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March for Life hears praise from President Trump

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 12:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump praised the pro-life movement’s support for pregnant women and touted his administration’s pro-life policy achievements in his remarks to the March for Life Friday.
 
“You come from many backgrounds, many places, but you all come for one beautiful cause: to build a society where life is celebrated, protected and cherished,” he told the March for Life Jan. 19 via videocast. “The March for Life is a movement born out of love.”
 
“You love every child, born and unborn, because you believe that every life is sacred, that every child is a precious gift from God,” he told the marchers on the National Mall while speaking before an audience in the White House Rose Garden. “Because of you, tens of thousands of Americans have been born and reached their full God-given potential. Because of you.”
 
Hundreds of thousands of people were in Washington, D.C. to attend this year’s March for Life, which is in its 45th year. The theme of this year’s march is “Love Saves Lives.” The march is held annually on or near the anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The president said he was “honored and really proud” to address the march. While previous presidents addressed the march while in office by phone or remote loudspeaker, organizers said he is the first president to do so via telecast.
 
Trump said the Roe decision resulted in “some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world,” making the U.S. comparable to countries like China and North Korea in permitting late-term abortions.
 
“It is wrong, it has to change,” he said. “Americans are more and more pro-life.”
 
Trump promised that his administration would always defend the right to life.

He touted his re-implementation of the Mexico City Policy, which bars federal funds for groups that perform or promote abortion overseas, and cited his administration’s reversal of an Obama-era policy that restricted state’s efforts to direct federal dollars away from “facilities that violate the law.” He voiced strong support for a House bill to ban late-term abortions in which supporters say the unborn child can feel pain. Trump called on the Senate to “pass this important law.”
 
He also cited his executive order protecting religious liberty and an effort to protect conscience rights and religious freedom of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.
 
The president also introduced Marianne Donaido, a woman whose parents supported her when she became pregnant at the age of 17. He praised her work with Room at the Inn, a Greensboro, N.C.-based maternity program that helps house and support pregnant homeless women. The charity is affiliated with Catholic Charities USA.
 
In a separate Jan. 19 statement, Trump declared that Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe decision, will be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, “to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human’.”
 
Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year’s March for Life in person, introduced Trump in the Rose Garden. He said the Roe Supreme Court decision “turned its back on the right to life” but began the pro-life movement that continues today, a movement defined by “compassion and love.”
 
“Life is winning in America, because love save lives,” he told the march. “Your compassion, your persistence your activism and your prayers are saving lives… this pro-life generation should never doubt that we are with you.”
 
“This president stands with you,” he said, contending that Trump was “the most pro-life president in American history.”
 
Trump once declared himself “pro-choice in every respect,” but increasingly advocated anti-abortion views ahead of and during his 2016 election campaign, Politico reports.
 
Other political leaders at the March for Life rally were House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).
 
In previous years Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush addressed the March for Life remotely.

'My mother was told to abort me', priest says to March for Life youth

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Martino Choi told some 18,000 teens and adults about his mother's decision in favor of life at a Youth Rally and Mass for Life held in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

“I know a woman who went in for her ultrasound, and was told by the doctors that the child’s organs were not developing properly. The child would probably not make it a year after birth, and they recommended abortion,” Fr. Choi said during his homily at the Capital One Arena Jan. 19.

“This woman is my mother, and I am that child,” he stated.

Choi is a parish priest at St. Patrick's parish in Rockville, Md., about 20 miles northwest of the District of Columbia. He said the doctors had told his mother that abortion would shield him and her from unnecessary suffering. He continued: “The devil knows who to disguise evil with a lie that somehow death is better than life … but death is never better than life.”

The young priest also shared stories from his parish where he has counseled parents who lost a child between days and months after the child's birth.

“Not a single one of those families comes to me and says, ‘You know what, Father, we wish we hadn’t had this child. We wish we hadn’t had to suffer through this.’ None of them say that. They all say, ‘Thank God that we got to love this child, even if it was just for a couple of days.'”

“One family, whose kid never left the hospital, said that in his three months of life their son taught them the depths of love and courage that we could not understand before his birth…”

These stories resonated with the teens at the Mass for Life, who came from dioceses both across the U.S. and internationally.

“I thought that it was really amazing,” Kelly Lambers, a high school student from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, told CNA. “His mother didn’t give him up even though she knew he didn’t have that long to live, but now look at him; he’s a priest!”

Lambers traveled nine hours by bus with her classmates from Mother of Mercy High School to attend the rally and the March for Life. She said she is particularly proud of her friends’ signs that read, “Pro-Life is Pro-Women.”

Tajil Baptiste, a young man from the U.S. Virgin Islands, also shared why he and his friends traveled to D.C. for the March for Life: “It is a a religious event for us, traveling so far from a little island, but the message that we will be bringing back to our community and our Church is ‘Let’s be pro-life, let’s change the world.’”

There were nearly 200 priests, 20 bishops, and three cardinals concelebrating the youth Mass, according to the Archdiocese of Washington. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was the principal celebrant.

“We are gathered here to proclaim the value, the worth, and the dignity of all human life,” Cardinal Wuerl told the crowd before the Mass.

The Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, shared a message from Pope Francis with the youth and extended an invitation to tag the Holy Father as they stand up for life on Twitter and Instagram using #iStand4Life.

After the Mass for Life, the youth groups walked from the Capital One Arena to the National Mall for the March for Life.

For former abortion workers, kindness changes hearts

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Myra Neyer used to work a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood Baltimore. Today, she has left the abortion industry and is a pro-life advocate.

Instrumental to her conversion and decision to leave was a 40 Days for Life sidewalk counselor who gave her a rosary when she asked for one. She says this sidewalk counselor was far kinder than other protestors who had been outside her clinic.

“You don’t know where we’re coming from,” said Neyer. “Just be gentle.”

Neyer spoke at a Jan. 18 press conference in Washington, D.C. held by “And Then There Were None,” a nonprofit group that helps abortion clinic workers leave the industry.
 
The organization was founded by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who left her job in 2009. Through monetary assistance, emotional, social and spiritual support, and help in finding a new job, Johnson said the organization has helped more than 400 people leave the abortion industry, including seven physicians.

Johnson said that the “overwhelming majority” of And Then There Were None’s clients were completely unaware that they were applying to work in an abortion clinic. The former clinic workers echoed this statement.

One woman said that she did not know her clinic performed abortions until two weeks into her employment, when she was told she was going to assist with a surgical procedure - which turned out to be an abortion.

“Former clinic workers are the biggest threat to Planned Parenthood,” said Johnson, explaining that when one worker leaves a clinic, oftentimes their colleagues follow. Several of the women present at the Jan. 18 event had five or six colleagues leave the abortion industry after they had decided to quit.

When a clinic worker contacts And Then There Were None seeking to leave the abortion industry, they are assigned a client manager, who becomes their main contact and support during their transition. Throughout the year, there are retreats for former clinic workers to come together and assist each other in the healing process.

“These are normal women,” said Johnson, “that were caught up in something that is not normal.” She said that it was important for pro-lifers to remember that the people working in abortion clinics are humans and should not be dehumanized.

Johnson stressed that it is important for pro-life demonstrators to be kind to clinic employees and to avoid hostility and harassment. She credits a sidewalk counselor at her former clinic for helping her leave the industry.

She suggested that sidewalk counselors have some sort of job bank resource to help provide potential employment options for clinic workers who choose to leave the industry.

More information about And Then There Were None can be found at the group’s website.

Pray against 'powers of darkness,' Cardinal Dolan tells pro-life marchers

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the fight against abortion, it is crucial to recognize the reality of evil and the importance of prayer, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said on the eve of the annual March for Life.

The power of evil in the world, he said, is “stronger than any in creation save one, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who called Himself ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’”

“That’s why we come to this place of prayer to commence our project, a home the powers of darkness are scared of, a house where Mary is our Mother, where Jesus dwells, and where we are with family,” he said. “We come to admit realistically that there are powers of darkness in a culture Pope Francis calls ‘throwaway’ and St. John Paul termed ‘of death.’”

Cardinal Dolan delivered the homily at the Jan. 18 Mass of the Vigil for Life, which took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The Vigil for Life is held each year on the night before the March for Life, an annual event on or near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

The march routinely draws hundreds of thousands from across the country to witness to the dignity of every human life.

In his homily, Cardinal Dolan said that observers of the march – now in its 45th year – have compared it to the “peaceful yet so effective protests for civil rights organized by the prophetic pastor,” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“(L)ike the Reverend Martin Luther King, our prayers and witness are about civil rights, the civil right to life and to equal protection under the law, guaranteed by our constitution, for the most fragile, marginalized, and threatened – the tiny, innocent baby in the womb,” he said.

“Like Pastor King, our belief in the dignity of the human person and sacredness of all human life propels us to concern for human life wherever, whenever, and however it is threatened, from racial antagonism to justice for immigrants, from the war torn to the hungry.”

The cardinal pointed to the March for Life as a means of advocating for the unborn and showing that “millions, mostly young people, share a passion for a belief that the little baby has civil rights.” It is important for the nation’s lawmakers to see the strength of the pro-life movement, he said.

“Our elected representatives, executive and legislative, and the judiciary they appoint, need to see, and hear, and feel the grassroots power and sincere voices of millions who lack the cash of the abortion industry, who can’t find many in Hollywood to support them, who can’t seem to get a hearing on campus, and who are told not to even consider running for office in some states.”

The lawmakers need to hear “that we’re not going to give up, that reason and the grand American tradition enshrined in our foundational documents are on our side, and that our love for babies, their struggling moms and dads, and our passion for a society to assist and protect all vulnerable life will keep us at it,” he said.

He also noted that the march is a powerful way “to fight the temptation we must admit – the temptation to discouragement.” With the message of the pro-life movement ridiculed and harassed by much of the media, academia, entertainment industry and one of the two major political parties, the fight can at times feel lonely, he said.

Cardinal Dolan said that in his home state of New York, abortion is legal until birth and can be funded with taxpayer dollars, while those with conscientious objections can find their jobs threatened.

“What a paradox and heavenly sign that the Sisters of Life were founded in such a pro-abortion state!”

Despite challenges, the pro-life movement has reason for hope, the cardinal said.

He encouraged those present to be “apostles of life, apostles armed not with money, not with hate or destructive words, but armed, as our Holy Father exhorts, with love and joy.”

New HHS department created to protect religious freedom

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new division at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work to ensure the protection of religious freedom and conscience rights for Americans, government officials announced Thursday.

“The state should not force people to go against their integrated view of humanity,” said the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, Roger Severino, at a Jan. 18 press conference.

This new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which falls under the HHS Office for Civil Rights, will focus on the enforcement of existing laws on rights of conscience and religious freedom. It will also provide an outlet to field Americans’ complaints of any discrimination they have experienced in the field of healthcare.

For examples, doctors or nurses who have been forced to participate in an abortion or an assisted suicide that violates their moral convictions will be able to file a complaint directly on the HHS website.

Sarah Hellwege, a nurse-midwife, spoke at the press conference announcing the new division. She said that she experienced discrimination in an interview process because of her membership in a pro-life medical association.

The number of these types of conscience complaints to HHS has increased dramatically since President Donald Trump’s election. Ten complaints were filed with HHS during the eight years of the Obama administration, whereas there have been 34 since November 2016.

Severino told EWTN News Nightly that he attributes this surge in complaints to “pent up demand” and that this new division has been established “to assess complaints, see which ones are meritorious, and to vindicate the interests of justice as the law requires.”

Also speaking at today’s announcement was Montse Alvarado, the Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who explained to CNA what this new division will mean for Catholic healthcare professionals across the country.

“For the past 10 years we have had attacks on conscience that manifested themselves particularly for the Catholic community in the area of healthcare and healthcare providers with individuals and institutions,” she said.

“Because Catholics play such a large role, they finally will have a place to bring their grievances to try to solve things and bring common sense solutions that are so important without having to resort to litigation. And if they do need to litigate them, they will have a partner in this division.”

Several other government officials and religious figures spoke at the press conference announcing the new division.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted a concern from his state of California, where a new law forces pregnancy centers to provide information about local abortion providers. This Supreme Court will hear this case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, this year.

Representatives from HHS cited President Trump’s executive order last May as an impetus for the new HHS division. The executive order called on all executive departments and agencies to “respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech” to the extent permitted by law. The order specifically requested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services address conscience-based objections.

Earlier this week, President Trump recognized National Religious Freedom Day, saying in a Jan. 16 proclamation, “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”

When asked by EWTN News Nightly about the likelihood of the new department surviving in future administrations, Severino responded, “It would be very difficult to undo the division. This is a foundational civil right. Everybody should be in favor of civil rights for all and that includes our first civil right, which is our right to free expression of religion and conscience. This is enforced through our laws that have been passed by bipartisan congresses and presidents in both parties that have been with us for decades. Those are not going to go away and we have to enforce those laws fully.”

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will enforce existing protection statutes over which the Office of Civil Rights already has authority. This includes the Weldon Amendment, which stipulates that states receiving federal funds cannot discriminate against health plans that do not cover or pay for abortions. The division will also enforce Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act on assisted suicide.

“Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions,” said Severino in a press release.

For Americans who are concerned that they have experienced a violation of their conscience rights, Severino told CNA, “We are going to make it as user-friendly as possible, so that people know that the doors are open and that every complaint will be treated appropriately and given the attention it deserves and then those that require enforcement will be handled appropriately.”

“We encourage anyone who believes that their conscience rights have been violated in a healthcare context to reach out to us. They are free to file a complaint. To get more information from our website, just google ‘Office for Civil Rights HHS’ and just add the word ‘conscience.’”