John Jalsevac

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U.S. March for Life founder Nellie Gray passes away

John Jalsevac

August 13, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - One of the leading lights of the pro-life movement in the United States has gone out. Nellie Gray, the charismatic octogenarian founder of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the largest annual pro-life event in the country, passed away over the weekend, and was discovered in her apartment earlier today.

Gray, who was once described by Cardinal Sean O’Malley as the “Joan of Arc” of the pro-life movement, was an ubiquitous figure at the pro-life march every year, her slight frame standing at the podium at stage centre, introducing the many luminaries who addressed the crowd of several hundred thousand during the rally before the march.

Gray founded the march in 1974, and guided its development into a massive annual movement that has inspired copycat events not only in cities across the U.S., but around the world, striking fear into the heart of pro-abortion activists in the process. In 2010, outgoing NARAL President Nancy Keenan recalled her dismay at stumbling on the March for Life after coming out of Union Station. “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young,” Keenan said. “There are so many of them, and they are so young.”

“Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life,” said Father Pavone, who credited his experience attending the march as a teenager with confirming his decision to become a priest and devote his life to the pro-life cause. “Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was ‘no exceptions.’ “

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Though Nellie had begun to show the effects of her nearly 90 years at recent marches, she never failed to show up and to lead the proceedings. In 2008, the then-84-year-old pro-life leader was taken to hospital after tripping and falling while on stage at the March. Gray sustained bruises and cuts and required stitches to her forehead, and was unable to attend the Rose Dinner at which she has always been the MC.

But in an interview with LifeSiteNews, Fr. Frank Pavone remembered that, to his astonishment, Gray was present the following morning at a meeting of pro-life leaders, with her head all bandaged up. “It was just symbolic of her entire life. Her commitment to this cause was unstoppable,” Pavone said. “Seeing her standing up in that meeting with that patch on her head just said it all.”

Jim Hughes, vice president of International Right to Life and president of Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition, who is a regular attendee at the U.S. March for Life and a longtime friend of Nellie’s, described her as “a dynamite personality.”

“She served as a great example to all of us of how to get the pro-life message out to people,” Hughes told LifeSiteNews.com. “She was a woman that was so determined that every little baby that died was on her watch, and she wanted to work as hard as she possibly could and with as much ingenuity to change the situation.”

“She has left a tremendous legacy and she will be greatly missed,” he said.

Bryan Kemper, founder of Stand True Ministry and director of Youth Outreach for Priests for Life, said: “My heart is broken by the loss of Nellie Gray, a true pro-life hero and role model. At the same time I celebrate that Nellie is with our Lord who she loved so dearly. I have had the honor of working with Nellie for years and every time I March in DC in January, I know she will be watching over us and praying for us. Nellie Gray, I will miss you dearly.

The 2013 March for Life will mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, and the 39th anniversary of the March.

“It was an anniversary that broke Nellie Gray’s heart every year, and every day,” Father Pavone noted. “In January we will march in her memory, in her honor, to save the unborn children to whom she dedicated her life.”

Pavone recalled that Nellie was in many respects an unwitting founder of an event that was destined to transform the pro-life movement by drawing hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic pro-life advocates to Capitol Hill every year.

“She never expected or planned to start a March for Life. She would often tell me with a humorous recollection, ‘You know father, they just wanted to have a meeting, and some of us came together, and we decided to use my house for the meeting, and we thought we would have one march and that would be it. And before you know it, I was in charge of this March. And it’s not something that I wanted or anticipated, but we came together, we did it, and before we know it we had to do it a second time and one thing led to another.”

In a profile of Gray published in 2010, Catholic News Service reported that Nellie served as a corporal in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

“She later earned a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s in economics,” reported CNS. “She was an employee of the federal government for 28 years, working for the State Department and the Department of Labor, while attending Georgetown University Law School. Gray found herself practicing law before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

After the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, Nellie said there was a “tugging at her heartstrings” to do something about the decision, which ultimately led her to retire from law and devote herself to the pro-life cause - which eventually led to her role in founding the March.

The first one was held in 1974, and was attended by an estimated 20,000 people.

“Following the march, we had about $400 left over and we were trying to decide where we should donate it,” Gray told CNS. “One Knight [of Columbus] said we need another march next year, so it went in the coffers.” 

“Today marks a bittersweet moment for the pro-life movement,” said Students for Life of America President, Kristan Hawkins, upon hearing of Nellie’s passing. “A great warrior for the preborn, Nellie Grey, has left this earth and entered her eternal reward. Pro-life students from across the nation will be forever grateful for the leadership that Nellie Grey has provided to our movement, for founding the March for Life, and setting an example of passion and perseverance that inspires us all to dedicate our lives to finishing what she started, abolishing abortion in our lifetime.”

Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of Silent No More, said, “We are so grateful that Nellie Gray shared our vision of Silent No More, and recognized that the women who have had abortions speak with unquestioned authority about the ways they have been harmed by this choice.”

Every year since its founding in 2003, Nellie invited the women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign to stand on the rally stage holding signs that said, “I Regret My Abortion,” and she arranged for a larger group of post-abortive men and women from Silent No More to be in the vanguard of the March.

“Every year more women and men come to march and to share their testimony,” said Morana. “Nellie Gray helped make that possible for us.”

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Planned Parenthood closes rural Iowa abortion facility because of low business

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DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.

Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”

The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.

“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.

As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.

“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.

American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.

“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”

That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.

Be loving and compassionate, he said.

Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”

Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.

Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.



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Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers

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MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.

Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.

DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.

DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.

She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.

“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”

Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.

“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.

After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.

“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”

Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.

"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.

DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.

Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.

Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.

When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:

Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”

DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary. 



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This year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an honor on Vice President Joe Biden, the silence from the Catholic hierarchy is deafening. Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com
Phil Lawler

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The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage

Phil Lawler

Ask Notre Dame not to honor pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden. Sign the petition!

May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.

Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.

These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:

The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.

This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.

Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.

Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.

“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:

In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.

By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”

That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”

Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.

And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture.



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