Father Frank Pavone was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1988. He is a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, and serves full-time in pro-life leadership with his bishop’s permission. He is national director of Priests for Life, which is the Church’s largest ministry focused on ending abortion. He serves as the chairman of and pastoral director of Rachel’s Vineyard, an organization that offers healing from the effects of abortion.
Almost a year ago, I had the honor of meeting a young woman named Andrea. Months earlier, on learning she was pregnant, she had taken the first drug in the RU-486 abortion regimen, and immediately regretted her decision. Racing against the clock, she found a doctor about an hour away from her home in New Jersey who would immediately begin a reversal protocol that stops the starvation of the baby. Her son Gabriel was born healthy on Dec. 31, 2014.
Andrea and her boyfriend are not married. Andrea was in nursing school when their unexpected pregnancy propelled her to Planned Parenthood. She worried that the baby’s birth would spell the end of her dreams.
How does she feel now? You only have to look at her Facebook posts to find out.
Dec. 17: I love this little boy more than words could ever describe. Thank you God.
Dec. 23: Working my third twelve-hour shift in a row. I’m pooped! But can’t wait to have the rest of the week off to spend with my little man.
Dec. 24: The best Christmas gift I could ever ask for was the beautiful gift I was given, my baby boy Gabriel.
The doctor who handed Andrea the abortion drugs may have thought he was "serving the health of women" and "respecting their freedom of choice." But did he really help this frightened mother, who was not motivated by "freedom of choice" but rather by the conviction that she had no freedom and no choice?
Is dispensing abortion drugs the "pro-woman" thing to do?
And are the efforts of pro-life people to intervene to give better choices to women like Andrea fairly described as a war on women's rights, freedom, and health care?
The real difference between those in the pro-life movement and those in the "abortion rights" movement is not that we love the baby and they love the mother.
The real difference is that they say you can separate the two and we say you can't.
We love them both. And we are convinced that you cannot serve the mother while destroying her child, and that you cannot save the child without helping the mother.
Moreover, we who reject abortion do not reject those who have had abortions. Rather, we reach out to them with compassion and mercy.
The family of another young woman contacted Priests for Life on New Year’s Day in 2015. Twenty-year-old Emily was headed from her home in the U.K. to New Mexico to abort her baby at 30 weeks. Emily was healthy, her baby was healthy and yet the abortion was legal thanks to Doe v. Bolton, the companion decision to Roe v. Wade that removed all restrictions on abortion.
Father Stephen Imbarrato, our pastoral associate in Albuquerque, got involved immediately, as did many pro-lifers active in the late-term abortion capital of the nation. Families were found who were willing to adopt her baby, but Emily began the multi-day abortion procedure by having her baby’s heart fatally injected with digoxin.
The clinic collected $8,000 to $12,000 for this abortion—far more than a live delivery would have cost. Then they delivered her dead baby and sent her home, estranged from much of her family. The clinic may even have harvested the baby's organs. Again, it's a fair question: is this really a pro-woman approach to take?
Pregnancy resource centers, on the other hand, are the definition of pro-woman and in fact offer women facing unplanned pregnancies real choices. I can say unequivocally that in my decades in the pro-life movement, I have encountered few things more inspiring than the generous and even heroic work of those who serve the approximately 3,000 pregnancy resource centers around the country. There are five times as many of these centers as there are abortion mills. Yet the pregnancy centers receive little, if any, government funding as they offer financial, medical, legal, and emotional support to help mothers avoid the temptation to abort. These centers offer the kind of choice that so many of these mothers thought they didn't have.
Programs for healing after abortion are also are pro-woman. Counselors, clergy and volunteers involved with Rachel’s Vineyard—of which I am privileged to serve as the worldwide Pastoral Director—are not interested in condemning or punishing women for making the irrevocable choice to end their child’s life. Rather, they want them to know that healing is possible, that God forgives them and that they can be at peace with themselves. Once healed, women can be part of initiatives like our Silent No More Awareness Campaign to reach out to other women—those still hurting from abortion, and those who might still be spared that tragedy.
Abortion is a massive industry that exists only to kill children and has no regard for their mothers. The pro-life movement exists only to save those children and their mothers. As we at Priests for Life have preached for years, and this year's March for Life theme proclaims, pro-life and pro-woman do go hand in hand.