Michael New

A pro-life pioneer: meet the woman who took those graphic photos of aborted babies

Michael New
Michael New
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January 25, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Even though the pro-life movement is very rich and diverse, there is relatively little variety in the type of pro-life books published. Numerous personal testimonies, guides to debating abortion, and theological treatises abound. However, pro-life activists have devoted few resources to chronicling our own history. Monica Miller’s new book Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars, which relates her involvement in the rescue movement that she helped pioneer, is a welcome addition to any pro-lifer’s library. It is a compelling story that provides a number of insights about pro-life activism during the 1980s.

Miller is a professor of theology at Madonna University and serves as president of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society in Michigan. She is best known in pro-life circles for the photos she has taken of aborted babies. In fact, she is one of only a handful of pro-lifers who have handled the remains of the unborn. Like many pro-lifers, Miller was first confronted with the abortion issue as a college student. During her undergraduate years at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., she discovered that a classmate of hers had had multiple abortions. In her senior year, she learned about the pro-life movement at a retreat sponsored by the campus Newman Center. In particular, she was influenced by the book Abortion and Social Justice, published by Thomas Hilgers and Dennis Horan. After graduating, Miller decided to pursue graduate studies in theology at Loyola Univerity in Chicago. That is where her story begins in earnest.

There comes a time in the life of nearly every pro-life activist when he or she feels that philosophical opposition to abortion is not nearly enough. There is an urge to do something tangible to oppose the injustice. Miller describes this moment in her life well. Upon arriving in Chicago, she spent her Saturday mornings sidewalk-counseling outside the Michigan Avenue Medical Center. One morning, she attempted to counsel several women seeking abortions, all of whom decided to enter the clinic. Afterward, Miller had a vision of a woman submitting to an abortion and of her helpless unborn child’s dismemberment. Miller attempted to enter the clinic but was promptly thrown out. This vivid image led her to engage in clinic blockades and “rescues,” where groups of pro-lifers would physically obstruct the entrance to an abortion clinic in hopes of either preventing the clinic from performing abortions that day or gaining more time for sidewalk counselors to dissuade women from having them.

Abandoned provides great anecdotes about the tenacity and creativity of those who were involved in the rescue movement during the 1980s. When local ordinances made clinic blockades difficult, Miller and other right-to-life activists responded by blockading the homes of abortion providers. In one instance, pro-lifers blockaded the car of an abortion provider at a rest stop, delaying him for hours. This gave the sidewalk counselors extra time to present life-affirming alternatives to women who were seeking abortions at his clinic. When the abortion provider finally arrived, only one woman was still interested in going through with the procedure.

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Miller’s activism went beyond clinic blockades, and the book contains a number of inspiring stories about her efforts to protect the unborn and expose those who aided the abortion industry. For instance, during the mid-1980s, while serving as executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee, she read about a court case involving a mentally handicapped pregnant woman. It appeared this woman was being forced by her parents to obtain an abortion. Through a considerable amount of legwork, Miller found the parents’ address and then persuaded them to choose life for their grandchild. She also exposed a pet crematory that was burning the remains of aborted babies alongside those of animals.

It was through Miller’s extensive pro-life activism that she discovered that Michigan Avenue Medical Center routinely disposed of the remains of the unborn in dumpsters behind the building. She began to make weekly trips to the medical center to recover the remains of aborted children. Seeing their value to the pro-life movement, she took high-quality photographs and today estimates that 50 percent of the graphic images of aborted children come from her photographs. She felt that each child deserved a proper burial, but the vast numbers posed logistical problems. The Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to arrange one burial service for all the unborn but, fearing outside scrutiny, conducted the ceremony privately without even alerting Miller until afterward. Over time, the Archdiocese of Chicago warmed to the idea, and Joseph Cardinal Bernadin presided over a public burial ceremony in 1988.

Miller diplomatically but accurately describes the frustrations that nearly every pro-life activist has felt at one time or another. For instance, media coverage of rescue efforts was sympathetic to the abortion clinics but ignored the unborn. At times, various church leaders offered relatively little support for pro-life activities. Even worse, the legal system seemed rigged against pro-lifers. When pro-life activists faced criminal charges for rescue efforts, pro-life judges almost invariably recused themselves. However, judges that supported legal abortion almost never recused themselves — even in cases where they or their spouses were heavily involved in abortion-rights activism.

Indeed, Miller’s encounters with the legal system constitute a substantial part of Abandoned. Once, when engaged in a clinic blockade in Milwaukee, she was singled out for additional punishment. Most people who engaged in clinic rescues typically received warnings or citations for trespassing. In this case, however, because of Miller’s notoriety and her past record, a prosecutor from the district attorney’s office pressed criminal charges. The book includes a memorable exchange between Miller and a judge about the sanctity of life and civil disobedience. Although the judge finds Miller articulate and her testimony thought-provoking, he considers her a “dangerous person” and sentences her to several months in jail.

Miller used her time in jail to pray and talk to other inmates about pro-life issues. At one point, some inmates asked to see her photos of aborted babies. She also encountered some former employees of a local abortion facility who provided her with useful information about misconduct that was taking place within the clinic. Miller even wrote a letter to the judge telling him that her time in jail was productive and that she hoped he was persuaded, at least in part, by her testimony.

Overall, the best service this book provides is to give the reader a window on the pro-life movement from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. During this time, clinic blockades played a prominent role in the right-to-life movement. This was for a couple of reasons. First, the Roe v. Wade decision occurred as the Vietnam War was concluding. Many thought that the same civil-disobedience tactics used by opponents of the Vietnam War would be useful in stopping abortion. Second, those who engaged in clinic blockades thought that these tactics were strategically shrewd. When arrested, pro-lifers invoked a “necessity” defense — stating that their conduct was justified as necessary to prevent public or private injury. They hoped a necessity defense would allow attorneys to present evidence documenting the humanity of the unborn — and ultimately lead to a reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Eventually, the rescue movement faded. Most judges did not find the necessity defense persuasive, and pro-lifers began to pursue other legal strategies. More important, President Clinton’s signing of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) in 1993 effectively closed this chapter in pro-life history. FACE mandated criminal penalties for anyone impeding access to an abortion clinic. Most pro-lifers decided that the legal costs and the criminal penalties were too high to continue clinic blockades. Of course, the direct-action wing of the pro-life movement has not vanished. Countless pro-lifers still pray and offer counseling outside abortion clinics. In recent years, the “40 Days for Life” campaign has been successful at recruiting pro-lifers to engage in prayer vigils outside places where abortions are performed. Clinic blockades, though, occur only rarely today.

Readers of all kinds will benefit from Miller’s book. Young pro-lifers will learn about the history of the movement. Readers who are philosophically pro-life but not active in the pro-life movement may become motivated to do more. Active pro-lifers will sympathize with Miller and receive encouragement from her testimony and her success stories. People who support legal abortion may even obtain insights as to why pro-lifers invest considerable time and effort in trying to protect the unborn. Abandoned is a unique and important book that will doubtless inspire generations of pro-life activists for years to come.

— Michael New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.

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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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