Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent

From ‘adult’ bookstore to pregnancy resource center: Melbourne welcomes pro-life oasis

Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent
Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent
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March 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The city of Melbourne - usually the source of Australia’s most depressing anti-life news - was recently the happy scene of the crowded launch of a new centre to support pregnant women.

On Valentines Day, more than 80 people turned out for the opening of The Babe’s Project Pregnancy Support Centre, in a shop front that was previously, of all things, an adult bookshop.

Within days of the opening, a young teenager and her boyfriend entered seeking help - and just two weeks later, the centre ran out of its pregnancy support packs, turning to pro-life advocates for support to keep the critical pro-life facility running.

Helen Parker is the visionary woman behind the project. In between her hectic schedule, she took some time to speak to LifeSiteNews.com. 

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LifeSiteNews.com: Congratulations on the opening! How did you feel to see a long-held dream become a reality?

Helen Parker:
Thank you! It was overwhelming to see a community come together and say, “it is not okay for women to be unsupported, so let’s do this together.” I knew there was a need. I knew we had support, but to see it eventuate into something tangible is amazing.

LSN: Tell us the story of how you first got the inspiration to create The Babes Project.

HP: I found out I was pregnant when I was 20 and studying at university. With very little support, I was confused and didn’t know where to turn and subsequently the doctor booked me in for a termination.

This was not at all what I wanted to do and I was alarmed at how easy this had been made available.

I proceeded with my pregnancy and soon after Ariel was born I started volunteering in the maternity ward of the local hospital. It was here that I heard recurring themes of how simply abortion was promoted, together with much experience of grief and loss.

When the abortion legislation changed here in Victoria in 2008, I knew it was time to go further, doing something practical addressing the needs of women terminating pregnancies because the felt they had no other option.

It was time to actively promote parenting and adoption as positive alternatives to abortion and to do whatever it took to see that reflected in the choices made by women in our communities.

LSN: Have you been able to help many women in your Pregnancy Support Centre since it opened on Valentines Day? What kind of things do the women who come through your doors say?

HP: We have already had women and families engage with The Pregnancy Support Centre looking for a variety of support. Most are looking for a safe place to chat and to begin talking through their circumstances. Some are still in shock after a positive pregnancy test, some are able to articulate further their own thoughts about possible options, but what we see from all women is a need for hope and reassurance about how their life might look in the future.

They want to see women doing life well who may have faced similar circumstances. They want to see that they still have value and that they can make great choices not only for their child, but also for themselves long term.

LSN: How much support is there for pregnant women in Australia? Are there many other centres like yours?

HP: We have been surprised to find very little support for women which works toward positive outcomes long term.

There certainly are a handful of pregnancy centres throughout Australia, some working effectively at reaching their community whilst others just aren’t being fully utilized. 

Whilst we are aware of some centres which seem to be reaching a number of women, most are battling a nation where pregnancy centres outside abortion clinics or family planning aren’t common, and as a result they don’t seem to be accessed as we would hope.

LSN: What needs to change in Australia’s culture, government policy and law regarding adoption?

HP: Australia is a country with deep wounds from past adoption practices. 

At a government level we need to engage in discussion about what adoption can look like and be committed to lobbying for reasonable change.

Once we see adoption working well, it is our hope that it can be embraced by women who might have alternatively chosen abortion. 

There is an uphill battle ahead to bring change to Australian attitudes and legislation regarding abortion.

One thing we cannot underestimate is the value of connecting with local MPs and asking them to put positive adoption legislation on their agenda.

LSN: You produced a very moving video for the launch of the new centre. At the end of it you said that the pro-life movement in Australia needs to change. In what ways would you like to see it change?

HP: The Babes Project highly values the work and perseverance of the pro-life movement; we have met some wonderful people who have taught us much.

I do, however, think we could all go further in ensuring there are excellent services available for women and their families toward long-term positive outcomes. 

She must have access to high quality assistance as she proceeds with her pregnancy in a loving, compassionate and non-judgmental environment.

It is up to us to see this become a reality.

LSN: What are the best ways to provide practical help for women in our own personal lives?

HP: Be engaged. Listen to her, encourage her and show compassion. Be willing to hear what you don’t like and learn from her. I think we could all challenge ourselves to take down the “us and them” walls. 

The best way I learned about adoption was to spend time with a friend who once claimed “I hate adoption.” It was the best way for me to learn what needs to be addressed.

Then you do whatever it takes to ensure she has great support long term.

LSN: What kind of support have you received from people around the country as the word has spread about your project?

HP: We have received a wonderful outpouring of generosity and encouragement from many.

To open a centre and to make sure it is sustainable takes much time, finances, and a great team of people willing to get their hands dirty.

The most significant, however, has been from locals who are passionate about seeing positive alternatives to abortion promoted in their community.

We simply created a space for them to express their passion, which has seen many take part and build walls, install the kitchen, donate funds, lay carpet, and see this Centre transform into a safe, lovely space.

LSN: Finally, would it be okay to ask your daughter a question? Ariel, what do you think about your mum?

Ariel: My mum is cool, sweet, kind and funny. She can always make you laugh no matter how grumpy you are. She cares about others a lot, and is very understanding. I love what she is doing with The Babes Project and I hope our story will benefit lots of people.

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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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