Pro-life movement marches forward into a new decade

by Matthew Smith

North Texas Catholic

January 29, 2020

Isabella Padula and Genevieve Manning (left) cheer during the 2020 Texas Rally for Life Jan. 25 at the Texas Capitol. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)Isabella Padula and Genevieve Manning (left) cheer during the 2020 Texas Rally for Life Jan. 25 at the Texas Capitol. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
Isabella Padula and Genevieve Manning (left) cheer during the 2020 Texas Rally for Life Jan. 25 at the Texas Capitol. (NTC/Juan Guajardo) Photo Gallery


AUSTIN — Several of the more than 6,000 pro-lifers crowding Austin’s capitol lawn during the Jan. 25 Texas Rally For Life described the scene as heartening on one hand, albeit a reminder of work to be done on the other.

One speaker from the main stage concluded that the enormity of the crowd indicates a tide shift toward pro-life attitudes.

That’s encouraging, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Respect Life Committee Co-Chair Michael Demma said, but now is no time to rest on laurels.

“I’ve spoken in places where they say we’re winning,” Demma said. “No. We’re not winning until no babies are dying. We’re making progress, but we have too many big battles to win. We can’t let our guard down.”

That battle entails several fronts, most notably legislatively and culturally, several said.

“There has to be a conversion to where it’s not just illegal to have an abortion but also unthinkable,” said Pam Gordon, a parishioner of St Joseph Church in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

Trending Younger

Fellow St. Joseph parishioner Leonard Brammbier said he foresees the day when Texas prohibits abortions but also sees long legal and cultural battles ahead. “So the battle needs to continue,” he said.

He and others at the march predicted that the younger generation will win those battles.

“It’s the kids who are going to change the culture,” fellow St. Joseph parishioner Jeff Gordon said. “The culture’s going to be changed by this generation growing up and saying, ‘What were we thinking?’”

Gordon added that, in the 1970s and ‘80s, in the wake of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, he never thought the pro-life movement would make the progress it has.

Dozens of youth from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller hold up signs as they wait outside the Texas Capitol prior to the 2020 Texas March and Rally for Life. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)Dozens of youth from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller hold up signs as they wait outside the Texas Capitol prior to the 2020 Texas March and Rally for Life. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
Dozens of youth from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller hold up signs as they wait outside the Texas Capitol prior to the 2020 Texas March and Rally for Life. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)


“But we’ve seen tremendous progress, especially legislatively in the past few years,” Gordon said. “We’ve been to many marches over the years and it’s wonderful to see more and more young kids now. When it first started, they were a bit of an anomaly. Now they’re like the main course.”

Siblings Claire Cox, 23, and her brother Will Cox, 17, both St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners, were among those who marched before gathering on the capitol lawn.

“We know all lives are important and special, and we want to take a stand as pro-life people,” Claire Cox said. “And as a youth generation to support women who need help and support babies who can’t speak for themselves. So, we wanted to come here and be that voice.”

A stance supportive of Catholic teaching and pro-life attitudes admittedly often runs counter to the messages of the culture at large, Will Cox said.

“Sometimes we get heat for it and argued with, not only with other students but also teachers, so it’s hard in that environment,” Will Cox said. “But at the same time, you have supporters in that environment too and in the church community. At events like this, you learn more about the issues so you can have better discussions and argue your point better. And I believe it’s our responsibility to be the voice for those viewpoints.”

Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said many younger people appear to lean pro-life.

“We’re not sure exactly why because so many [mainstream] currents are still running against us,” Pojman said. “But I think science has caught up with the issue. Sonograms and current technology, for instance. You clearly see that child is a baby. Also, I think a lot of our younger people have grown up in families affected by abortion, maybe they lost a sibling, and it offends them deeply. They see what abortion means.”

Texans For Life Coalition President Kyleen Wright agreed.

“We’ve always battled popular culture and mainstream media,” Wright said. “That hasn’t changed. But advances in technology and social media have leveled the playing field somewhat. You can’t erase sonograms from culture.

“Which is to say young people are not buying [pro-choice] arguments as much anymore because most of them have a sonogram picture in their baby books now. It’s harder to say, ‘That’s nothing real, just a clump of cells,’ when they have one of themselves looking just like it.”

Wright and other pro-life leaders pointed to the growth of pregnancy centers and other alternatives to abortion as positive steps.

“Clearly there’s more pro-life support today than in the ‘80s,” Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops Executive Director Jennifer Carr Allmon said. “Catholics have always gotten it because of our moral teachings, but more and more have come on board in the last 10 years or so.”

Progress Made, Progress Needed

Allmon and Pojman, however, both warned that the “extreme” pro-choice bills passed in many parts of the country of late represent a reaction to the reality of an increase in pro-life support.

On the legislative side, more votes are needed for candidates who support pro-life and other dignity of life causes, Pojman said.

Fort Worth seminarian Joseph Moreno prays the Rosary as he marches in the 2020 Texas Rally for Life along with several other seminarians from Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)Fort Worth seminarian Joseph Moreno prays the Rosary as he marches in the 2020 Texas Rally for Life along with several other seminarians from Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
Fort Worth seminarian Joseph Moreno prays the Rosary as he marches in the 2020 Texas Rally for Life along with several other seminarians from Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)


Diocese of Fort Worth Respect Life Director Terri Schauf agreed.

“Our goal is to protect the most vulnerable among us from conception to natural death and focus on promoting a culture of life,” Schauf said. “Progress made is good. There’s more awareness and great strides have been made. But even if Roe is overturned, we still have women in need and work to do.”

For Texas to outlaw abortion at this time would not be viable, several said, because such a move would fail as Roe remains the law of the land for now. The state would be hit with hefty legal fees and such legislation stands zero chance of surviving a federal court challenge. A similar scenario played out when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of 2013’s House Bill 2, which required Texas abortion clinics to comply with health standards of ambulatory surgical centers and required their doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Still, progress has been made, Pojman said, the Texas Legislature having passed more than 50 pro-life bills since the ‘90s. For example, one part of H.B. 2 that was not challenged was its prohibition on abortions in Texas after 20 weeks. Also reducing the number of Texas abortions are strong sonogram and parental consent laws.

The recent 86th Legislative Session saw passage of a bill providing legal protection for infants born alive after failed abortions and another blocking taxpayer money from funding abortion facilities and affiliates.

Much remains to be done, including the so-called “Trigger Bill,” which failed to pass. The bill would reestablish existing Texas law dating from before Roe v. Wade prohibiting abortion when and if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe.

It’s crucial that the Catholic Church continues to lead the charge for life, Demma said.

“Courageous bishops like our Bishop Michael Olson are supporting pro-life activities,” Demma said. “Our parish’s pro-life committee used to be three people. Now 18 come on a regular basis to monthly meetings, and we have 75 on our ministry roll.

“Are we charged up and elated that we’re getting good legislation? Yes. But even though we’ve won a lot of small battles, we cannot stop. The big war is no babies dying from abortion.”

AUSTIN — Several of the more than 6,000 pro-lifers crowding Austin’s capitol lawn during the Jan. 25 Texas Rally For Life described the scene as heartening on one hand, albeit a reminder of work to be done on the other.

Published (until 12/5/2039)
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