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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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