involve in abortion.
Theresa Burke: Well one of the things that Father Frank has said is that through this campaign we’re going to look right in the face of exactly what we’re fighting and I think that it’s important to try and frame this wherever possible as injustice against women. I think that there’s so much ammunition in our favor. I want to recommend that everyone take a look at David Riordan’s work for rebirthing the gender gap and maybe Christa can put information about that out there. But he did a poll before the last election and he found that only 16% of people polled believed that abortion makes women’s lives better and even among those people who describe themselves and pro-choice, less than 30% of those pro-choicers believed that abortion genuinely improves women’s lives. So we have that in our favor. 67% of pro-choice women stated that they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who calls for government support for grief counseling programs, things that would assist women who are experiencing emotional problems and another huge, huge statistic in our favor is especially when we talk about this freedom of choice act that politicians are promoting, 64% of women felt that they were pressured by others through coercion and that coercion can escalate to violence against women and even murder, murder of course is the number one cause of death during pregnancy and we hear about women going missing all the time and many of these are newly pregnant women and the only one who knows is when she discloses to her boyfriend who doesn’t want to pay child support. So I think that in all these situations, being able to focus on the injustice towards women and to bring that into the question. When you support choice is this what you mean? And give great examples and I think we can probably provide really great examples of people’s personal experiences of abortion, the depression, the mental illness, the suicide and by supporting choice -- Is this what you mean?
Fr. Frank: Well thank you Theresa and thank you Kevin and the resources of Rachel’s Vineyard of course are available to everyone who needs this healing after the abortion experience. Well finally we have Dr. Alveda King with us, another pastoral associate of Priests for Life and the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’ll ask Alveda just to touch on how this project reflects what happened in the civil rights movement and their efforts, the efforts of her dad and her uncle Martin to expose the evil horror of segregation. Alveda?
Alveda King: Thank you Father and thank you to all the listeners. During the mid-20th century and in the movement led by my uncle, Dr. King in one of his campaigns said that America will not reject racism until America sees racism and so America had an opportunity firsthand to see the atrocities that were being committed against people because of skin color. Theresa just mentioned the part about injustice against women. My uncle said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and even as he and my father, Rev. A.D. King, labored diligently in the vineyards on behalf of people who were being oppressed because of skin color, the little baby of course is being oppressed in the womb or the sanctuary of the mother and he or she is already fully human with those 46 chromosomes, 23 from mom and 23 from dad. So I salute Father Frank who says that America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion and certainly the “Is This What You Mean” campaign is so effective because it is bringing to the forefront the civil rights of the babies. The first human right is civil rights and because in the Book of Act, 17, where it says that God created us all of one blood, then we are all human beings from the very conception of our lives to the natural end. So certainly the life issue is a civil rights issue and I just urge everyone to be mindful of that and to put that question before those people who are running for office and who are asking for our vote and I want to urge everyone to vote for the content of a person’s character and not the color of our skin.
Fr. Frank: Thank you Alveda and God bless you for the work you do. Brothers and sisters in these last few moments before we hear a special message from Senator Brownback and I ask Father Peter West to close us in prayer, let me point out the other links at the lower right hand section of your screen. The elections information link, that’s our political responsibility center where you’ll get updated information about the things you can do in the elections. We’ll be providing constantly updated information and more guidance and documents that you can download to guide you in this activity. And of course there’s the link to donate. So many of you support our ministry and help us to do projects like this and we encourage you to make a donation online tonight or at any convenient point when you can help us in that way. Brothers and sisters the work that we do in the pro-life effort is much more than politics and elections. We’re talking here tonight about this one very important arena but I want to state that together with this the movement is advancing in powerful ways on so many other fronts, not the least of which, our presence at the abortion mills and the 40 Days for Life campaign is something that I will continue to be an ardent proponent of and assistance for it will be provided through our efforts. I want to thank David Bereit for being with us this evening behind the scenes. He has helped us really to make sure all the ins and outs of these big teleconferences are working well for us here tonight. Senator Sam Brownback, a key voice for pro-life in the United States Senate gave us this message earlier today.
Senator Brownback: This is Sam Brownback and I just want to record this message and speak to the Priests for Life meeting. Of course, God bless you guys. You are phenomenal. You have had and are having a massive impact across the country and don’t stop and don’t give up. We are winning the life fight but we can’t quit now. We’ve turned really much of the country to the pro-life message. It is now a majority pro-life nation. But this next election is critical. Unfortunately a number of people have been elected to public office who are pro-choice in spite of the movement across the country that supports life. So we’ve got to have you hang in there particularly on the election cycle. You have some candidates that are radically pro-abortion. I think any abortion is a radical notion but you have people even that support the situation that if a child is born alive in a botched abortion they want to allow the physician there to go ahead kill the child. That’s sick. It’s obviously wrong and it’s something that we need to educate the country about. We’re winning the embryonic stem cell debate. We’re winning on the science. We’re winning it in people’s hearts because they know now that this is a life and therefore protecting it. So I want to really, really encourage you to stay in the fight, to be on your knees praying about this, praying for the country, and to speak about it from the pulpit and in your actions around the country and around the world.
Fr. Frank: I’m very grateful to Senator Brownback for his message tonight and for all the support that he gives. Now I’d like to ask Father Peter West, another of our priest associates at Priests for Life, to close us in prayer. Father Peter?
Fr. Peter West: Father in heaven and Lord of life, tonight we pray for our nation, that we will elect leaders who support the right for life, the most basic human and civil right that we have. Use us to tear away the euphemisms that hide the ugly reality of what abortion is, violence against preborn children and the exploitation of women and minorities. Use us to help others to understand where the candidates stand and enlighten them to do their duty to protect the least among us, especially those most threatened, the unborn who are threatened by abortion and the elderly and the sick and handicapped threatened by euthanasia. Give your people courage and wisdom and prudence. Help us develop winning strategies and the strength and the wisdom to carry out these strategies. Help us devote ourselves more fully to this cause and to call our nation back to the basic principles upon which we were founded, to restore the right to life, which our Declaration of Independence recognizes as a right by which we are endowed by You, our Creator. Heal our nation from the deep wound of 35 years of legal abortion and help the pro-life movement and all people of goodwill to work together in unity to build a culture of life.
Fr. Frank: Thank you Father Peter. Thank all of you brothers and sisters. PriestsForLife.org, you can get continued updates and we will be having another one of these conference calls in July, Thursday night, July 17. Check our website for the details. Thanks for your participation, good night. God bless you.