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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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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