HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Pro-Life
Federation has sent a direct message to the U.S. Supreme Court: Overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Federation has filed an amicus
brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson
Women’s Health Organization. The case involves Mississippi’s protective
law banning abortion at 15 weeks.
In this well-reasoned brief, the
Federation “seeks an overturn of Roe
v. Wade, so that States may once again provide protection for
vulnerable unborn human life.”
The brief further states, “Roe was a radical decision that
overrode the legislative judgments of all 50 states. It was based on a flawed
understanding of the humanity of the unborn child and views of obstetrical
practice that are outdated because they fail to treat unborn children as second
patients in pregnancy.”
Roe v. Wade is the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which
legalized abortion throughout the country. It is estimated that more than 62
million Americans have died from legal abortion since the decision went into
effect. Countless numbers of women have also been forced to grieve children
lost to abortion.
While pro-lifers may be
adept at debating the abortion issue, some may feel less confident arguing
against another threat to life: assisted suicide. That is why Stephanie Gray
Connors’ latest offering is a treasure that all of us should delve into.
Start with What: 10 Principles for Thinking About Assisted Suicide is relatively short but highly engaging. Those who know the author from her previous book, Love Unleashes Life, or her many debates with pro-abortion advocates, or her famous talk at Google, will rediscover in this book her gifts of clear thinking and illuminating storytelling. Those reading her for the first time will find a fresh yet experienced pro-life voice. Although dealing with the heavy topics of suffering and death, Gray Connors adroitly leaves the reader feeling uplifted by showcasing the strength of the human spirit.
The title of the book comes from the very first principle offered: when bad things happen, such as illness, an accident, or any event that causes suffering, we should not ask “Why?” but rather “What?” What can I do in light of this situation? What good can be brought out of it? When we change the question, we change our perspective, and discover possibilities to grow and to love in ways previously unknown.
Gray Connors says that if a loved one desires assisted suicide, those around him should not act on that disordered wish, but instead help the person discover their “What?”
“Perhaps their what is to empathize with another suffering soul, to become a writer, to be a listener, to teach people to how to slow down and enter into the present moment, to become an advocate for finding a cure for a disease…their what could simply be to teach others, by their need and total dependence, the life-changing power of vulnerability and love.”
Another principle Gray Connors offers is that we should strive to alleviate suffering without eliminating the sufferer. While putting down a sick pet can be regarded as a merciful act, “putting down” a human is not the same. We possess an inherent dignity that animals do not, and ending human life prematurely as a response to suffering is not only wrong, it puts us on a very slippery slope as to whose life is worth living.
The truly merciful choice is to seek palliative care, assessing and treating the pain that a person faces when encountering a life-threatening illness. Such pain management allows people to live fully and comfortably until the natural end of their lives. Gray Connors reminds us that those last weeks, days, and hours leading up to death provide conversations and opportunities between loved ones that are priceless. Assisted suicide stunts all of that.
A third principle to consider is that suffering unleashes love. Suffering elicits a response in others and within ourselves, changing the way we relate, altering the way we live. Through several heartening real-life stories, the author highlights the human flourishing that arises from difficult, often tragic, circumstances. While none of us desire suffering, she acknowledges the transformative power it can have.
“Suffering is part of the human experience. It cannot be avoided. But it can be shared. And it is when we share it, when we enter into it, when we wrestle and do battle with it, when we respond to it with creativity, it is then we begin to discover the power of suffering not just in the crushing but also in the re-building, the drawing-in, and the uniting.”
Through several additional principles, Gray Connors conveys even more wisdom. In many ways, Start with What is as much about intentional, purposeful living as much as anything else. Anyone who is alive, anyone who suffers, or anyone who will someday die should read it and ponder the truths within. If they do, they will be much more equipped to not just effectively make the case for life, but to find their own “what?” when faced with hardship.
The older I get, the more I value freedom and the more
I desire others to know true freedom.
I desire it particularly for women who find themselves
facing an unexpected pregnancy.
Those who do not feel free to choose life. Those who
feel coerced by the baby’s father, or parents, or friends.
Those who feel stifled by society’s lingering
stigma regarding unplanned pregnancies and adoption.
Those who feel imprisoned by fear of an unknown
Those held hostage by an abusive relationship.
And those whose vulnerability is preyed upon
and exploited, trapped into ending their own child’s life.
Two-thirds of post-abortive women report feeling
explicitly or implicitly forced into abortion.
That is not freedom.
We must set them free.
We must embrace every opportunity to help women be free to choose life.
Free to protect the child within their womb, even those deemed “imperfect,” or not perfectly timed.
Free to parent a child or free to lovingly place him for adoption.
Free to pursue their dreams, even in the midst of pregnancy or parenting.
When we empower women, whether through our laws, our words, our material support, or whatever is needed to walk with them on their journey, we offer them true freedom. We give them what they need to make the best choice possible for themselves and their child. That choice can never be death.
I am so grateful that my own family gave me the freedom to choose life when I was just 18 years old.
My mother, relieved that I did not have a terminal
illness, assured me we could deal with a baby.
My oldest brother, a new father himself, told me that
all babies, at all times, are a blessing.
My youngest brother embraced me and thanked me for not
getting an abortion.
Does not every young woman deserve such support so
that they have the freedom to choose life?
As we celebrate our many freedoms, let us renew our
commitment to giving every human being, without qualification, the freedom to
live first and foremost, for without life, no other freedoms can exist.
Whenever we offer preborn babies (of the silicone
kind) on our Education Table, people naturally gravitate toward them more than
any other part of our display. They pick them up, turn them around, marvel at
the fully formed, anatomically correct features, and seem to discover anew the
miracle and sanctity of human life. We
encourage them to take one with them and use it to share the pro-life message.
At a recent event, a woman explained that she needed
another 12-week baby, not because she gave hers away or because she misplaced
it, but because her cat had actually “stolen” it.
At first, she worried her pet would use it as toy,
perhaps chewing on it or scratching it.
But that’s not what happened at all.
Rather, she saw the feline gently carrying the baby around the house, positioning it gingerly in her jaws, just as mama cat carries kittens. She snuggled with the baby when she slept, cradling it, and remained ever so protective of the baby when awake.
A common house cat recognized the inherent worth of a preborn baby, while so many humans fail to do so.
The natural instinct, whether animal or human, is to
protect life, born or unborn.
It is an instinct with which we are born. Ask a toddler what’s in mommy’s belly and she
will tell you “a baby.” No equivocation on the humanity or level of
development or wantedness. She will tell
you the unfiltered truth.
So at what point do people who support abortion forget
this self-evident truth? What impels them to violate the innate tendency to
protect, defend, nurture?
In a world that seems to protect puppies more than babies, that seems to elevate animals over humans, perhaps we should look to the animal kingdom to remind us of a fundamental fact: we mammals are wired to protect and defend life, not reject and destroy. We are made to love.
On June 9, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortions solely because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. This pro-life victory served as a small but significant step to promote the dignity of all human life.
The bill, known as House Bill 1500, was introduced by Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, in December 2020.
“Most of us know of a family touched by a Down syndrome child, and know these children grow to lead joyful and fulfilling lives,” Klunk said when introducing the bill.
In current Pennsylvania law, it is legal for a woman to
receive an abortion prior to 24 weeks gestation for any reason deemed necessary
by a physician, with the exception of selecting the sex of the child. This bill
will broaden that restriction through the same means in the case of a positive
Down syndrome diagnosis.
“People with Down syndrome are living longer than ever and they’re happier than most of us,” said Rep. Kathy Rapp. “So why are many of them being aborted, why? It’s a curious and heart-wrenching question, because there never has been a better time in all of history for people with Down syndrome.”
“We need to stand up for those who do not have a voice here
in Pennsylvania,” added Klunk. “And that’s what this bill does. We have the
responsibility to stand up for those children who receive that Down Syndrome
diagnosis in the womb, and we shouldn’t allow them to be discriminated against because
they have one extra chromosome.”
Rep. Paul Schemel acknowledged unborn babies with Down Syndrome as falling under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which protects the disabled from discrimination in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and public/private affairs. “The principle underlying the legally protected classes is that we don’t treat certain people differently because of their condition, be it race, sex, disability, etc. We don’t treat the disabled differently just because they are disabled. That would be wrong.”
The bill came through the House with a passing vote of 120-83,
a major victory for the pro-life movement. But why is it so significant?
The reason is not only because unborn babies with Down
syndrome are receiving justice and protection, but the bill itself is one of
the first steps to shift the focus of the abortion movement from the woman
alone to the unborn child in her womb. Once we can shine a small light on the
humanity and life of the unborn, we can open a door to complete, undeniable
justice for them all.
May we continue to pray for our state senators, as they
prepare to vote on the Down syndrome bill in the weeks to come. May we pray
that Governor Wolf may also begin to see this bill in a different light. And
may we continue, one small step at a time, to proclaim the humanity in all
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of LifeLines and is re-published in honor of Father’s Day.
My dad was a Marine.
That alone tells you something about my childhood. We woke on first call, ate what we put on our
plate, and attempted perfect corners when making beds.
Although my father spent just three years in the
Marines, his service would have a lifelong impact on him and the family he
would make. The military gave my dad,
whose own father died when he was just eight, structure, discipline, and pride
in a job well done. These qualities would influence how he and we would live.
My dad also played ball with us, made our tea every
morning, and without so many words, showed us he loved us. He endured the loss
of his 16 year-old daughter as well as his oldest grandchild, and due to an
injury sustained during his military service, retired on disability earlier
than he would have liked. Life’s trials toughened but never defeated him. At
times, he seemed indomitable.
When I was 19, I saw a different side to my dad, one
that surprisingly emerged after having my first child.
Suddenly the man I was afraid to ask for the car, the
dad who stayed awake until everyone was home in bed, the meticulous Marine who trained
us to put everything where it belonged, was magically transformed into a big,
soft teddy bear of a Papa. All because
of a little baby girl who came into our lives at a most unexpected time.
I won’t lie. He was not happy when my now-husband and
I told him we were pregnant. But it didn’t take long for him to model the resilience
he’d demonstrated his whole life. He and my mom would support us under one
condition: I went back to school to finish my degree.
Growing up poor and without a dad, he’d never had a
chance at an education. And he wasn’t
going to let mine slip by.
He would care for our baby when I was in class. As the youngest of five, I had a hard time picturing
this because I had never seen my father even hold a baby, much less care for
Then she arrived. Suddenly, the strong disciplinarian
who raised me was now held captive by a newborn weighing not even seven pounds.
With her, he was gentle, attentive, nurturing, and
even silly. My invincible and sometimes rigid father transformed into a doting and
whimsical grandfather, and for the first time revealed a vulnerability I had
never before seen.
The miracle and power of new life!
When we had our son three years later, my father helped watch both kids while I completed my Master’s Degree. He thrived on being a caretaker to them, and they thrived under his care. A special bond was formed with them, and subsequently, with all 16 of his grandchildren. “Papa” was his new vocation and he embraced it with the same enthusiasm he had embraced military life.
So it was especially hard for all of us to watch our
family patriarch, the soldier-caretaker, enter into his final battle combatting
Stage 4 Mesothelioma. Given just a few months to live, he defied the prognosis
by actively living for a full year.
Eventually, though, hospice care did become necessary.
Remaining true to self, he offered gentle instruction to the home health aide
on how to properly make a bed. Once a Marine…
He ultimately lost the battle. He entered into eternal
rest on May 1 after bidding us all good night and gently dismissing us from his
room…Always a Marine.
A man of deep faith, he leaves a rich prolife legacy
that the gift of self, whether to country or to family or even to the stranger
we encounter, is the noblest of callings. A lesson deeply ingrained in us by
Playwright John Hoover remembers a moment long ago, when a
spark was ignited inside him. Little did he know that years later, that spark would
blossom into the life-altering reality known as Viable the play.
In 1984, when attending a pro-life symposium in California,
Hoover listened to a woman speak out about her experiences as a former
abortionist. This woman was from the Middle East and had been performing
abortions for years before her eyes were opened to the painstaking reality of
“God took the scales off her eyes,” said Hoover. “She
realized what she was doing and quickly became a pro-life advocate”.
The woman described that in early days, abortion failures
were common, which resulted in physically impaired and developmentally-challenged
children being born alive. To prevent potential lawsuits, procedures were
developed to ensure that the baby in the womb would be undoubtedly dead.
After listening, Hoover couldn’t help but wonder: “what would the world be like if women were
told the truth of abortion?”
He remembered reading a survey which first informed women about the procedures done to abort an unborn child. Afterwards, they asked if the women would still obtain an abortion. 90 percent of women responded “no.”
This alarming response gave Hoover an idea, one that he carried with him for 25 years. In 2019, he finally put it on paper.
According to the play’s website, “The Viable storyline captures an unforgettable confrontation as an aborted child visits her mother nearly 30 years later. The mother has carried guilt and grief for all that time, trying all the while to protect her emotional stability by professing the mantras that abortion providers originally used to comfort her”.
With nothing but three actors and two chairs, Viable invites viewers on a journey of
continued healing as Judy, the mother, searches for a ray of hope after walking
for decades in post-abortive shame and regret.
When asked about the primary audience, Hoover said that when
writing the play, he assumed that it would be targeted at women who had lost
children to abortion. However, everything changed on the very first night of
the production, during a scene when Judy rushes through the audience in a
Gisele Gathings, who plays Judy in the production, remembers
seeing a man walking out of the audience in tears. By the time she rushed out
of the theater, the man was standing in the lobby, sobbing.
“I wanted to comfort him!” Gathings recalled. “But I had to
get to my next scene.”
Gathings has observed that an abortion does not just affect women. Rather, all family members—fathers, grandparents, children, husbands, are part of the story, too.
“Delving into the emotions, the negative emotions of how
abortion doesn’t just affect the woman that is post abortive, but also the
family members that are involved. The cycle that passes down when abortion is
in a family, not just one person having more than one abortion, but also family
members following in the footsteps.”
To Gathings, the theme of Viable
is not abortion, but redemption through Christ.
“It is bigger than abortion. This (abortion) can lead to
various different issues and pain where people need healing. Jesus is about
life more abundantly, but also about us choosing
him and the choices we have to make. For me, Viable touches on dealing with and bringing up the pain that needs
to be healed and addressed.”
Both Gathings and Hoover hope that this play may be what
inspires families to begin conversations about their own abortion experiences,
so that feelings of hatred, betrayal and regret might be replaced with
forgiveness, grace and love.
Hoover is also excited to announce that the Viable tour is back in action. After months of show dates being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Viable plans to resume its tour across the United States, with new dates and locations being added every day. The play will also be performed at this year’s National Right to Life Convention in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 24th. For more information, visit http://www.viableplay.org/.
Today I offer you some alarming food-for-thought: we are
living in a society in which people have the authority to determine that one
human being is more worthy of life than another.
Pennsylvania Representative Kate A. Klunk introduced legislation that would amend the Abortion Control Act to prohibit the abortion of a child solely because the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Last session, the bill passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 117-76. Though it passed in the Senate as well, it was ultimately rejected after being vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf. However, Klunk is not going to let down that easily—she just reintroduced a similar bill known as House Bill 1500.
For those who may not know, Down syndrome is the most common
chromosomal disorder in the United States. According to the CDC, the condition affects
about 1 in every 700 births. Children with Down syndrome experience a variety
of social and intellectual disabilities, as well as a range of medical
complications. They are generally identified by physical characteristics such
as eyelids that slant upwards, decreased muscle mass, and a trademark crease
through the palms of the hands.
Aside from physical identifiers, those with Down syndrome
experience cognitive and social impairments that can vary in degree.
Over a hundred years ago, Down syndrome was a dismal
diagnosis for new parents. In 1910, children with Down syndrome typically did not
live past the age of nine. That life
expectancy soon increased to 20 years with the discovery of antibiotics, and
now, the majority of Down syndrome adults live to be older than 60.
Today, people with Down syndrome are diving into their
communities in ways never thought possible. They work in schools, health care
facilities, and all throughout the work force, and they engage in a variety of
recreational activities like music and sports. They are university
graduates, professional musicians, fashion designers, business owners and
professional athletes. In addition to these, however, those with Down syndrome
have always been friends, family members, neighbors and members of our
As writer Ziad Abdelnour wrote, “Success is not found in what
you have achieved, but rather in who you have become”.
In a research survey of over 3,000 family members and people with the disability, nearly 90 percent of siblings indicated that they feel like they are better people because of a sibling with Down syndrome.
If you’re like me, you might know of several people with Down
syndrome in your community. You are familiar with the way they can light up a
room the moment they walk in. You might remember a sense of humor, a unique
personality, or a refreshingly optimistic outlook on life. Just like many
others, those with Down syndrome can radiate a sense of joy that can impact
anyone they cross paths with, perhaps for the rest of their lives.
Currently in Pennsylvania, the only limitation to abortion
per the Abortion
Control Act is for sex-selective abortions. This seems self-explanatory—no person
has the right to deny the pursuit of life to another person based solely on the
discrimination of gender. The question left standing is: what makes Down syndrome
the President, mainstream media, and Hollywood elites all in their corner, it
would seem that the abortion lobby is living their misguided dream.
recent news that the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of
Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban has sent them into a tailspin. They’re
panicked that not only will the ban be upheld by a more conservative Court, but
that Roe itself may be reversed. If
there is strong legal precedent and overwhelming public support for abortion,
as activists often claim, what are they afraid of?
The truth. Many in the abortion industry know what many pro-lifers know: Roe v. Wade was a decision built on proverbial sand, a feeble foundation that has been steadily eroded by science, experience, and reason over the last 50 years.
Legal scholars on both sides of the
issue acknowledge the shaky ground on which Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority
opinion was based. His own pro-abortion clerk, Edward Lazarus, admitted years
later, “As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial
method, Roe borders on the indefensible…And
in the years since Roe’s
announcement, no one has produced a
convincing defense of Roe on its own
abortion supporters often refer to the Constitutional right to abortion, the truth
is there is no such thing, and there never was. Simply stated, there is no explicit right to abortion in the
U.S. Constitution. So on what basis did the Court legalize abortion in 1973?
Roe said that a woman’s “right” to abortion was implicit in the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. Yet, the amendment itself makes no mention of right to privacy.
“Nor shall any State deprive any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within
its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Court referred to a right to privacy that was invented in a 1965 case
about contraception, Griswold vs.
Connecticut. In that majority opinion, Justice William O. Douglas wrote of penumbras (shadows) formed by emanations (rays) of the Bill of Rights,
and surmised that from these shadows and
rays arose a “zone of privacy,” later referred by the court as the “right of
In essence, Justice Douglas proposed that the Bill of Rights emanates other rights, and in the shadows of those other rights are additional rights, none of which are specifically declared in the Constitution. It was on this precarious, ever-shifting bed of sand (and shadows) that the right to abortion as part of a right to privacy was founded. A fabricated, weak argument.
What is undeniably explicit in the 14th amendment are guaranteed fundamental rights: no State shall make a law depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny equal protection of law. The 14th amendment, first and foremost, upholds the right to life. And yet this amendment is used to imply a right to privacy that is prioritized over an explicit right to life.
But what about the word person,
another frequent protest of abortion supporters? Are fetuses persons? Even Justice Blackmun himself conceded in his
opinion that the right to abortion would not exist if the
humanity of the fetus could be proved. “If
this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe’s] case, of course,
collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically
by the [14th] Amendment,” he wrote.
What would a 2021 Blackmun say about
this? Hidden in the womb, invisible to the human eye, the fetus was somewhat
easier to de-humanize in 1973. But with the revelations of ultrasound, the
evolving sciences of embryology and genetics, and the advancements of in-utero
fetal surgery, it’s disingenuous to do so today. Fetuses are as human as infants, toddlers,
and senior citizens. Clearly, both science and technology have shown us the irrefutable proof that
Blackmun sought. Those unwilling to admit to this obvious truth deliberately
turn a blind eye to the evidence and begin playing language games in an effort
to justify abortion.
The decision to legalize abortion was rooted in not
just poor legal interpretation, but also deception. Roe was based on the
lie that Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) was raped.
Roe was supported by then-abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s grossly
inflated, yet unquestioned numbers that thousands of women died in back alley
abortions each year. Roe’s
majority opinion cited Larry Lader’s non-scientific book Abortion seven
times, essentially using a piece of propaganda to justify a legal decision.
Roe is not immune to being overturned. As Justice Amy Coney Barret explained in her nomination hearings, Roe is not a super-precedent like the de-segregation case Brown vs. the Board of Education because it still faces many legal challenges in courts around the country. This vulnerability is what has the abortion lobby so worried. A tide of truth is creeping ever closer to washing Roe away.
Overturning Roe will not suddenly make abortion illegal across this county. The abortion decision would go back to each state, and we all must be ready for such a pivotal moment in history, to rebuild a culture of life that is on solid legal ground.
My name is Jessie Morgan, and I am so excited to take on an internship at the PA Pro Life Federation this summer!
I grew up in Sunbury, about an hour up the
river from Harrisburg, and attended Line Mountain School District growing up.
The pro-life caused sparked my interest in the
8th grade, when my middle school Campus Club (Christian charity
group) organized a ‘Walk For Life’ for our local Pregnancy Care Center. As
young as I was at the time, I had virtually no idea what abortion even was; I
just thought the Pregnancy Care Center was a sanctuary for new mothers in need
of support and resources.
I vividly remember the design on our T-Shirts,
with a picture of two tiny footprints displayed over the front. Underneath the
picture in italics was the phrase, “Taking
steps for those who can’t”. I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but not too
long afterwards I found out the truth—
along with helping mothers, the core of the Pregnancy Care Center was to
protect the lives of unborn babies. To save them from abortion.
It was not easy to process the unthinkable. At
a young age, children and teenagers are much more adaptable to new ideas; they
can normalize practices such as abortion because they’re growing up in an
environment where they are told these practices are okay, that they are safe.
But I never could. I would remember those two tiny footprints and my heart
would ache for the little human lives that were never given a chance to
I was first introduced to the Federation after entering their annual Pro-Life Oratory contest in 2018. My speech took first place, and I had the amazing opportunity to attend the National Right To Life Convention in Kansas City, Missouri later that summer. Following the convention, I would hop on a bus to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. every January. While the convention provided me with a plethora of helpful information about life in the womb, the March gave me the hope that there were thousands of others in this country who were willing to stand up to protect the sanctity of all human life.
During my internship, I hope to use the skills
and abilities I have gained in my own education to engage young people with the
pro-life movement. A good friend once mentioned to me that real culture change
cannot come from a change of law, but a change of heart. If we can impress the
value of unborn life onto the hearts of our young people, I believe we can
foster a society that will not only consider abortion illegal, but unthinkable.