It was in the Book of Hosea, verse 4:6, that Hispanics for Life discovered the perfect Scripture to propel their mission and to post prominently on their website: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”
Educating Hispanics about the evils of abortion as well as contraception, and talking about chastity — “these three things are what are dearest to us in our mission,” says Astrid Bennett Gutierrez, coordinator for this dynamic pro-life organization.
Hispanics for Life has been reaching out with education since it was formed by Catholics in 1989 and opened to non-Catholics as well. It formally became a part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Commission for Catholic Life Issues two years ago.
Msgr. Timothy O’Connell, the commission’s director, calls Hispanics for Life “a vital group” in the archdiocese.
“In East L.A. they are involved in up to 30 parishes, where they have somebody in the parish working on respect life issues,” says Msgr. O’Connell, giving one example. “They draw people together for a day, updating and educating them on these issues.”
That includes informing many immigrants from countries where abortion is not legal who are confused by the situation here.
“Their method is hard-hitting; they don’t pull any punches,” says Msgr. O’Connell of Hispanics for Life’s video presentation and powerful testimonies from some who’ve had an abortion and now volunteer with Hispanics for Life.
Gutierrez points out, “One thing key to opening the eyes of Hispanics is the 17-minute video Dura Realidad. Translated, it means Hard Truth.”
“A Hispanic has to see what you’re talking about to understand,” she says, explaining the reason for this video. “We always say to them, Remember our culture has this popular saying: ‘If the eye is not allowed to view reality the heart cannot be touched.’”
Armed with knowledge, the Hispanic culture has shown itself quick to embrace the ethic that la vida es hermosa — life is beautiful.
Gutierrez says the video is graphic but prudent. It’s introduced with compassion by first speaking of God’s mercy. A 1994 Spanish version of Gregg Cunningham’s video of the same title, it shows what an abortion is, highlights how Hispanics are being targeted and calls them to action.
Gutierrez points out the importance of seeing these graphic images in the same way we look at Holocaust images — because they’re the truth.
Hispanics for Life co-founder Anna Madrid finds the reach of Dura Realidad as an educational tool greater than first imagined. “We never expected when we made it that it would go farther than California,” she says.
But calls for the video have come from several states, and it’s been shown at many pro-life conferences in Mexico and broadcast by request on national TV in Nicaragua and Peru. Madrid says the video changed minds in the Dominican Republic about decriminalizing abortion once shown there.
Closer to home, in her area, nuns called the Misioneros Servidores de la Palabra (Missionary Servants of the Word) tell her stories of people converted after they’ve taken the video door-to-door or shown it many times in Bible studies. A Protestant minister ordered 100 copies after a man in his congregation viewing it fell to his knees and converted because he had been guilty of the abortion of two of his children.
“It has saved babies and it has saved souls because of the conversions,” Madrid says. “This is why this video is so powerful.”
Powerful, too, is the way Hispanics for Life highlights a second main message: Hispanics are targeted by the abortion industry.
“In one L.A. neighborhood where we put a crisis-pregnancy center,” says Gutierrez, “within a one-mile radius there are seven abortion businesses in walking distance.”
Abortion is no longer a voter non-issue. “Before, they were more interested in economy and schools. Now they’re demanding to know where their politicians stand on abortions.”
Gutierrez has seen good people wake up dramatically, like a woman from Holy Name of Jesus Church in Los Angeles, now widely quoted. Gutierrez heard her proclaim, after learning the facts from Hispanics for Life: “Politicians are offering economic benefits, but I prefer riding a bicycle and begging in the streets rather than voting for a politician who supports the shedding of innocent blood.”
Hispanics for Life is making much progress with another major group. “Once the Hispanic youth see the video,” says Gutierrez, “they are some of the most zealous.”
Like 20-year-old Jennifer Ayon. She was already active in her parish as a lector and a catechist since eighth grade and, with her entire family, was always pro-life.
“But when I saw that movie,” says Ayon, “I thought it was really important a lot of people should know about it and fight for the rights of the baby. I’m incorporating this with youth and in catechesis.” And in talking with friends and co-workers. At meetings she’s hosted, she’s seen the changes of attitude reflected in youth’s eyes and reactions.
Gutierrez finds many young people calling for materials for school presentations and reports; for confirmation classes; for helping friends in crisis pregnancies. They want to distribute pro-life flyers and participate in prayer pilgrimages to help crisis-pregnancy places like the Los Angeles Pregnancy Services (lapsforlife.org), then continue to all seven abortion businesses surrounding it to pray the Rosary and carry pro-life signs picturing Our Lord and Our Lady.
Prayer was at the root of starting Hispanics for Life. Anna Madrid and her husband Louis were no newcomers to the pro-life scene when they started this organization. They had been involved in catechesis, Marriage Encounter and a 40-member prayer group with Rosary and Bible study.
The stepping stones began when they were asked for prayer support for Operation Rescue in California. “It was an eye-opener,” says Anna. “It was so clear, the good versus the evil.” Her son and two sisters spent months in jail from helping with Operation Rescue.
Next came help with pro-life displays at a major Catholic charismatic conference, then rallies where they first held signs proclaiming: Hispanics for Life. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
“They’ve made a major difference,” says Msgr. O’Connell. “Hispanics across the country could try this same thing.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.