NEW YORK CITY — At the end of Respect Life Month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York put the pro-life cause into perspective. “Being pro-life requires us to be heroes,” the Catholic shepherd told the Register at The Human Life Foundation’s 14th annual “Great Defender of Life” dinner on Oct. 27.
“Everyone here this evening supporting life is a hero!” the cardinal added.
The Human Life Foundation honored Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, with the foundation’s “Great Defender of Life Award” at New York City’s Union League Club.
The Human Life Foundation was created in 1974 to promote — and to help provide — alternatives to abortion. Since 1975, the foundation has published The Human Life Review, the only publication of its kind in the world ― a nonsectarian quarterly journal that seeks to make the intellectual and moral case for the defense of human life at all of its stages and abilities. The foundation has also, since its inception, helped to support pregnancy centers around the country through its grant program.
Maria McFadden Maffucci, the current director of The Human Life Foundation, spoke with the Register about the foundation’s work.
“The Review exits to speak the truth about life: It’s a vibrant journal dedicated to the defense of all human life,” explained Maffucci. “We are, in a sense, an intellectual charity — because ideas, words matter, and, sadly, the ideas and words in ascendance in our culture for the last decades have been those that marginalize, demean and disqualify some human lives as not worthy of protection. This is what we fight against, offering, instead, the strength and the hope of the truth.”
Anne Conlon, managing editor of The Human Life Review, spoke to the Register about the major obstacles against a cultural sea change of popular opinion about abortion in America.
“That is a problematic question. Most polls indicate that most people object to most abortions. In other words, most people are already pro-life — with exceptions. So popular opinion seems to be generally on the pro-life side, though with differences as to how extensive exceptions should be. There has not been, for instance, a popular revolt against the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.
“Carl Anderson, in his address accepting the Human Life Foundation’s Great Defender of Life Award, pointed out that, according to a Marist poll, a strong majority of Americans says abortion is morally wrong. They do so by 20 points. And 8 in 10 would restrict abortion to — at most — the first three months of pregnancy, and a majority would limit it to the rarest of cases, to cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, or would not allow it all.”
The Human Life Review, which is also available online to digital subscribers, presents the best legal, medical, moral and philosophical discussions about all life issues, including abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, assisted suicide, family and marriage rights, disability rights and euthanasia.
As a nonsectarian publication, it is open to those of all faiths or those of none. Contributors have included Nat Hentoff, a self-described atheist Jewish pro-lifer; the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York; leading Christian thinkers like Eric Metaxas and William Murchison; Catholic journalists like William McGurn of The Wall Street Journal and Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review; pro-life leaders like Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life and Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life; and President Ronald Reagan, who wrote an article in 1983.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund since fall of 2012, presented Carl Anderson with his award at the pro-life dinner. She is pleased that her organization and The Human Life Foundation work together for the pro-life cause.
“Though the March for Life and Human Life Foundation,” Mancini told the Register, “are both nonprofit pro-life groups, our missions are quite different, in that Human Life Review is more of an academic ‘backbone’ of the pro-life movement, whereas the March for Life is a grassroots mobilization organization, focusing on education, legislative work and, of course, our annual peaceful protest. We manage the world’s largest annual human-rights protest.”
“We have different roles to play in the [pro-life] movement,” she added. “I love to read Human Life Review; and it informs my understanding of some of the most critical nuances of bioethics or laws that impact life, etc. At the March for Life, we realize that we have a specific mission and focus and are grateful for the plethora of pro-life groups that we can work alongside, like Human Life Review. It’s critical for all of us to work together as much as possible.”
“Our most important goal is creating a culture where abortion is undesirable — building a culture of life,” she explained. “We seek to do this through education (social media, in particular, engaging mainstream media, regular public speaking, educational campaigns, annual conference, etc.), pro-life legislative work and, of course, the March for Life every year.”
In his speech, Anderson pointed out that “the coarsening of our culture is the result of a legal system and way of thinking that says some lives don’t matter — that some human beings have no rights at all,” saying that Roe v. Wade reflects a long, tragic history of legal decisions that undermined the credibility of our Supreme Court in the tradition of Dredd Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson and Buck v. Bell before it.
“Two of those cases denied human rights to African-Americans. The third denied rights to those with intellectually disabilities, allowing their forced sterilization and opining that ‘three generations of imbeciles [was] enough.’”
“In each of these cases, as in Roe, the court usurped for itself the role that the Declaration of Independence leaves to God — that all are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Anderson added. “And it usurped that role with disastrous consequences.”
He pointed out that numerous legal scholars have concluded not only that Roe v. Wade is bad constitutional law, but that it makes very little pretense of being constitutional law at all.
“The unique life of the unborn child isn’t a matter of faith,” emphasized Anderson. “It is a matter of science, as the world-famous geneticist Jerome Lejeune made clear in testimony before Congress and in the pages of The Human Life Review more than four decades ago. The intentional killing of an innocent human being is wrong not simply as a matter of religious belief. It is always wrong because intentionally killing the innocent is always a grave injustice.”
Anderson pointed out during his acceptance speech, “If Catholics were to stand together with other people who support life to make abortion the pre-eminent human-rights issue of our time and to treat it as a truly non-negotiable priority, imagine how different our country would be.”
In 2009, the Knights of Columbus initiated a program to fund technically advanced ultrasound machines for pregnancy centers. Thus far, the Knights have donated 720 machines, with a value of more than $35 million. Anderson suggested that these machines might have saved as many as 37,000 lives every year.
“Emotionally and spiritually, we must also accompany women. Whether they are pregnant, have had their child, or have had an abortion, we need to continue our support of ministries like Project Rachel. We have a responsibility to accompany women who face these challenges in ways that encourage them to see that the choice for life is at the same time a choice for their own fulfillment.”
In conclusion, Anderson referred to Ronald Reagan’s article in The Human Life Review, in which he referred to “the long march for life,” reminding the audience that, despite all obstacles, “right will ultimately prevail.”
This optimism is shared by Christina Angelopoulos, the assistant editor of The Human Life Review.
“I feel that the pro-life movement in the U.S. today is holding steady, and slowly gaining ground, especially among young people,” Angelopoulos told the Register. “This may be in part due to better technology, which provides much better ultrasounds with convincing pictures of beings that are hardly ‘clumps of cells.’ This may be due to simply being contrary to the leanings of the older generation, which, of course, has been going on forever. Whatever the reason, it certainly is a good sign and gives us hope.”
Angelo Stagnaro writes from New York.