Pro-life setbacks call for prayer, vigilance

Missouri Catholic Conference, other groups pledge renewed efforts in light of developments likely to benefit abortion providers


Three recent developments that could lead to a resurgence in the number of abortions in Missouri highlight the danger of relying on lawmakers and judges alone to make everything right.

“It’s a spiritual battle that requires us to work to change hearts and minds. That’s the way it’s always been,” said Deacon Tyler McClay, executive director and general counsel for the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), public-policy agency for the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses.

“There are no shortcuts,” he said. “We need to keep focusing on walking with moms in need and accompanying them and finding ways to encourage families to stay together so there are two parents to help raise these kids.”

In separate but nearly concurrent developments:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that required abortionists to be doctors with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortions take place.

This could affect a similar Missouri law, which is intended to ensure that women can receive timely, proper medical care if she is injured during an abortion.

  • The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a provision in a state appropriations bill that would have kept Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid payments for family planning and other non-abortion services.

The federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the funding of abortion through Medicaid, remains unchanged with this ruling.

  • In May, Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) overruled the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) decision to not renew Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions at its St. Louis clinic.

At issue were failed abortions discovered by DHSS investigators, and non-cooperation by some of the providers involved in the abortions.

Because of the decision, the department on June 25 renewed Missouri’s only operating abortion clinic’s license through 2021.

The MCC noted that very few abortions are being performed at the clinic, with most Missouri women seeking abortions in neighboring Illinois and Kansas.

“For the long haul”

Deacon McClay observed that Missouri now faces the prospect of more abortion clinics opening within its borders.

“The combination of court rulings makes that more likely,” he stated.

The Catholic Church has long upheld the objective universal truth that all human beings have a right to life from the first moment of their existence.

As the MCC has done in the past, it will continue looking for ways to protect the health and wellbeing of mothers and help them avoid going to abortion clinics in the first place.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Deacon McClay noted. “You’re going to have victories you’re going to have losses. We don’t stop witnessing to Christ because we lost one battle.”

He pointed out that in the Louisiana decision (June Medical Services v. Russo), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can impose regulations, so long as they don’t present an “undue burden” to women seeking an abortion.

He noted that the court’s latest ruling does not change the standard for what constitutes an undue burden.

The MCC works to ensure state support for Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) programs that offer real choices to pregnant mothers.

“It’s part of our work to recognize and promote the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death,” said Deacon McClay.

That’s why the MCC supports social programs for mothers and families in need, as well as wider access to Medicaid, which would allow them to receive medical care while working to support their families.

“Grace abounds”

Good laws and public policies are always helpful, but creating an abortion-free society will also require fervent prayer, sacrifice, one-on-one advocacy, direct assistance to abortion-minded mothers, targeted communication of lifesaving information, and a united commitment to cherish and welcome society’s most vulnerable members.

Participants in the Columbia 40 Days for Life campaign have witnessed many victories and disappointments since they began praying on the sidewalk outside the Columbia Planned Parenthood abortion clinic 11 years ago.

“One thing that we all have seen is that God is always with us and that grace abounds more when evil is present,” said Kathy Forck, co-coordinator of Columbia 40 Days for Life.

Many pregnant mothers seeking abortions have chosen life for their babies, and the clinic has lost abortionists and shut down 10 times over the course of that sidewalk presence.

Mrs. Forck renewed the call for deep, daily and specific prayer and fasting, along with a willingness to spread the message of life.

“Don’t be ashamed to let others know your beliefs,” she said.

Columbia 40 Days for Life has been chosen as a test site for prayer vigils to be held every day in front of Columbia Planned Parenthood.

Additional volunteers are needed.

“One hour a month or week from many will reap a tremendous harvest,” she said. “You have no idea the power that is shown when people pray outside abortion or abortion-referral facilities.”

Call Mrs. Forck (573) 821-5130 for information about volunteering.

“We can hardly wait to see what God will do, and we know that it will be so magnificent that only He could do it,” she said.

“We are fighting”

Father Anthony Viviano, newly appointed diocesan moderator for pro-life ministries, noted that setbacks are part and parcel to progress.

“We as people of faith and prayer must double down on our supplications to heaven,” he said.

He pointed to the Blessed Mother as a powerful source of inspiration, guidance and protection.

“It is within the battle that hearts and minds are won over to the Truth of Christ,” he said. “It is on the battlefield where saints are made.

Life-affirming organizations such as the St. Raymond’s Society have an important role to play.

St. Raymond’s is a faith-based nonprofit agency focused on giving at-risk, pregnant mothers what they need.

“Though the current situation seems to be placing an array of obstacles in our path, we remain committed, now more than ever, to supporting life-affirming decisions for the abortion-minded client,” stated Mike Hentges, the St. Raymond’s Society’s co-founder and development director.

Ray of Hope Pregnancy Care Ministries (PCM) of Macon and Shelby Counties offers free pregnancy tests, education and mentorship for those facing an unplanned or unexpected pregnancy.

Amanda Durbin, president of the Ray of Hope board of directors, said recent developments present a call to prayer and vigilance.

She believes it’s too easy to become complacent and rely on lawmakers and judges to steer society in the right direction.

“Converting hearts and minds to the belief that all human life is sacred is about so much more than laws and politics,” she stated.

She said Christians must always press forward on this front, with or without the government’s blessing.

“We were never promised that it was going to be easy or quick or exciting or that we would ever get to a place of rest with this,” she noted.

She lauded the 40 Days for Life participants and all the other unsung heroes in parishes who continue to do important pro-life work.

“We are not defeated,” she said. “We are fighting, for one life at a time, one conversion at a time and one God all the time.”

Not about luck

Deacon Samuel Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, cautioned against putting too much faith in judges or those who appoint them.

“Time after time, the judicial branch of government has failed to protect the most vulnerable of God’s children — the unborn — as well as having ignored vulnerable women who are exploited by the abortion industry,” he said.

He pointed out that social change doesn’t come about merely because a person or group of people are elected at the right time.

“A pro-life ethic in society is not dependent on timing and luck, but rather on the persistent effort of prayer, education, providing alternatives to abortion, legislation and political involvement,” he stated.

He said pro-life legislation must be much broader than enacting policies that only make abortions harder to get.

“Otherwise, we miss out on a whole range of legislation that has the purpose and effect of making it easier for pregnant moms to carry to term,” he said.

He cited as examples:

  • laws and appropriations to provide alternatives to abortion services;
  • tax credits for people who donate to pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes; and
  • increasing health insurance coverage for lower-income moms during pregnancy and for the first year after they give birth.

“Missouri has been in the forefront of providing these things,” Deacon Lee noted. “And our low abortion rates, compared to other states, are proof that the Missouri strategy of passing legislation to make it easier for moms at risk for abortion to carry to term, is working.”

Deacon McClay said the MCC will continue to advocate for reasonable abortion regulations and for alternatives to abortion programs.

The MCC will keep encouraging Catholics and all people of good will to accompany women facing an unplanned pregnancy.

“God is always sovereign,” Deacon McClay insisted. “He always has matters in hand.”