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Abortion Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Respect Life

The Plan after Unplanned

The Plan after Unplanned

*Spoiler alert* 

Unplanned was screened in just over 24 cinemas across Canada, and done so despite strong protests against it. In my city, the movie was only shown in two theatres and for less than a week, so you’d better bet I was rushing to go see it. Before I get into the thick of it, one positive outcome was that the movie ended up selling out across the country. Not just because of the amount of pro-lifers wanting to see it, but  because of those who were on the fence, or pro-choice altogether. There were loads of mixed reviews after the movie aired, some quite offensive, but I think that the most powerful thing to come out of that film was the conversation it started.

I was no stranger to the Planned Parenthood controversy before entering the theater. I used to listen to Lila Rose podcasts, of her research and undercover investigations in the clinic. I was also familiar with Abby Johnson’s story: a former clinic director turned impassioned advocate for life and anti-abortion. I thought I would be prepared for this movie. 

The film opened up immediately with a scene of a young girl at about 13 weeks pregnant undergoing an ultrasound-guided abortion. It was the first time that Abby would witness firsthand, what a fighting life looked and felt like (as she was holding the probe).

It was a shockingly graphic scene, and I don’t think there was one woman in the theatre that wasn’t clutching her stomach, or feeling uncomfortable. It felt like somewhat of a physiological response to something deeply unnatural and inhumane.

As overwhelmingly emotional as the movie was, I think it’s so important for women of my generation today be aware and adept at speaking about these issues. What’s more, we as Catholics should learn how to have a conversation about protecting the sanctity of human life without drawing on religious arguments right away. This doesn’t mean we hide the truth, but we have to find a way to open up the ears of our brothers and sisters who are non-believers. We know there are valid non-religious arguments for the existence of human life at conception, but are we equipped to use them? When we have conversations with our coworkers, friends, and family outside of our religious circles, we need to learn how to converse with them and find the moment. I call the moment the tiny door that opens up and allows you to ask a question that crosses into personal territory without raising any sort of debate. People tend to let their guards down when they feel they are being heard. 

I recently found a moment at work. My female coworker and I were casually talking about life goals and ambitions. As she was of a certain age and professional status, my curiosity compelled me to push a tiny bit into that personal territory, with respect of course. 

I asked her, “What are your thoughts on having children?”

I was genuinely curious. I wanted to know what women today truly thought. It stunned me how tough it was, how we often try to censor ourselves when it comes to talking about kids, motherhood, and family. I braced myself for a guarded response, but she instead started talking about why she wouldn’t have kids until she was fully ready. Our conversation spun into one about why people have kids while in unstable relationships, or because of pressures from friends and family, and even pressures from the marriage itself. What I realized was that we actually cared about the same thing: children being raised in a stable home.

We didn’t agree on everything, but I got to see some of the underlying issues as to why men and women divert from the God-designed family structure, and see some of those “where we went wrong” points in society. I never made any comments about what I believed in, I just asked questions. We don’t have these conversations enough, especially with other women. I think some of us are too busy judging each other’s lifestyles that we forget about our common ground.

This connects me to a moment that inspired me from Unplanned. It was the perseverance of Marilisa, the young woman that worked for 40 days for Life on the other side of the fence, praying for and speaking to the girls about to go in to the clinic for appointments. The most ‘scandalous’ thing about her behaviour to me was the relationship she formed with Abby Johnson over the years that Abby ran the clinic. Both women were fully aware that they were on opposite sides of the issue, but both continued to do their work for their causes in front of each others’ eyes, with an unfailing grit and determination . They spoke to each other cordially, and sometimes even crossed lines into personal territory. The scene that intrigued me was when Abby was getting into her car with balloons and such after celebrating her baby shower at the clinic, and Marilisa saw this. Instead of asking pointed or loaded questions, she congratulated her. She spoke to Abby with a gentle, genuine demeanor, as she was also carrying a child herself. I thought it was a powerful moment between the two women, and it’s as if Marilisa saw who Abby Johnson truly was in that moment –  not only two people, but two souls. It was a moment that fueled Marlilisa’s prayers, that Abby would one day wake up and see the truth. It was the respect and love that Marilisa treated Abby with over the years that led to the ultimate action of Abby running into her arms when she finally realized the lie that she had been living, and selling.

It’s a question we all have as pro-lifers: How can we have a meaningful impact on the other side of the fence? I think that genuine love must drive our words and actions. When we speak with people about the value of life, our bodies, motherhood and abortion, we must attempt to listen and empathize before expressing judgement. I am of the belief that small, meaningful conversations can change the game as much as large movements, protests and political sanctions can.

It’s hard to see the scale of the impact that our words have, but changing just one woman’s life is a win in itself. Teaching a girl or woman to love her body is a win. Celebrating children in all families, whether broken, blended, or nuclear is a huge win. Supporting women post-abortion is a win. Sharing information on the biology of sex, hormones, and childbirth is a win. There is so much information about the human body that kids don’t learn in schools anymore…the internet has become a new teacher with lessons that range from real to dangerously ‘fake’. You just never know when your small win can influence something as big as convincing a woman that the fetus inside of her is truly alive.

In my reflection of the film, I recall David’s awe and humiliation in Psalm 139,

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, 

for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,

 I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. 

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were 

written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139, 11-16

I pray that one day every man and woman recognizes how intentionally and intricately designed their bodies are. I pray for the day that every woman sees how precious her body is, and the part it plays in God’s beautiful love story with us. I pray that my sisters all over the world continue to draw strength and grace from our Immaculate Mother in times of confusion and turmoil.  I pray that children are loved completely and without condition, just as Jesus loved. Lastly I pray for the unborn babies. They are loved and not forgotten.

Categories
Abortion Deirdre Ink Slingers Respect Life

Unity and Name Calling Within the Pro-Life Movement

Unity and Name Calling

In so many ways, the pro-life movement seems to be winning. We are passing multiple pro-life laws at the state level, attacking legalized abortion from many different angles. Abortion facilities are closing all over the country, while new pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and pro-life women’s health clinics are popping up all over. We’re helping mothers in need, we’re reaching the youth (who are more likely to be pro-life than previous generations) and we’re helping abortion facility workers leave the industry in record numbers. We’re defunding Planned Parenthood and outlawing late-term abortion. Science is on our side too, with amazingly detailed sonograms, successful in-utero surgeries, and premature birth survival rates increasing everyday.

 

As Vice President Mike Pence declared at the 2017 March for Life, “Life is winning in America”.

 

So why does it often seem like we’re losing? I think one of the biggest obstacles to pro-life successes is our pro-life infighting. This is not only counter-productive to accomplishing our end goal of abolishing abortion, but it’s also scandalous.

 

There are all kinds of disagreements within the pro-life movement: should we take an incremental approach, or a complete abolition of abortion approach, or something in between? Should we focus on the unborn baby, or the mother, or on abortion facility regulations? Should we pass laws we know are constitutional and will be upheld in court, or should we push the envelope and pass laws that are currently unconstitutional, hoping the Court will rule differently and uphold them? Should we pass laws that contain exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother? Can one be a pro-life feminist or are the two mutually exclusive? Should we use images of aborted children in front of abortion facilities? What is the best approach to sidewalk counseling? Should we include other issues under the banner of being pro-life – euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and cloning usually count, but what about contraception, human trafficking, the death penalty, war, gun control, etc? What issues come under the umbrella pro-life? Who decides? We even argue over langue: abortion facilities or clinics or mills? Pregnancy resource centers or crisis pregnancy centers? The list goes on and on and on.

 

Discussions and disagreements about policy, about language, about our approach to this issue, have their place when they are constructive, and indeed can help us continue to evolve and move forward more effectively. The problem is when we let our policy disagreements turn personal. When we start attacking each other, we have lost sight of what we should be focusing on, and the enemy has won. I have seen this happen a lot in the pro-life movement: calling those we disagree with “fake pro-lifers”, as if there really were such a thing, or even worse, calling pro-life advocates “pro-abortion” just because you disagree on approach (this happened to me just a few weeks ago!). There have been recent discussions about who is pro-life enough and others have stated the need to “purg[e] the movement of the cancers” of those in the pro-life movement who they disagree with.

 

This is outrageous. We must stop this childish name calling, these petty personal attacks. We must stop putting each other down. I’m reminded of the old childhood adage: “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Let’s apply this to others in the pro-life movement, even those we disagree with. Yes, lives are at stake, yes, we urgently must end abortion. I absolutely agree with that, but we won’t end it any faster by name calling and putting other pro-lifers down. Disagree and discuss policies, but don’t attack people.

 

Certainly, there are problematic approaches in the pro-life movement. There are absolutely anti-Catholic groups, groups approving of violence or breaking the law, and groups that are advocating for policies that will set the movement back. I’m not naive enough to think all approaches are equal and deserve the same consideration. Harmful groups and policies should be called out as such and avoided, but preferably without the personal attacks.

 

We fight so hard for the unborn because we recognize their human dignity, because we know they are made in the image of God and worthy of protection. So why can’t we see that Imago Dei in our fellow pro-life warriors? What kind of pro-life witness are we being to those who support abortion, if we claim to love the unborn child, the least among us, but we have hatred in our hearts for others within our own movement? What kind of example are we setting when we say ‘love them both’ but we can’t even love those fighting this good fight along with us?

 

There is, of course, a sense of urgency in the pro-life movement, as there should be. Children are dying. I don’t want abortion to be legal for one more second, forget another day or week or month while we debate approaches and tactics and language. But it is the law of the land, and we must find ways to work within the system and around the system, as so many have been doing. Calling names, belittling others, and misrepresenting facts is not of the Lord. That is not the way He is calling us to fight this battle, and it is not the way we will win. We cannot win the rights of one group by dehumanizing those we disagree with. This goes for those who support abortion, those who perform abortions, those who have had abortions, and yes those pro-lifers we disagree with on policy and tactics. Please, before you call another pro-lifer ‘fake’, or take part in personal attacks and putting others down, stop and say a prayer for them. Then ask yourself: is what I’m about to say kind, true, and necessary? Will it help bring awareness to the humanity of the unborn, or only lead to dehumanizing others? As adults, we should be able to have healthy debates about different policy approaches without name calling, distorting the truth, and putting others down. That doesn’t help the unborn babies and it certainly doesn’t help our souls.

The late, great, Justice Antonin Scalia once said, “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete’s sake,”. While he was referring to disagreements on the interpretation of law, I think this applies to those in the pro-life movement as well. Debate policies and approaches. Leave the name calling and personal attacks out of it.

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Deirdre Pro-Life Issues

Pro-Life Women’s Conference Highlights Changing Approaches in the Pro-Life Movement

The first ever Pro-Life women’s conference is being held in Dallas, Texas this weekend.   This conference lineup is indicative of how a new generation of young women are taking the reins of the pro-life movement and leading it into new horizons.

PWC_MEME_01262016

The conference is being hosted by former Texas Planned Parenthood abortion facility director Abby Johnson and her organization And Then There Were None (ATTWN). ATTWN is a one-of-a-kind pro-life ministry that reaches out to abortion facility workers, encourages them to leave the industry, and supports them in recovery and in searching for a new, life-affirming career. ATTWN has helped guide over 200 former abortion facility workers out of the industry, including 7 abortionists. This is just one new way pro-lifers are thinking outside of the box and meeting many different needs within the pro-life movement.

Leah Jacobson, founder and CEO of the Guiding Star Project, a 501(c)3 organization that seeks to provide holistic and comprehensive women’s health care across the country, will be speaking about health care in the feminist movement. Leah envisions Guiding Star centers as the pro-life, pro-women alternative to Planned Parenthood facilities, because Guiding Star centers focus on supporting women’s health rather than suppressing our natural biological functions. Leah’s centers represent an exciting new front for pro-lifers: not just protesting Planned Parenthood, but presenting a viable health care alternative that recognizes the dignity and worth of every person, born and unborn.

Laura Ricketts’ discussion of pregnancy loss and the pro-life movement will be an important contribution.  One in four women will experience a pregnancy loss, miscarriage, or still birth. Sadly, many of these women suffer and grieve in silence and feel alone in their pain. How do we as a pro-life community minister to them? What resources are available to help them? How do we speak about miscarriage and stillbirth in a life-affirming manner that recognizes the dignity of the unborn child and the pain of the grieving parents? Laura has a lot of personal experience on this topic and will be sharing valuable resources for addressing this issue in the pro-life movement.

Rebecca Kiessling was conceived in rape and will be sharing her powerful story and the pro-life response to the ‘hard cases’. Her organization, Save the 1, focuses on bringing attention to the humanity of unborn children conceived in rape. So often children conceived in rape are conveniently bargained away in an effort to pass pro-life legislation. Rebecca and her organization put a face to those exceptions and fight for legislation that protects every unborn child, no matter how they were conceived.

Melissa Ohden and Claire Culwell, both abortion survivors, will share their remarkable stories of survival and healing, and how that relates to building a culture of life.  Lauren Muzyka will share the secrets of success of Sidewalk Advocates for Life and how their peaceful, loving approach to sidewalk counseling is changing hearts of abortion-minded women.  

Sadly, the Hispanic community is one of the largest targets of the abortion industry. In response, Astrid Bennett Gutierrez of The VIDA Initiative will be discussing the importance of activating Latina women in the pro-life movement. The Catholic Pro-Life Committee of Dallas is also sponsoring an entire Hispanic track of panels discussing ministry, outreach, and healing for the Hispanic community.

New Wave Feminists and Secular Pro-Life both represent alternative approaches and focus their outreach on groups that we don’t normally consider pro-life. They will be discussing ways to reach secular and feminist groups. Their non-traditional approaches bring a fresh perspective to the pro-life movement.

Star Parker will offer the keynote address Sunday morning, sharing her story of past abortions and post-abortion healing, as well as addressing the racist aspects of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.  And there will be much, much more!

PWC_MEME5_01262016

This conference is a significant opportunity to determine what the goals and vision of the true women’s movement, the pro-life movement, will be in the future. It is an amazing chance to learn about various pro-life ministries and outreaches, and how you can get involved in an area that fits your vocation and uses your talents. You can still sign up for the conference here. Some panel discussions will be live streamed throughout the weekend and videos might be available afterwards. Watch ATTWN’s Facebook page for more details.

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Abortion Deirdre Ink Slingers Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

Growing Up Pro-Life

Growing up, I thought my family’s pro-life activist lifestyle was normal. Only as an adult did I realize how abnormal it truly was, and how thankful I am for being raised in such an environment.

March for Life, 1978
March for Life, 1978

My parents were active in the pro-life movement from its infancy. Nellie Grey, the founder of the March for Life, had told my parents of her plans to hold the very first March for Life while having dinner at my parents’ home. We attended nearly every March for Life in Washington, DC, standing for life in the bitter cold, sometimes even snow. We prayed at the local abortion facility regularly. My mother was even present for this event with Martina’s mother-in-law.

My parents were very active in pro-life politics as well. I remember my entire family sitting around the family room, stuffing mailers for our pro-life state delegate in Virginia. He was a member of our parish and won re-election several times and I always remember my parents making a big deal about how important it was for us to work to elect a pro-life representative to fight for the unborn. 

Besides public and political activism, my parents’ personal example was also profoundly pro-life. In addition to raising several of their own young children, my parents were also foster parents. They took in a young pregnant woman who had been in and out of jail, and continued to welcome her into our home after her daughter was born. Once the mother was committed to a psychiatric hospital, my parents attempted to adopt the toddler, who had grown up in our home and they had grown to love. Eventually, the toddler’s biological extended family stepped in and raised her, but this example stuck with me.

 Upon graduating college, I worked in politics in Washington, D.C., where I met my husband. After getting married in 2007, I moved to Austin, TX. It was shortly thereafter that I started working as a public policy analyst for Texas Alliance for Life, where I have worked ever since. During that time, I have had a chance to be a part of some amazing pro-life work in Texas. 

Growing Up Pro-LifeIn 2009, I lobbied for the Choose Life license plate, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and the sonogram bill, all while pregnant with my first child. Unfortunately, all of those bills failed. But we were back the next session, Spring 2011, where the Texas Legislature passed the sonogram law, the Choose Life license plate, and partially defunded Planned Parenthood. I happened to be pregnant with my second child during this session, and when the pregnant woman who was supposed to have her sonogram done at our press conference promoting the sonogram bill did not show up, my boss volunteered me instead. That’s how I saw my unborn daughter for the first time – on a live sonogram inside the Texas Capitol. The video of her ultrasound became the image the media used whenever covering the sonogram bill that session.

Growing Up Pro-LifeIn 2013, I was again pregnant, but this time I was due in the middle of the legislative session. The timing actually turned out to be quite providential because by the time the special sessions dealing with SB 5 and then HB 2 came around in June and July, my baby was about 3 months old, the perfect age to come to the Capitol with me every day, snug in her Ergo carrier, while lobbying for the passage of HB 2. Despite the famous filibuster and chants of “Hail Satan”, HB 2 finally passed, putting into law common sense safety requirements for abortionists and abortion facilities. It was truly a remarkable experience, one I am so grateful to have been a part of, and glad I could bring my daughter along with me.

Through my pro-life work in Texas, I have also had the pleasure of getting to know and love former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, and am honored to be a board member of her amazing ministry for former abortion facility workers- And Then There Were None. I’m grateful that the pro-life movement has come so far from the days of graphic images of aborted babies and sit-ins, to peaceful, loving approaches toward women, workers, and unborn children.

In the fall of 2014, we had to move out of Texas due to my husband’s job, and added our fourth child to our young family. Thankfully, I have been able to continue my work for Texas Alliance for Life while also home schooling my two oldest children.

Growing up, one of the songs we always used to sing at the abortion facility was Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. Last fall, when I was praying at the abortion facility with my children, I again sang that song. After I had finished, my 4 year old daughter said “Mom, now we need to sing ‘Jesus Loves the Scared Mommies’ so they know not to be scared anymore.” So I substituted the words and we sang her version as well. My heart swelled, knowing I was passing on such a meaningful song that I so clearly remember singing with my mother at abortion facilities growing up, but also seeing my own daughter grasping the reality that we aren’t just there for the babies, we’re there for the mothers, and for the workers too. It was a glimpse of my life coming full circle – I am continuing the pro-life work my mother started decades ago, and although I pray abortion will be a distant memory by the time my children are adults, I hope they will continue to work to build a culture of life in whatever way God calls them to do so.

Looking back, it is evident how important parents’ pro-life witness is to their children for instilling a sense of justice and a passion for protecting the innocent. Parents have a special duty to do this in light of St. John Paul II’s call for Catholics to build a Culture of Life. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how to build a Culture of Life with you here on the Catholic Sistas blog.

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Crafts Domestic Church Ink Slingers Janalin Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

10 Ways to Instill Pro-Life Values in Our Children

I haven’t been as involved in the pro-life movement lately. It’s a roller coaster ride for me. I am so passionate about life and about sharing the gift that a child truly is that is hard on me emotionally to feel continually defeated. Over the summer, I prayed about the true vocation of motherhood and how that translates to my time – the schedule our family keeps – and my responsibility as a mother and God really opened my eyes that my most important work is done within the walls of our own home. So, with this thought, I have been sharing with my kids during this extra special opportunity – that I am carrying a unique individual inside of me – and I thought I would make a list of how we can all share pro-life values with our families, whether pregnant or not!

10 Ways to Instill Pro Life Values in our Children by Janalin Hood

10 Ways to instill pro-life values in our children

1) Point out babies and pregnant women whenever you see them. We always oooh and awwww over babies. Teach your older children to hold doors for pregnant women. Having your children notice the gift of life is step #1.

2) Let your children see in the womb. Watch this National Graphic video about development in the womb. (Appropriate for children that are aware of the birds and the bees. Birth is shown.) Read these books to the younger children; Angel in the Waters and Before you Were Born.

New Baby
Here are our two oldest meeting their baby brother almost two years ago

3) Visit a friend/co-worker/family member that has a newborn and allow them to see (and maybe hold!) the baby.

4) Talk about abortion. This cannot be ignored. We are facing a genocide that is far greater than anything Hitler ever imagined. Our children need to know that some people think it is ok to kill babies that are growing in their mama’s bellies. Even a child can reason and realize that this is not acceptable.

5) Participate in the 40 Days for Life at home with your kids when they are young and as your children get older take them to pro-life rallies and prayer chains. There are many opportunities available locally as well as on a state and national level.

6) Let them witness to others. This is easily done with their words, their actions and what they wear. Our kids especially love this 12 week fetus model!

7) Boycott business that support Planned Parenthood. Here are some great links with many of the lists of companies that fund a business that generates 95% of it’s income from abortion.Quote

8) Always remind your children that they are special and are God’s own creation. When can come to a place where we can see Jesus in every life we instill pro-life values.

9) Read this book written by a former Planned Parenthood employee. UnPlanned, by Abby Johnson. It was like reading some sort of thriller novel… I couldn’t put it down and read it through the night until it was finished. So, you have been warned. Not a bedtime story!

10) Pray without ceasing. Pray for the 3,700 children that will lose their lives today. Pray for the women that feel like they have no other options with their unplanned pregnancies. Pray for the conversion of those in the abortion business.

11) And A BONUS!! Make this personalized timeline of a baby’s development for each of your children.  I made one quickly today for our third child- you can read his birth story here if you like those 🙂

God Made you Special Supplies
Supplies needed:

God Made you Special PDF and cut out clip art (I recommend using a card stock if you have some on hand for keepsake purposes)

-Photos of your child (first sonogram, a pregnancy photo, 3 midway sonograms, and a newborn photo.)

-Scissors

-Glue Stick
God Made you Special Project by Janalin Hood

Use the size guidelines I have provided and let your children cut and paste away! They will LOVE to have their own story of life to share with friends and family and to keep!