National Catholic Register

Commentary

‘Bella’ Babies’ Hope

BY Tim Drake

February 15-21, 2009 Issue | Posted 2/6/09 at 10:01 AM

 

Given the national election results, fears of FOCA (the Freedom of Choice Act) and 36 years of legalized abortion in our country, it’s easy to despair.

The numbers alone — an estimated 40 million children aborted since Roe v. Wade imposed abortion on the nation — are enough to drain the joie de vivre from anyone.

Yet, as Christ tells us, there remains faith, hope and love. Pope Benedict XVI came to our country last April to remind us of that second word — hope. The theme of his apostolic journey was “Christ Is Our Hope.”

“The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope).

Consider a more hopeful set of numbers:

2,300 — a conservative estimate of the number of pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers across the United States.

1 million — those served in those centers each year.

20 million — those women served in the past two decades.

“It doesn’t matter who is president,” said Virginia Cline, director of public relations with Heartbeat International, which is affiliated with more than 1,000 of these centers. “What matters is that we can keep our doors open and help women.”

There are other signs of hope, as well. Last year, Hollywood produced at least four motion pictures with a pro-adoption message. I was asked by Ignatius Press to write the coffee table book Behind Bella: The Amazing Stories of Bella and the Lives It’s Changed, looking at the impact of just one of those films.

Bella grossed $1.3 million during its opening weekend, with only 165 screens, earning the second-highest per-screen average of any film in theaters that weekend. The DVD has sold more than 500,000 copies.

The film changed lives: first, among those who made it, then among many who saw it — and it continues to do so. As Pope Benedict said, hope brings new life. The hope offered by Bella brought new life in many unexpected ways.

 Actress Tammy Blanchard, who played the lead role of Nina in the film, became pregnant after making the movie.

 “I never wanted to have children,” Blanchard said. “I felt it was pointless.”

 Yet, her attitude changed after making Bella, especially due to the influence of the young actress, Sophie Nyweide, who played the role of Bella.

 “I realized that having a child is about producing more love in the world,” Blanchard said. “That’s what life is about — love and hope.”

 Blanchard isn’t alone.

At present, the producers are aware of at least 30 “Bella babies” who were born after their mothers saw the film and decided against abortion. The DVD and book are being utilized by pro-life organizations and crisis-pregnancy centers, where they are having a dramatic impact on clients who see in the story their own life journey.

I’ve always been intrigued by the power of motion pictures to impart life-giving messages. When I think of Bella, I recall other stirring pro-life film moments.

In The Lord of the Rings, the elf-queen Galadriel encourages Frodo in his quest, saying, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future” — a truth made plainly clear to us every year when we celebrate Christmas.

Or, I think of Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and how it reminds us that word games do take lives.

Nazi Amon Goeth confronts his Jewish housekeeper, Helen, in the cellar. “I realize you’re not a person in the strictest sense of the word,” he tells her. “Is this the face of a rat? Are these the eyes of a rat?”

That film’s tagline was: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” How tragic that the message of that celebrated film has been lost to those who advocate the destruction of the unborn.

Or, I’m reminded of the Frank Capra Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

“Strange, isn’t it?” asks Clarence Oddbody, angel second-class, of George Bailey. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

One of Bella’s producers, Leo Severino, described the film as an “entertainment ultrasound.” While the producers hoped that the film might garner Oscar attention, Severino describes the children who have been spared from abortion as the movie’s “living Oscars.” Twenty and 30 years from now those “Bella babies” will be marrying, contributing to the world, and having children of their own, continuing to show that new life always springs from hope.

So, as we’re tempted to despair during these cold, winter days, just past the inauguration of a president who supports the culture of death and the painful anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must recall that there is nothing more hopeful than new life.

Already, deep in the soil beneath this winter’s snow and the ice, seeds are preparing to sprout. May the Holy Spirit fill us with joy and hope and breathe new life into the culture that currently seems so hostile to it.

Tim Drake is the author of

Behind Bella: The Amazing Stories of Bella and the Lives It’s Changed (Ignatius.com).