Letter to Pitt’s Board of Trustees

The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation sent the following letter along with thousands of petition signatures on October 15, 2021.

Dear Trustees,

Enclosed please find the names of thousands of people who have signed our petition calling on the University of Pittsburgh to cease its research using the body parts of aborted babies.

These gruesome experiments, which include grafting human scalps onto laboratory mice, are unethical and a violation of time-tested principles of responsible research.

We are especially troubled by published reports alleging that human organs were harvested from babies whose hearts were still beating. These reports, based on documentation collected by the Center for Medical Progress and Judicial Watch, raise significant questions about whether the research at issue is in violation of state and federal statutes.

We have learned that you have hired an outside legal firm to investigate this research. But we are mystified by reports that the results of that investigation may not be released to the public. In the interest of complete transparency, we further call on you to make public the findings of this investigation.

As taxpayers whose hard-earned tax dollars help to support the University of Pittsburgh, we call upon you to stop conducting dehumanizing research using aborted baby body parts.


Susan Rogacs                                                                        Michael Ciccocioppo

President, Board of Directors                                             Executive Director 

Why are we so afraid of Down syndrome?

Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

Brad was his name.  He was the first student I ever taught who had Down syndrome.

I was just entering my second year of full-time teaching.  I held a Reading Specialist certificate and had taken several special education courses. So one might think I’d feel well prepared.

Yet, I found myself a bit nervous about having Brad in my sixth-grade Language Arts classroom. While I admired my school district for blazing a trail with inclusive classrooms, I had no practical experience teaching students with an extra chromosome. In fact, at 25 years old I had very little life experience interacting with people with Down syndrome.

But I need not have worried.  Brad was an amazing addition to our class. He read on a sixth-grade level, better than some of his “typical” classmates. I loved when he volunteered to read out loud, showcasing his excellent decoding skills and impressing his peers.

Brad was pleasant and cooperative, not every day but most days– but the same could be said about the other 150 students I taught. Middle schoolers in general are a very fickle group!

On one of his tougher days, Brad hid under a desk for most of class. While his support teacher worked with him, his classmates dutifully carried on, modeling for Brad how he should behave.

On better days, Brad exuded love and happiness to the extreme!  He accepted everyone as his friend and found joy in the ordinary, modeling for us how we should behave.

What Brad contributed to our classroom was far greater than anything I expected. He brought out the best in all of us.  He challenged me to hone my teaching methodology so that concepts could be presented in novel ways, and in doing so, I was able to reach more students of varying aptitudes. I became a more creative, more thoughtful teacher with Brad in the room.

He challenged his peers to rethink stereotypes and perceived limitations, and to reach out to someone who was different but not less. It was heartwarming to see a student choose Brad to be his partner for a class activity or to see how several students welcomed him into a group project and helped him find a role. These students discovered that Brad was a just another human being, a person who laughed and cried, a person who achieved goals but also made mistakes, a person who had good days and bad.

And they also discovered that Brad was a person who offered unconditional acceptance and unbounded love. 

We need more Brads in the world, not less. 

I believe if more of us interacted with people with Down syndrome we would discover what a gift they are. We would stop trying to “eradicate” them, as they have done in Iceland through abortion. And we would stop aborting them in alarming numbers in our own country.   

When receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, parents are often presented with problems they could potentially face, rather than possibilities.  Perhaps they or their doctor never had a Brad in their classroom and witnessed the beauty, the value, and the dignity of his life.

Why are we so afraid of Down syndrome? Why do we routinely test for it during pregnancy?

While it should be acknowledged that parenting a child with an extra chromosome can pose challenges, it is true that parenting any child can pose challenges, including those with autism, ADHD, depression, a cognitive impairment,  a chronic medical condition, a hearing or visual impairment, or a host of other things that makes a person, makes us, anything less than “perfect.”

Shall we “eradicate” anyone who fails to meet society’s definition of perfection?  If we continue to move in that direction of eugenics, who will be missing from our world?

We would be missing all the Brads who teach us so much more than we teach them…the Brads who inspire us to think differently and to love more than we thought we could.

Lila Rose’s Fight for Life

by Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

It was a child’s curiosity that started it all.  She was exploring her parents’ bookshelves when one particular worn-out book caught her eye.  Paging through, she was horrified at what she saw.  She quickly shut the book, but compelled by an instinct to better understand what she had seen, she opened it again. She stared in disbelief and profound sadness, thinking of her own baby sister’s ultrasound picture. How could this be?

That moment was the genesis of Lila Rose’s pro-life advocacy. That book was A Handbook on Abortion by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Wilke, founders of the National Right to Life. That child, even though just nine years old, felt called to do something. That something would eventually evolve into Live Action, an influential pro-life media and news organization that Lila founded when she was just 15 years old.

In her book Fighting for Life: Becoming a Force for Change in a Wounded World, Lila Rose details her journey from a little girl who wanted to save babies to being the president of a pro-life nonprofit that has worldwide reach.  Reflecting on learning about abortion at a young age and the impact it had on her, Lila writes, “Deep grief is often the starting point for righting an injustice.”

Motivated to make a difference, Lila raised money for pregnancy resource centers, prayed outside abortion facilities, and started a pro-life club at her school. Her intention was always to take the next small step to help women and to teach others about abortion. 

One small step led to another, however, and Lila’s advocacy grew. In college, she expanded the pro-life presence on the liberal campus of UCLA and even went undercover into Planned Parenthood facilities to investigate whether they were complying with the law.

What would enable a young woman to take such risks and face certain adversity? Lila was open to learning from mentors who helped her develop skills in apologetics, fundraising, public speaking, and more. She found her heroes in Mother Teresa, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Corrie Ten Boom, people who exemplified courage and self-sacrifice. As she matured and delved deeper into the abortion battleground, Lila recognized the need to remain close to God. She deepened her prayer life and sought spiritual direction. All of these were integral to staying centered while maintaining her mission.

While her journey to becoming a “pro-life rock star” is itself a compelling story, it is perhaps her transparency that readers might find most surprising in this book. She openly acknowledges her fears, insecurities, and personal battles, including struggles with depression, an eating disorder, cutting, and complex family issues. 

Many may know only a picture-perfect version of Lila from social media or public appearances, but her book candidly discloses her own vulnerabilities.  Like all of us, she has experienced suffering. She credits her pro-life advocacy for helping her heal and thrive because she found a cause bigger than herself, one in which she can serve others.

She uses her earned wisdom to offer simple but sage advice to anyone fighting for a cause close to their heart. The chapter titles reflect lessons learned and wise counsel: Know Your Gifts, Prepare to Stand Alone, Leave Your Comfort Zone, Be Teachable, etc. Without being preachy, Lila gives advice that is  realistic and encouraging.

Now a wife and mother, Lila’s passion for life is stronger than ever. She urges everyone, whatever their background, to get involved in the pro-life movement.  “The fight needs all of us, no matter our wounds or mistakes or imperfections…Together we can rebuild the broken foundations, restore what has been devastated, and renew our wounded world. Together we can celebrate the new beginning.”