Peter Baklinski

Be Not Afraid: hope for parents whose babies will likely die

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, February 1, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – What do you do after finding out that your unborn baby has a defect that is ‘incompatible with life’? Many parents are presented with a dreadful choice: either get an abortion, or carry to term a diseased fetus, who will face untold medical complications and who will likely die anyway.

With the dilemma put like this, as many as 80-90% of parents with an unborn baby with a serious medical condition opt for abortion. However, a growing number are uncomfortable with this option. The question is, where do such parents turn for support to help bring their baby into the world?

Enter the Be Not Afraid Ministry (BNAM), a specialized pro-life ministry that stands side-by-side with such parents, providing a network of support to help them choose life…however short that life may be.

Monica Rafie, the co-foundress of Be Not Afraid, says that those in her ministry believe that there is essentially no difference between an unborn baby who has a poor diagnosis or a healthy one, since both share “the same dignity before God.”

She says she tells parents who have just received bad news about their child “to slow down and take a deep breath.” The most difficult part of the journey is simply receiving the diagnosis, she says. “As absurd as it may seem, the worst is already behind you.”

“Your baby hasn’t changed, you just have more information - it is the same baby you loved yesterday,” she tells parents. “The challenge now is to parent him or her to the best of your ability recognizing (if your baby’s diagnosis is fatal) that this precious time of pregnancy may be the only time you have with your baby.”

‘Precious moments’ with an angel

No one knows this challenge better than James and Elizabeth (names changed). After an ultrasound they were devastated to hear their doctor say that there were “bone fragments missing from the baby’s head.”

A specialist confirmed that the baby had anencephaly, a non-viable condition, presenting what Elizabeth remembers as an “ugly scientific picture” of what their baby would look like when born. With the baby having no chance of survival, the doctor gave the parents the option to abort, or to attempt to carry the baby to term.

While James and Elizabeth knew that their baby was not going to live after birth and that there was no cure for anencephaly, they decided to carry the baby with hearts “full of faith in the plan God had in store for us.” After deciding to treat their baby as a normal pregnancy, the parents remember feeling “so much better.” Another ultrasound revealed that they were going to have a boy.

While they were saddened that their son had anencephaly, they remember being simply happy that he was alive.

At the birth, “my husband cut the umbilical cord and the nurse wiped him off and put a warm little cap on him before I held him. I did not cry, I just held him, kissed and hugged him, and told him how much we loved our little angel,” said Elizabeth in her story, carried on BNAM’s website.

John Raphael lived 7 minutes. He weighed 7 lbs, 8 oz. and was 21 inches long.

A few years have now gone by. But James and Elizabeth say that they “don’t ever regret” their decision to carry their son to term. “It may sound strange but we actually feel ‘blessed’ to have brought our son to this world only to give him back to the Lord.”

To birth and beyond

The many testimonials collected by the Be Not Afraid team share this common theme: that opting for life allows the parents to respect and honor the life of their child, to continue to love and to hold him or her for as long as possible, and to say a natural and genuine ‘farewell.’

Be Not Afraid Ministry exists to help foster this kind of loving and accepting relationship between parents and their sickly baby by providing parents with a network of support.

“We cannot ‘fix’ the medical problems that are present with many prenatal diagnoses,” Rafie says she tells parents. “We wish we could, but we can make certain that you are not alone, that you are well supported in the experience of carrying your baby to term after a prenatal diagnosis.”

The Be Not Afraid team runs a website filled with resources, provides local service and support, and spreads education and awareness through media and at conferences.

But Monica believes that supportive relationships and person-to-person care are the “most important components” of the Be Not Afraid outreach. These are offered with the help of Tracy Winsor and Sandy Buck from Charlotte, North Carolina, and in collaboration with clergy, medical providers, and other community resources.

“What parents need most are on-going relationships with people in their own community who can provide practical guidance surrounding the specific issues they are facing with sensitive, compassionate care,” says Rafie.

Be Not Afraid Ministry is what Monica calls a “ministry of presence.”

Among other things, Be Not Afraid provides parents with phone communication support, meets with them in their home to draft birth plans around a kitchen table, travels with them to doctor visits, helps a family member or relative process their real and imagined fears, organizes meals for overwhelmed families, attends births, organizes prayer showers, advocates on the parents’ behalf for fully informed decision-making, and advocates for basic humane care for babies not expected to survive after birth.

While Be Not Afraid Ministry cannot be everywhere at once to minister to parents who have received a dire prenatal diagnosis, they have successfully partnered and collaborated with already existing support organizations such as Isaiah’s Promise to be present to parents who need support.

“Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without BNAM support,” said one woman who was pregnant with mono-amniotic twins who were connected to a single placenta and developing in the same amniotic sac. The mother was crushed when one of the twins succumbed after prenatal surgery.

“BNAM connected me to other moms who had lost a twin, even another mom whose pregnancy continued like mine beyond the loss of the first baby,” said the mother. “There were weekly visits and encouraging phone calls, assistance in preparing for the birth. … There were pints of ice cream and special remembrances of Layla, hugs and tears, and often laughter from my hospital room that compelled nurses on staff to see what was going on.”

Be Not Afraid Ministry has learned in their few years of existence that affirming the dignity of the unborn child and encouraging the parents to welcome the life entrusted to them is an approach that resonates with the desires of most parents.

“There is no diagnosis that will change our perspective of the value and dignity of any particular baby,” said Monica.

“We must always respond with the sense that no diagnosis is as important as the child’s dignity.”

Contact Be Not Afraid Ministry
Website: benotafraid.net
E-mail: [email protected]

Read inspirational stories from parents.

BNAM local services are currently available in Charlotte, NC, in the dioceses of Charleston, SC, and Richmond, VA. Services are being developed in Austin, TX, Providence, RI, and St. Petersburg, FL.

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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