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Sidewalk counselor says ‘heart goes out’ to women in crisis pregnancies

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Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It didn’t take long for Nicky Peters to feel the drama of being a sidewalk counselor outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul.

The 19-year-old sophomore at St. Catherine University in St. Paul and member of St. Ambrose Parish in Woodbury had decided last spring to take her pro-life passion to the streets. She signed up to volunteer with Pro-Life Action Ministries in St. Paul and paired with Ann Redding, the organization’s sidewalk counseling coordinator.

Nicky Peters stands outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 3. Peters stands outside the center twice a month to offer information and compassion to women arriving for abortions. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Nicky Peters stands outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 3. Peters stands outside the center twice a month to offer information and compassion to women arriving for abortions. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

This past June, the two showed up hoping to encounter women with unwanted pregnancies. It was Peters’ first time.

“That day was amazing,” she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “I met Ann there, and within the first hour, a woman came up to us and told her (Ann) that she had changed her mind about having an abortion, but she had already had part of the procedure done.”

The woman told them that clinic workers had inserted laminaria sticks to help dilate her cervix to prepare for the abortion, but she had changed her mind. She jumped off the examination table and left the clinic without having them removed. When she encountered Redding and Peters on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, Redding hustled into action, leading the pregnant woman to nearby Abria Pregnancy Resources. Two months later, a healthy baby boy was born.

Peters, who is studying sign language interpreting at St. Kate’s, as her school’s known, will never forget that day. In fact, it’s what gives her the strength to spend hours alone on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, sometimes enduring insults and profanity hurled her way by vocal abortion supporters.

“It all goes back to that first day; the passion that I have is about helping these women,” said Peters, who does sidewalk counseling twice a month for about two-and-a-half hours each time. “My heart goes out to them, honestly. A child is such a wonderful thing that I’d do anything to help (the pregnant women).”

The seed of her current volunteer role was planted one year ago at the annual March for Life in Washington, marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. She made the trip out on a plane, but rode back on a bus chartered by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis when flights were canceled because of a powerful storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in the mid-Atlantic region.

She rode back with other teens and young adults from the archdiocese, plus three women who belonged to Katies for Life on her campus.

“All these women were talking about how involved they were in the pro-life movement,” Peters recalled. “One girl in my college group who does a little bit of sidewalk counseling and is a prayer supporter described what it was, and it really sounded like something that I was called to do. I loved being pro-life and I really, really wanted to be more involved, so I looked into it, did some research and decided that this was for me and I wanted to do it.”

After going through a seminar and training, she went to Planned Parenthood with Redding, who has been in her role with Pro-Life Action Ministries since 2000.

“I’m just really glad she’s on board,” said Redding. “She’s out there to be compassionate with people. Whether it’s a ‘save’ or not, we’re recognizing the humanity of the child that’s (in danger of being) killed. Secondly, we are letting people know that we care about them.”

Redding noted that Peters is the perfect age for counseling because most of the women who come to Planned Parenthood for abortions are 20 to 24 years old. She estimates that 30 of the 200 regular sidewalk counselors who volunteer through the pro-life group are in that age group. Many are seminarians who come regularly on Friday afternoons.

“This is the best age group to be out there on the sidewalk,” Redding said. “The college-aged have physical strength, idealism and beauty. Young people have that beauty that draws someone to talk to them.”

However, the responses can be negative, even ugly, at times. Peters has discovered this, which initially surprised her.

“I do take a lot of heat, especially on the sidewalk, and even from people on campus,” she said. “I get profanity, the middle finger. I get anywhere from, ‘Oh, you’re just totally wrong,’ to large profanity statements.”

In between the encounters are long periods of silence, in which she sees no one and must figure out useful ways to spend her time.

Her go-to practice on those occasions is prayer. She recites decades of the rosary and calls on the intercession of the saints and Mary. Her words to God and to the people she meets are steeped in a deep faith that believes she is making a difference, and a faith that keeps her coming back for more, even when the coldest days of the year may lay ahead.

“I just love it, honestly,” she said. “It can get a little bit discouraging, but I always have to go back to that first day of helping that woman. I just have to go back to that day because I know that that truly was amazing, and I have to keep doing that so I can help more women. Even though people will give me the middle finger, I just have to sit there and pray for them and pray for a change of heart.”

Hrbacek is senior content specialist at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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New poll shows Americans strongly support abortion restrictions

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A few days before the annual March for Life, a new national poll indicated shifting public attitudes, crossing party labels, in favor of increased restrictions on abortion.

“When you ask Americans what they think of abortion … you get very, very strong numbers in favor of restrictions,” said Andrew T. Walther, vice president of communications of the Knights of Columbus, during a Jan. 23 news conference.

Participants carry a banner during the annual annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco Jan. 21. (CNS photo/Jose Aguirre, Walk for Life West Coast)

Participants carry a banner during the annual annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco Jan. 21. (CNS photo/Jose Aguirre, Walk for Life West Coast)

The Marist survey of 2,729 adults was conducted in December and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. It contains breakdowns by political affiliations and ethnicity but not religious beliefs, so there was no information on how many respondents were Catholics.

Fifty-two percent of the respondents indicated that they thought of themselves as “pro-choice,” while 42 percent self-identified as pro-life. But when the questions became more detailed on abortion policies, the numbers shifted.

Across political and ethnic lines, overwhelming majorities of respondents indicated they would like “significant restrictions.” That included 91 percent of those who called themselves supporters of President Donald J. Trump, and 55 percent of those who identified themselves as Hillary Clinton supporters. The poll further showed that 79 percent of both African-American and Latino respondents favored significant restrictions.

Further, 74 percent said they wanted the Supreme Court to rule on these restrictions, indicating support for overturning the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion virtually on demand.

Eighty-three percent said abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the mother, while 77 percent said it should not be permitted under any circumstance.

In line with Trump’s new executive order reinstating what’s called the Mexico City Policy, which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion overseas, 83 percent opposed that use of tax money in other countries, and 62 percent opposed the use of tax money generally.

Fully half the respondents thought abortion “has a negative, long-term impact on a woman’s life,” while 19 percent were unsure.

Fifty-nine percent believe that abortion limits were either “important” or an immediate priority, and the same percentage agreed when asked if they thought abortion was morally wrong.

The same level of support was expressed for an abortion ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 60 percent believed that medical professionals with moral objections should not be legally required to provide abortion services.

The 44th annual March for Life, which draws thousands to Washington to commemorate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe decision, will be held Jan. 27.

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Presidential nominees spar over abortion issue as final debate opens

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the final presidential debate Oct. 19, Republican Donald Trump used his most explicit language to date to denounce late-term abortions.

Trump made those remarks after Democrat Hillary Clinton, answering the first question from moderator Chris Wallace, restated her support of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion virtually on demand, and she pledged continued support for Planned Parenthood. Read more »

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Candidates’ faith draws attention at vice presidential debate

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In opening remarks during the vice presidential candidates’ debate Oct. 4, each candidate alluded to faith, but they didn’t return to how their beliefs influenced their political views until the last 10 minutes of the night. Read more »

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Abortion is not the answer for the Zika virus, archbishop says

February 18th, 2016 Posted in Senior / Health Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

 

SAO PAULO — The president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference criticized a proposal by the U.N. Human Rights Commission that countries allow abortion in cases in which the mother was infected with the Zika virus.

“Abortion is not the answer for the Zika virus,” Archbishop Sergio da Rocha of Brasilia told reporters during a Feb. 10 news conference to announce the bishops’ Lenten Fraternity Campaign. “We need to value life in any situation or condition. Less quality of life does not mean less rights to live or less human dignity.” Read more »

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Priests in the U.S. previously granted authority to absolve sin of abortion

September 3rd, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

 

Pope Francis’ Sept. 1 announcement that priests worldwide will be able to absolve women for the sin of abortion will have little effect on pastoral practices in the United States and Canada, where most priests already have such authority in the sacrament of reconciliation.

“It is my understanding that the faculty for the priest to lift the ‘latae sententiae’ excommunication for abortion is almost universally granted in North America,” said Don Clemmer, interim director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Read more »

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Women further victimized by harvesting of fetal parts, says counselor

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Catholic News Service

ST. LOUIS  — Women who have an abortion are being further victimized when given the option to donate their child’s body parts for research, according to Sue Harvath, who has counseled post-abortive women in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years.

Harvath said it shouldn’t matter whether Planned Parenthood is making money from the sale of fetal body parts, as alleged in a series of undercover videos, because even the act of obtaining the body parts is manipulative and flat wrong. Read more »

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Pope Francis decries attacks on life — abortion, euthanasia, abandoning immigrants at sea, unsafe workplaces…

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Abortion, abandoning migrants at sea, unsafe working conditions, malnutrition, terrorism and euthanasia are all “attacks on life,” said Pope Francis.

In an audience with members of the Italian Science & Life Association May 30, the pope said “life is a gift” and urged more reflection on how people are treated throughout all stages of life.

Migrants are seen in a boat after being rescued in late April in the Mediterranean Sea. Abortion, abandoning migrants at sea, unsafe working conditions, malnutrition, terrorism and euthanasia are all "attacks on life," said Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Alessandro Di Meo, EPA)

Migrants are seen in a boat after being rescued in late April in the Mediterranean Sea. Abortion, abandoning migrants at sea, unsafe working conditions, malnutrition, terrorism and euthanasia are all “attacks on life,” said Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Alessandro Di Meo, EPA)

“The degree of progress of a civilization is measured precisely by its capacity to care for life, especially in its most fragile phases,” he told the association, which had gathered its members in Rome the previous day to mark its 10th anniversary.

“When we speak of humanity, let us never forget the attacks on the sacredness of human life,” he said. “The plague of abortion is an attack on life. Allowing our brothers and sisters to die in boats in the Strait of Sicily is an attack on life. Death at the workplace, because minimum safety conditions are not respected, is an attack on life. Death because of malnutrition is an attack on life. Terrorism, war, violence, euthanasia as well, is an attack on life.”

The pope affirmed the association’s work as important, especially in a society marked by a throwaway mentality, and urged its members to “relaunch a renewed culture of life.”

“To love life is to care always for others, to want their good, to cultivate and respect their transcendent dignity,” he said.

Pope Francis told association members to be “unafraid of undertaking fruitful dialogue with the entire world of science, even with those who do not profess to be believers but who remain open to the mystery of human life.”

Underlining the vital link between science and life, the pope said “it is the miracle of life in its unfathomable depths that gives rise to and accompanies the scientific journey.”

“Christ, who is the light of humankind and of the world, illuminates the path so that science may always be knowledge at the service of life,” he said. “When this light ceases and when knowledge is no longer in touch with life, it becomes sterile.”

He urged scientists to maintain a high regard for the sacredness of human life, “so that science is really at the service of humankind and not humankind at the service of science.”

It is thanks to scientific analysis, he said, that the church reaffirms “a just society recognizes the primacy of the right to life, from conception until its natural end.”

 

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In El Salvador, women who miscarry can end up charged with abortion

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Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) — Guadalupe Vasquez is one of many women who have experienced the consequences of strong anti-abortion laws in El Salvador.

In this Central American country of 6.3 million inhabitants, a poor woman who has a miscarriage and goes to a hospital seeking medical help often ends up in jail. Read more »

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Viewpoint: Protecting the unborn in a ‘throwaway culture’

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What a sight!

Over 25 times from the top of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., I have seen a sea of people marching to proclaim the dignity of unborn human life, and how death-dealing abortion sends the unholy message that some human beings are disposable.

As I write, I plan to march with and view that sea of people once again, during the 42nd annual “March for Life” on Jan. 22.   It’s always a moral and spiritual shot-in-the-arm for me.

A man holds signs and prays during the 2012 March for Life rally in Washington. Pro-life groups from across the U.S. will converge on the National Mall in January when the March for Life returns to Washington for the 42nd annual rally protesting abortion.(CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A man holds signs and prays during the 2012 March for Life rally in Washington. Pro-life groups from across the U.S. will converge on the National Mall in January when the March for Life returns to Washington for the 42nd annual rally protesting abortion.(CNS photo/Bob Roller)

But good as they are, the Washington “March for Life” and the “Walk for Life West Coast” in San Francisco (on Jan. 24), as well as dozens of similar events at states throughout the U.S., are simply not enough.

While progress has been made to lessen the number of abortions, nonetheless, according to the National Right to Life Committee approximately 1 million unborn brothers and sisters are brutally dismembered by abortion each year.

And globally, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, over 40 million unborn babies are killed annually by abortion.

Throughout the year believers in the God of life need to pray, educate, peacefully protest, donate and lobby on behalf of the unborn. They can’t do it for themselves.

Therefore, please email and call your two U.S. senators (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to cosponsor and actively support the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of unborn life.

There is solid medical evidence that unborn babies feel pain by at least 20 weeks after fertilization (www.nrlc.org/abortion/fetalpain). And abortion is brutally painful.

According to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the abortion technique known as “dilation and evacuation,” used to abort unborn children up to 24 weeks, uses forceps with sharp metal jaws to grasp parts of the developing baby, which are then twisted and torn away.

 

Another abortion technique after 16 weeks of pregnancy known as “saline amniocentesis,” inserts a needle through the mother’s abdomen and withdraws a cup of amniotic fluid and replaces it with a powerful salt solution.

According to the NRLC, the baby swallows the salt solution and is poisoned. The chemical solution also causes painful burning and deterioration of the baby’s skin (www.nrlc.org/abortion/medicalfacts/techniques).

In a Sept. 20, 2013 address to a gathering of Catholic gynecologists, Pope Francis affirmed the sacredness of unborn human life, and connected it to the work of social justice.

He said, “In all its phases and at every age, human life is always sacred and always of quality.”

The Holy Father said abortion is a product of a “widespread mentality of profit, the throwaway culture, which today enslaves the hearts and intelligences of so many.”

This mindset he added “requires eliminating human beings, especially if physically or socially weaker. Our answer to this mentality is a decisive and unhesitant ‘yes’ to life.”

Taking a consistent ethic of life position, the pope linked together unborn babies, the aged and the poor as among the most vulnerable human beings whom Christians are called to love.

“Things have a price and are saleable, but persons have a dignity, they are worth more than things and they have no price. Because of this, attention to human life in its totality has become in recent times a real and proper priority of the Magisterium of the Church, particularly for life which is largely defenseless, namely, that of the disabled, the sick, the unborn, children, the elderly. …

“They cannot be discarded.”

Tony Magliano, a syndicated social justice and peace columnist, lives in the Diocese of Wilmington.

 

 

 

 

 

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