Tom Massoth recently embarked on a 3,400-mile bike ride from Los Angeles to Boston for Birth Choice Health Clinics, where he and his wife, Michele, have volunteered for five years.
The Life Ride 2012, scheduled to end June 30, is intended to raise funds for the Southern California chain of crisis-pregnancy centers. Massoth’s fundraising goal is $40,980: one dollar for every child expected to be killed by abortion during the seven-week journey. (His wife is driving the route so they can be together at the end of each day’s ride.)
Ask any man involved in pro-life work, and he’s sure to tell you guys are not the majority among activists. Massoth is one of two male volunteers who facilitate the weekly classes for expectant parents at Birth Choice in Placentia, Calif. — where only about a quarter of the attendees are men.
But, gradually, guys are realizing that they can put their “dad skills” to work in the pro-life movement — not only for the unborn babies, but also for their mothers and fathers.
“We need to be there for them,” says Massoth.
Leading by Example
When he was growing up, Seth Spears’ parents regularly volunteered at the local pregnancy-support center. “They would have rallies and things; as a kid, I got dragged along to all that,” says Spears, now 32.
As a teenager, he began participating in the annual March for Life, and as a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, he continued to be involved in the pro-life movement. Then a persistent friend asked him to take part in a Crossroads walk — a cross-country pro-life pilgrimage. Reluctant at first, Spears eventually decided to take advantage of the “once-in-a-lifetime thing, helping to save some lives.”
It was a huge challenge leading a group of 10, who walked in shifts, attended daily Mass, and prayed in front of abortion facilities each weekend, despite Spears’ leadership experience as the eldest of six children.
But the intense experience was also rewarding in ways both anticipated and unexpected: A member of his team, Katie, is now his wife of six years and the mother of his four children. Raising children is pro-life work of a different kind.
“The biggest thing you can do is just lead by example,” says Spears, who runs a digital-marketing consultancy in south-central Kentucky.
“It’s not so much in what you say: It’s what you do; it’s how you carry yourself. It’s how you lead your family.”
The eighth of 12 children, Mike Koelzer came from a devout Catholic family — and he understood the Church’s teachings on sexuality, including opposition to abortion and the use of contraceptives. Secure in his faith, he didn’t worry about filling other people’s contraceptive prescriptions when he went to work in the family pharmacy in Grand Rapids, Mich.
But that was before he discovered their abortifacient effects — something he did not learn about in pharmacy school. Immediately, Koelzer, now 45, went to the shelves of the pharmacy and began reading the literature from various packages of contraceptives.
“I was reading this, not believing that I could not have known this before,” recalls Koelzer, who has 10 children with his wife of 20 years, Margaret.
Thirty years old at the time, he was the father of a young family, dreaming of taking over the family business from his dad — who brushed aside the idea of not carrying contraceptives in the pharmacy.
After several years of wrestling with his conscience, Koelzer finally couldn’t bear it anymore. “Despite the fact that my wife and I were having a baby, building a house ... I had this urge that I needed to make quicker decisions on this,” he says.
His dad disagreed with the decision, but said that he believed in his son.
And so, in 2002, Kay Pharmacy ceased filling contraceptive prescriptions, a move that incited the wrath of many Grand Rapids residents and landed Koelzer and his business in the national news.
“Things would be easier right now if I didn’t lose that population of my business,” Koelzer admits, noting that Kay Pharmacy, like so many others, has been impacted by the economic downturn. “It’s not a temptation to get back into it ... but there’s a certain anger there.”
Fighting the Good Fight
“There used to be just two or three of us, but now I think we added another guy,” says Tom Grossman, director of the prayer ministry for the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas. “We’re growing.”
The comment was said jokingly, but Grossman, 33, is serious when he speaks about the need for more men in the pro-life movement.
“At the heart of the pro-life issue is the fatherhood issue. It’s very important for dads and men of God to step up and take charge in prayer,” says the father of three.
The first time Grossman and his wife, Renee, went to pray outside an abortion facility, they took their children with them. Though such visits have become more challenging to schedule — in addition to his work on the committee, Grossman directs campus ministry for Mary Immaculate Catholic School and leads the young-adult ministry at Mary Immaculate Church in Farmers Branch, Texas — the couple plans to resume such visits over the summer.
After all, Grossman explains, if children are going to grow up to fight injustice, they first have to be exposed to it.
“For the women going into the abortion clinics, it can be a very powerful thing to see a man standing outside ... who cares enough to be praying, cares enough to be offering support,” says Grossman, “because their dads and boyfriends who are driving them to these places or dropping them off ... they don’t care enough.”
Elisabeth Deffner writes from Orange, California.