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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African denounces Western elites pushing population control in his country

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By Ben Johnson

An op-ed in one of the leading publications in Uganda has denounced the promotion of IUD use and other long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in the nation as a colonialist form of population control.

An article published in New Vision, which bills itself as “Uganda's leading daily,” and which was posted online after being translated into broken English, contradicts the frequent claim that there is a desperate cry from Africans and brown people generally to provide the “unmet need” for contraception in the Third World.

Programs to convince African women to use the IUD or other forms of contraception “are projects of multibillion international agencies distributing them under the guise of helping the poor countries to control birth rates,” Stephen Wabomba wrote.

The use of the IUD leads to an increase in “the spread of STIs/HIV/AIDS, infections or increased rates of Pelvic Infection Diseases (PID),” and other maladies, he said. The IUD, which is inserted into the uterus and may work for years at a time, offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases and often does not prevent fertilization.

Western governments and NGOs are very much “aware of the side effect[s] but still force them on us through sensational marketing strategies by claiming that there is unmet need” for contraception “in Uganda,” he wrote.

He instead suggested the use of Natural Family Planning methods as the “best alternative” for married couples, as well as increased “funding of chastity and abstinence education in Uganda.”

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He called on every citizen of Uganda “to stand up and be counted as a lover of life” and become a “protector of the voiceless and defenseless unborn children being aborted every day.”

Wabomba is heeding his own advice by acting as director of the Pregnancy Help Center in Jinja, the second largest city in Uganda. The town of 87,000 is perched on the shores of Lake Victoria.


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UN tells Chile and Peru to legalize abortion

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By Guilherme Ferreira Araújo

On July 7 and 8, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) discussed Chile’s abortion laws and issued a report asking for liberalization of those laws.

According to the report, Chile “should establish exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion, contemplating therapeutic abortion and in those cases in which the pregnancy is a consequence of a rape or incest.”

Chile is one of the few countries that prohibits abortion in all cases.  So far, the country has managed to stand against internal and external pressure to legalize abortion.

But during her campaign, President Michele Bachelet promised to make the legalization of abortion a priority.  Indeed, last May she stated that her intention was to reopen the debate so that the government could approve therapeutic abortion before the end of this year.  The U.N. report also said that Chile “should make sure that reproductive health services are accessible to all women and adolescents."

One of the reasons the UN is using to pressure Chile’s government to change their abortion laws is the high number of clandestine abortions allegedly taking place in Chile. The UNHRC points to “official data” showing 150,000 annual clandestine abortions. However, not only is it impossible to corroborate that figure, but other sources show that this number could be exaggerated by a factor of 10.  According to an article published in the Chilean news publication, Chile B, the annual number of clandestine abortions in Chile may vary between 8,270 and 20,675.

Inflating the number of illegal abortions and maternal mortality is a common tactic of the pro-abortion movement’s effort to legalize the deadly practice. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), famously admitted the tactic after becoming pro-life.

“We claimed that between five and ten thousand women a year died of botched abortions,” he said. "The actual figure was closer to 200 to 300 and we also claimed that there were a million illegal abortions a year in the United States and the actual figure was close to 200,000. So, we were guilty of massive deception."

Chile has also been used as a prime example that legalized abortion does not reduce maternal mortality.

A study published in 2012 by Plos One Institute found that since 1989 when Chile banned abortion, there has been an annual decrease in maternal death. That study, and others compiled and published by the Chilean MELISA Institute strongly challenge the myth that abortion is safe or even necessary to increase maternal health.

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Notwithstanding the empirical data, the United Nations is also hard at work to pressure Chile’s neighbor to the North, Peru, to liberalize its own abortion laws.  In the case of Peru it is the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that has issued the report, not the UNHRC.  CEDAW representatives examined Peru’s case on July 1 and suggested that Peru should legalize abortion in case of rape and severe abnormalities of the unborn child.

The organism suggested that the government eliminate all laws that punish women who abort and asked that Peru “urgently” adopt a law to fight violence against women, a notion often used as a euphemism for legalizing abortion.  

The CEDAW commission presented the conclusions of the report on July 22 and put special emphasis on the abortion issue. This happens despite the strong opposition to abortion in Peru. A recent survey showed that 79 percent of Peruvians support the Catholic Church’s position on abortion.

The CEDAW pressure on Peru is not new. In 2011, after the UN sanctioned Peru for denying an abortion to a teenager, Carlos Polo, Director of the Population Research Institute’s Latin American office, stated that the UN organism doesn’t have the right to force Peru to approve abortion.


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People ask me all the time, “How do you live with your past?” My answer is silly, but it is a true story. Youtube screenshot
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I helped so many women abort their babies. Now how do I live with that?

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By Abby Johnson
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I have many memories of my time with Planned Parenthood. I spent eight years of my life there. Some memories are good, some are not. But they are contained in my mind. It’s easy to forget them. I have forgotten so much about my time there in just four and a half short years. 

I found my old business card the other day. That is a tangible memory for me. It made me think of the day that I heard I had been promoted to direct the clinic. I was so happy…hugging and jumping up and down with my supervisor. She was so proud of me.

I thought about the day I moved everything into my new, big office. I put pro-choice stickers all over my file cabinet. I called my parents to share the news. They were, of course, proud of me, but hated my work. I can’t imagine how conflicted they were in their minds and hearts. Human resources sent me my new paperwork. There was my new title, my new and amazing salary. 

A few days later, my new business cards came. I remember putting them in my new business card holder on my desk. I filled up the business card holder that I kept in my purse. I had already become used to hearing myself say my new title.

I was proud of myself. I was proud of the hard work I had put in to earn that new title. I worked so many hours, sacrificed so much time from my family. But I knew it would be worth it. And now I had the job title to prove it.

I remember proudly passing out my new business cards to anyone that would take one. Being pro-choice was not just a movement to me; it was a lifestyle. I wholeheartedly embraced that lifestyle and loved being a part of it. 

These tangible reminders that I occasionally find are sometimes hard to work through. I remember receiving the records from my medication abortion. That tangible reminder of my past was difficult to manage. I look at my “Employee of the Year” award that I received from Planned Parenthood and think back to the night I received it. I ended up putting that old award on my desk as a reminder of where I came from and how much my life has changed. Seeing that plaque no longer brings back those tangible memories. 

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One of the reasons I was so taken aback when finding my old business card was not just because it was a reminder of how proud I had been to run an abortion clinic…something I find deplorable now. It was because of the things I took part in while I had that big title.

The memories of handing women small monetary checks in order to pay for their silence after we had left them with a serious infection after their abortion. The memories of watching women bleed out on our abortion table and being instructed not to call the ambulance because we didn’t want to let the pro-lifers know that we had a medical emergency. The memories I have of “joking” about the babies that died in our facility by abortion. The memories I have of training our abortion facility employees on the “normalcy” of abortion and how to convince women that abortion is the best choice for them.

Part of being a former abortion clinic worker is learning how to deal with your past sin. It may be the lady who came to your clinic for an abortion that you bump into at the store. It could be standing in front of your former abortion facility and remembering all of the damage your words and actions did to so many women. It could be finding that old business card that reminds you of the pride you felt when you became the director of an abortion facility. 

People ask me all the time, “How do you live with your past?” My answer is silly, but it is a true story. 

One day I was watching the kid’s movie “Kung Fu Panda” with my daughter. In the film there is a wise, old tortoise named Oogway. He is talking to one of his students who is frustrated with his current situation. Oogway asks his student, “Do you know why today is called the present? Because it is a gift.”

That little line by an animated tortoise hit me like a ton of bricks. Today is a gift. There is absolutely nothing we can do with our past. And there is very little we can do to control our future. We live NOW. We serve NOW. We choose to move on from our past NOW. 

I don’t know what your past sins are. And I don’t know how frequently you are reminded of them. But as someone who has to face their past sins on pretty much a daily basis, I can tell you that you can be free from their burden. Being reminded of your past doesn’t mean that you have to live with constant grief. It simply means that you have been given the opportunity to transform your past into something positive…maybe you can help others make different choices than you did, maybe you can help others heal from the same struggles that you lived through. I don’t know what you are being called to do, but as the saying goes, “God can turn our mess into a message.” 

Carrying around past burdens doesn’t help us in any way. Know that you can be forgiven. Accept that forgiveness. Use your life to help others. The present is indeed a gift.

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