Patricia Coll Freeman

20-somethings taking the pro-life reins in Alaska

Patricia Coll Freeman
By Patricia Coll Freeman
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January 7, 2011 (CatholicAnchor) - Tweeting and texting, the Echo Boomers are taking the reins of the decades-long effort to restore legal protection to the unborn in Alaska and across the U.S.

These 20-somethings – children of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers – were born and raised after the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. They are survivors of the era of legalized abortion in America. But a full third of their generation did not survive – 26 million of their brothers, sisters and friends have been aborted.

For those who made it, like 28-year-old Christine Kurka of Eagle River, Alaska and 22-year-old Windy Thomas of Anchorage, the abortion debate is about human rights – rights they believe should be equally applied to all members of the human family, including the very youngest.

At age 18, Kurka was motivated to speak up for the unborn. Her awakening came during a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., where she heard recordings of the Nuremberg trials. She understood that apathy, silence and the deflection of responsibility were no defense in the face of evil.

“If we say nothing, we are acquiescing,” Kurka told the Catholic Anchor in a recent interview.

Kurka began to see a correlation between the destruction of the Jewish people behind the walls of concentration camps and abortion.

“It’s a quiet thing, people don’t see it,” she explained.

She realized “it wasn’t going to be enough to just personally stay away from abortion or not to have one myself. I was going to have to be actively speaking and doing something.”

As the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches on Jan. 22, the faces and voices of the pro-life movement are changing. But in terms of political action, charity towards mothers and babies and efforts to educate the public on the facts of prenatal life, Kurka’s generation is following a well-proved path.

Pro-life predecessors

While a growing number of Alaska’s pro-life activists aren’t out of their 20s, they have four decades of experience behind them.

Anchorage Catholic Pam Albrecht has been at the forefront of the abortion debate since 1969, when Planned Parenthood first lobbied Alaska’s legislators to legalize abortion. With help from local attorneys Wayne Ross and Bob Flint, Albrecht produced flyers opposing the legalization and urged Alaskans to write their legislators.

However, the legislation passed, and in 1972 Alaska amended its constitution to become one of the first states to explicitly recognize a so-called right to “privacy,” interpreted by some to mean a right to abortion on demand.

Meanwhile, Albrecht began to appreciate how women were being pressured into abortion.

“I could see this problem was more than just ‘this baby’,” said soft-spoken Albrecht.

So she and fellow Catholic Kim Syren founded Birthright – to help expectant mothers in crisis choose life for their babies by providing friendship and material support, like housing and clothing.

Eventually, Birthright was folded into Catholic Social Services’ Pregnancy Support program. And Albrecht continues on with Project Rachel, helping mothers suffering after abortion.

Mirroring the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, other early pro-life advocates took the abortion debate to Anchorage clinic doors in the 1980s. Local pro-lifers organized peaceful sit-ins to slow the abortion business in Anchorage and raise awareness of what was going on inside. Ninety-two people joined the first sit-in, making it the largest civil disobedience event in the history of Alaska. A photo of the arrest of Jesuit Father George Endal, in his 80s at the time, made the front page of the Anchorage Times.

On the sidewalks were “sidewalk counselors,” pro-lifers specially trained to engage with the abortion-minded and help them find life-affirming options.

Still, today, members of the Legion of Mary, a Catholic lay apostolate, continue to pray on the sidewalks several times a week and offer help to women outside Alaska Women’s Health, P.C. – an abortion facility on Lake Otis Parkway.

Most young adults are pro-life

Thirty years later, in an age where the term “partial-birth abortion” is familiar and where prenatal ultrasounds are commonplace, the American people — including young adults — are increasingly pro-life.

A 2010 Marist College poll showed that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s 18-to-29-year-olds consider abortion morally wrong. Just 20 percent of that group thinks abortion is morally acceptable.

Thousands of pro-life young adults demonstrate against Roe v. Wade in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Their numbers impress even Nancy Keenan, president of the pro-abortion advocacy group NARAL, who in Newsweek Magazine observed, “There are so many of them, and they are so young.”

These youth are founding and running groups like Live Action, the undercover investigative group that films exposés on Planned Parenthood, the nation’s billion-dollar abortion business. Its now famous director Lila Rose, who delivered the keynote address for this past November’s Alaska Right to Life fund-raiser, is just 22 years old.

There are Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust; Medical Students for Life; and Stop the Abortion Mandate Coalition, a national coalition organized to stop government funding of abortion in health care.

In Anchorage, Christine Kurka initiated a local chapter of 40 Days for Life. The campaign is a biannual, international event in which participants stand vigil in front of abortion clinics across the country and pray and fast for the end to abortion. Since its 2007 start, the group’s headquarters reports 3,592 unborn babies saved from abortion as a result.

Kurka also is volunteer coordinator for Alaska Right to Life. She organizes the group’s activities at the Alaska State Fair and its annual fund-raiser. And she has been on the board, which consists mostly of young adults, including her 23-year-old brother Christopher.

Changing hearts and minds

Kurka appreciates the courage and devotion of her pro-life predecessors. And she agrees that a presence outside abortion clinics keeps the focus on “real issues.”

“Yeah, there are some issues of law,” she said, “but there’s also an issue of people’s hearts – everybody who’s driving by, the people who are working in the clinics, the women who are potentially seeking abortions, the rest of society that condones it or pressures them to have abortions.”

Kurka believes praying and counseling outside the abortion facilities is “very effective at bringing people together to really focus on what’s true — that human life is valuable and it’s valuable because we’re created in the image of God — and we need to express that in our community.”

Education is a critical part of the process, believes 22-year-old Windy Thomas. She helped found the student pro-life group at University of Alaska, Anchorage, and she is currently the communications director at Alaska Right to Life.

Thomas takes a lesson from Martin Luther King Jr.

African Americans had been “tortured and killed and treated so terribly,” said Thomas. “The (Civil Rights) movement just brought it out into the open and showed people, ‘This is how it is. This is not okay.’”

Thomas believes she has a responsibility to do the same for the unborn. “Twenty or thirty years ago, we didn’t have the scientific evidence that we have now,” she said. Sharing the facts about prenatal development — that each unborn baby, from the moment of conception, is distinct and irreplaceable — is essential, she believes.

“This battle is going to be won in people’s hearts first, but people really have to believe abortion is murder. People really have to see it as it really is.”

Education can be a long process. But in the meantime – and facing 1.2 million abortions in the U.S. each year – Thomas is confident.

“You can really make a huge difference if you just, like, speak up,” she said. “And if you’re faithful and dedicated, you can change the world.”

This article first appeared in the Catholic Anchor. It is reprinted here with permission.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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