Alaskans debunk abortion myths with love, prayer, outreach

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Every January for almost 20 years, people from all walks of life and faith gather at the Anchorage Cemetery for an interreligious prayer service hosted by Alaska’s Knights of Columbus to commemorate those who’ve lost their lives in abortion and to pray for their mothers and fathers and families still suffering abortion’s aftereffects.

Despite the size, religious diversity and fortitude of the hearty crowd who pray together there in frigid mid-winter, the local media rarely ever come. But absent page-one stories and despite inaccurate ones, pro-life proponents across the nation are making tremendous strides toward restoring legal protection to the smallest humans. They succeed by debunking myths fostered by abortion supporters, by praying, and most of all, says Julie Thomas of Anchorage, by being “the face of Jesus Christ” for expectant mothers in crisis.

 

20 YEARS MOVING AHEAD

A lot has happened in the nation’s pro-life movement since the first prayer service at the Anchorage cemetery. Twenty years ago, the world first heard about partial-birth abortion, a procedure in which an abortionist mostly delivers a living baby to suction out her brain, thereby killing her. Congress passed a federal ban, which then-President Bill Clinton vetoed several times during his presidency. Pro-life advocates kept the spotlight on the practice.

In 2003, then-President George W. Bush signed the bill into federal law. And today a majority of states in the nation – including Alaska – have state laws banning partial-birth abortion.

Then in 2004, Congress passed and President Bush signed into the law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which recognizes a child in utero as a legal victim, if he or she is injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed federal crimes of violence. As of 2014, 37 states – including Alaska – had state fetal homicide laws.

During the congressional debate on unborn victims, people saw images of some of these infants killed in the womb by third-party assailants – in one case, in the arms of her surviving mother and in another, lying beside her mother in a casket.

“Nobody can tell me that there were not two victims,” said Carol Lyons, who lobbied Congress for the bill.

Speaking of her grandson who had been killed in her daughter’s womb, “I placed Landon in his mother’s arms, wrapped in a baby blanket that I had sewn for him, just before I kissed my daughter good-bye for the last time and closed the casket.”

Increasingly, the conversation turned to unborn babies’ capacity to experience pain. Physician experts testified before Congress that infants in the womb – at least by 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier – have the capacity to experience excruciating pain. That gave rise to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks.

Last September, a majority in the Senate voted to advance the bill, but a minority blocked its consideration. President Barack Obama opposes the bill. As of June 2015, 11 states had enacted laws banning abortion on pain-capable children.

There are also legislative efforts underway to protect unborn children from dismemberment abortion, more commonly known as D&Es. “Dismemberment abortion kills a baby by tearing her apart limb from limb,” according to Mary Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee. “Before the first trimester ends, the unborn child has a beating heart, brain waves, and every organ system in place. Dismemberment abortions occur after the baby has reached these milestones.”

Across these 20 years, polls have shifted, with increasing numbers of people supporting restrictions on abortion. In November 2014 a nationwide Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, while only 33 percent opposed such a bill. Women voters split 59-35 percent in support of such legislation.

 

PRO-ABORTION MYTHS

Pro-life advocates say that helping people see the truth about the unborn is hard work when pro-abortion advocates – and many media outlets – continuously repeat myths about abortion. For years, pro-abortion advocates, media, and pollsters have asserted that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, only allows abortion in the first three months. The truth is Roe with its companion case Doe v. Bolton legalized abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy for virtually whatever reason.

They insisted the partial-birth abortion procedure didn’t exist, but according to abortion practitioners, it took place at least 3,000 to 5,000 times a year.

On late abortions, past 20 weeks, pro-abortion advocates argue they are rare and done only for compelling medical reasons. But about 275 facilities in the U.S. offer them, and at least an estimated 11,000-13,000 abortions are performed annually after 20 weeks. The great majority are not performed to address an acute medical crisis of either the mother or baby.

Pro-life advocates say abortion proponents are still propagating myths in the newest developments on the abortion front.

Last year, the Center for Medical Progress of California began releasing a series of undercover videos it recorded showing Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating prices of human fetal tissue obtained through abortions they perform which they then sell to medical suppliers. The videos also show employees combing through and joking about the remains of aborted babies.

“It was a shock,” Jon Agosti of Anchorage told the Catholic Anchor. “They were selling organs from these aborted babies and aborting them in specific ways that they could preserve the organs and probably violating the laws against partial-birth abortion.”

Agosti is a Catholic pro-life advocate who regularly prays outside the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Anchorage and attends the annual pro-life prayer service in January. He has served as the area’s local director for 40 Days for Life that conducts peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics around the world every spring and fall.

Outrage over Planned Parenthood’s practices has led to efforts to strip public funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions (according to its most recent annual report, Planned Parenthood received at least $528 million annually from the federal government or state and local governments). Last month, the U.S. Senate approved a bill to block about 89 percent of all federal funding and reallocate that $400 million to community health centers. President Obama opposes the bill. As the funding debate heated up, a congressional committee pulled in Planned Parenthood Federation President Cecile Richards, to explain the abortion giant’s practices.

Richards and pro-abortion legislators have insisted the videos were heavily doctored and therefore unreliable. This despite the fact that an impartial, digital security and forensics firm established the videos had not been manipulated.

Bill Donovan is executive director of the Community Pregnancy Center of Anchorage, which provides free pregnancy tests, limited ultrasounds, counseling and material assistance like baby clothes, cribs and car seats to expectant parents in need.

From Anchorage, Donovan watched the congressional hearing. He observed that one pro-abortion legislator utterly ignored the fact that the videos hadn’t been doctored.

“He refused to believe anybody but Cecile Richards who sat there, and they just kept parroting that [the videos were heavily manipulated],” he said. “They say what they want to say, and the media seems to believe what they want to believe, too.”

Donovan believes those mantras — repeated enough — can undercut the most compelling facts.

“No matter how much good information was in those videos, a lot of people just bury their head in the sand, and they say, ‘Well, she said they were manipulated, so I don’t have to watch them.’”

As a result, some area pro-lifers aren’t sure who is watching and being changed by the videos. Donovan doubts the videos are enough for abortion supporters to shake off the party line. Julie Thomas, who prays and counsels abortion-minded women along the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood in Anchorage, thinks young people are more open to watching the videos — more so than older people who through their own abortion experiences have become “hardened” to the truth.

“Those videos were probably the most effective for people that you probably didn’t even know they influenced, like high school kids, the people that you weren’t necessarily out there trying to sway,” Thomas said.

Most recently, abortion advocates reissued their decades-old false claim that pro-lifers advocate violence toward abortion workers and clinics. In November, an unstable, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear fired upon people at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Co. One police officer – who was also a pro-life pastor – and two civilians were killed, and nine people were injured. None of the victims were Planned Parenthood staff or clients.

Abortion advocates quickly accused pro-life advocates of fomenting intolerance and hatred, which leads to such violent acts. But as in past such events, pro-life organizations around the country uniformly denounced the violence.

“To take people’s lives is obviously completely counter to what we’re promoting and defending out there,” Agosti explained.

Donovan added: “We’re pro-life for the baby in the womb, for the infant, the toddler, we’re pro-life for the teenager, the young adult, the elderly, and we’re pro-life for those that are committing this atrocity of abortion.”

 

THE RESPONSE OF LOVE

Pro-life advocates are undaunted by the flow of misinformation.

“You keep praying,” Donovan observed matter-of-factly. “We actually pray for the people at Planned Parenthood.”

Thomas, too, maintains great hope for the future of the pro-life movement.

“The whole reason why we’re out here trying to save babies’ lives is because we love,” she said. “We love the Lord first and we love these women. We want to spare them a life of regret and pain and suffering. We want to save these babies’ lives for what the Lord has for them.”

Showing women and their unborn babies the love of Christ, she observed, is “what they need to see, what the world needs to see.”


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