WASHINGTON (OSV News) – U.S. pro-life efforts “must remain strong to end legalized abortion” in this nation, but all Catholics have a personal responsibility to accompany women facing difficult or challenging pregnancies, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, invited Catholics into “radical solidarity” with pregnant women in a Sept. 18 statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of Respect Life Month in October. The U.S. bishops set aside the month “as a time to focus on protecting God’s precious gift of human life,” he said.

“While ending legalized abortion remains our preeminent priority, the most immediate way to save babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with lifegiving support and personal accompaniment. This is radical solidarity,” Bishop Burbidge said.

St. John Paul II first defined “radical solidarity” in this way, the bishop said, quoting from the pope’s book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (1994): “In firmly rejecting ‘pro-choice’ it is necessary to become courageously ‘pro woman,’ promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women. … The only honest stance, in these cases, is that of radical solidarity with the woman. It is not right to leave her alone.”

“Being in radical solidarity with women who are pregnant or raising children in difficult circumstances means putting our love for them into action and putting their needs before our own,” Bishop Burbidge said. “Pope Francis reminds us that solidarity ‘refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset,’ a transformation within our own hearts.”

Bishop Burbidge said there is much to celebrate about the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. In June 2022, the high court overturned its prior rulings that made abortion access a constitutional right — its 1973 Roe decision and its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed Roe. The court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision returned the issue of abortion regulation to the states.

Twenty-two states have moved to ban or restrict abortion, although not all of those efforts are currently in effect amid court challenges.

“While we thank God that the terrible reign of Roe has ended, we also recognize that abortion still continues in most states and is aggressively promoted at the federal level,” Bishop Burbidge said. “A great many prayers, sacrifices, and good works are still desperately needed to transform a culture of death into a culture of life. Our public witness, our marching, and our advocacy must continue, yet laws alone will not end the tragedy of abortion.”

But “the new mindset” of which Pope Francis speaks “requires that we come alongside vulnerable mothers in profound friendship, compassion, and support for both them and their preborn children,” Bishop Burbidge said.

This also “means addressing the fundamental challenges that lead an expectant mother to believe she is unable to welcome the child God has entrusted to her,” he continued. “This includes collective efforts within our dioceses, parishes, schools and local communities, engagement in the public square, and pursuit of policies that help support both women and their preborn babies.

“It all the more so requires our individual, personal commitment to helping mothers in our own communities secure material, emotional, and spiritual support for embracing the gift of life,” he said. “Radical solidarity means moving beyond the status quo and out of our comfort zones.”

An example of the church’s outreach to pregnant and parenting mothers is the U.S. bishops’ parish-based and nationwide initiative Walking with Moms in Need. “(It) provides easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions to help transform our parishes into places of welcome, support, and assistance for pregnant and parenting mothers facing difficulties,” he explained, urging Catholics to get involved in the initiative.

In his statement, Bishop Burbidge included a number of questions he said Catholics must ask themselves: “Do I know what efforts are happening in my area to help women who are pregnant or parenting in difficult circumstances? What are the needs? What are my gifts and talents? How can I adjust my schedule or budget to assist efforts to help moms in need and their children?”

“Radical solidarity can be lived out in countless ways,” he said, “including volunteering at your local pregnancy center; helping an expectant mother find stable housing; babysitting so a mom can work or take classes; providing encouragement and a listening ear to a mom without a support system; or speaking to your pastor about beginning Walking with Moms in Need at your parish.”

Along with “enshrining pro-life laws and policies” is the need to transform the culture, which “requires continual conversion of our own hearts, so that we can recognize in every person the face of Christ and place their needs before our own,” Bishop Burbidge said.

He concluded his statement by reiterating his invitation to all Catholics “to think about building a culture of life in terms of radical solidarity” during Respect Life Month this October.

“We are the Church. Our prayers, witness, sacrifices, advocacy, and good works are needed now, more than ever,” he said. “We are the hands and feet of Christ in the world today and we each have a personal responsibility to care for one another.”

AVOCA – Faithful from parishes around the Diocese of Scranton came together Sept. 7 to share the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe and pray in an intentional way for the unborn.

Queen of the Apostles Parish in Avoca hosted a Silver Rose program put together by the Knights of Columbus to promote a greater understanding for the dignity of all human life.

A single, silver rose sits next to the altar at Queen of the Apostles Parish in Avoca on Sept. 7, 2023. The parish hosted a Silver Rose program put together by the Knights of Columbus to share the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe and promote a greater understanding for the dignity of all human life. (Courtesy: CTV)

The daylong celebration began with the celebration of Mass at 8 a.m., followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament all afternoon. The day concluded with a special Holy Hour at 7 p.m.

“The Knights of Columbus, who are very dedicated to life, are united around this and continue to find their unity as they honor the Mother of God,” Rev. Phil Sladicka, pastor, Queen of the Apostles Parish, said. “We want to defend the child in the womb. We want to respect that life.”

The Silver Rose program demonstrates the unity between Knights of Columbus in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Each year, from early March through mid-December, six silver roses are stewarded by Knights of Columbus councils along routes from Canada to Mexico. Every stop that each silver rose makes is an opportunity for a rosary-centered occasion for people to pray for respecting life.

“I believe in the power of prayer,” Arthur Philipp, Jr., of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Throop, said. “The world is attacking life right now from all over and I believe a lot of people forget about the spiritual aspects of the world around us. I think it’s important that we gather together and pray for Our Blessed Mother and for all those who are suffering and those who have gone through and had abortions.”

Phil Rodney, a member of Knights of Columbus Cardinal John J. O’Connor Council 12967, said every Knights Council meeting opens with the Rosary in defense against abortion.

“It is a true honor to have the Silver Rose here today,” Rodney said. “Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint for life. Life is sacred no matter whether it’s in the womb or on someone’s deathbed.”

Many who attended the Holy Hour called the experience “moving.”

“I truly believe, with the Grace of God, that events like this are held to evangelize to the world the sanctity of life through Our Lady, through Our Lord and Saint Joseph,” Thomas Gilchrist of Avoca said.

“The sanctity of life is very precious and by the Grace of God, and by the Grace of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Blessed Mother, maybe people will understand that,” Barb Gregorio of Scranton added. “It was a beautiful service.”

“Coming together with other people really strengthens me,” Chris Shuleski of Duryea said. “It gives me a lot of joy to be with my brothers and sisters and the Lord.”

Even though the Silver Rose was only in Avoca for one day, it helped many vocalize their respect for life for the unborn.

“It’s not enough to keep our beliefs to ourselves. We have to show and tell other people what they are and in so doing, we become strengthened in our faith and our beliefs,” Nancy Adomiak of Avoca said.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Sheila and David Porter left their home in Newport News, Virginia, at 5 a.m. to celebrate the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Washington June 24.

Together, the couple attended the 2023 National Celebrate Life Day rally held by national pro-life groups on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The event commemorated the court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, and freed states to decide abortion policy.

With the Washington Monument in the background, a crowd gathers at the Lincoln Monument in Washington June 24, 2023, for the National Celebrate Life Day rally to commemorate the first anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

“I hope next year, this time, that we have much more to celebrate,” 64-year-old David told OSV News. “In order to do that, I and the rest of the people that are pro-life have much work to do.”

Sheila, 63, agreed: “We can’t stop fighting.”

The Porters brought with them shirts, available for a donation, that cited the Bible verse Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you, I knew you.” In between the text, an image of an unborn baby appeared, resting in the palm of a hand.

The event invited pro-life Americans to celebrate the anniversary, honor past pro-life heroes and unite to protect the unborn from abortion as persons under the 14th Amendment, which says, in part, that no state “shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

“I think it’s very important now that we’re living in this post-Roe era, this new dawn for our nation, that our generation, the pro-life generation, understands we haven’t reached high noon yet,” Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, or SFLA, which organized the rally, told OSV News.

“In order to achieve that moment, every human being must be recognized as they are: A unique, unrepeatable human person,” she added. “And the 14th Amendment does acknowledge that, and that is our path to success.”

Ahead of the event, crowds slowly gathered in front of the memorial as the threat of thunderstorms loomed. Curious tourists passed through, asking questions. Printed signs handed out by SFLA read, “Equal rights for all, born and preborn.” Others held handmade signs.

The crowd in the hundreds appeared significantly smaller than the March for Life rally, which challenged Roe each year in Washington. But, like the March for Life, the crowd was youthful. Nearly 2,000 joined to watch the event online, via livestream.

A dozen or so protesters crashed the start of the event, but soon disappeared. By the end, the hot afternoon sun replaced the cloudy morning.

In addition to SFLA and SFLA Action, the event was hosted by Pro-Life Partners Foundation, Live Action and 40 Days for Life. Sidewalk Advocates for Life and Patriot Mobile served as co-hosts. Heartbeat International and The Vulnerable People Project participated as partners.

The slew of speakers included Hawkins, former Vice President Mike Pence, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, Live Action President Lila Rose, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser, activist and author Alveda King, and Catholic University of America professor Chad Pecknold.

People traveled from near and far to celebrate Dobbs and share their stories.

Kaylee Stockton, 20, traveled with her baby boy, Colton, from Phoenix. She carried a sign reading: “This Teen Mom didn’t build her SUCCESS off of MURDERING her CHILD.”

She was 18, she said, when she became pregnant.

“My biggest challenge being a teen mom was everyone telling me to get an abortion,” she told OSV News, before describing her life as a young mom. “It’s scary, and I think every mom feels that when she first finds out she’s pregnant, but it’s so rewarding.”

Kayla Garcia, 22, traveled to the event from Los Angeles. She used to defend abortion clinics. That changed when, at 18, she visited a Planned Parenthood while pregnant and in a physically abusive relationship.

“The only thing that they offered me was abortion, and so I took it because I really thought that was my only option,” she remembered, noting that Planned Parenthood failed to report the bruises on her arm.

Today, she leads a pro-life group with SFLA at her college, Citrus College, in Glendora, California. For women contemplating abortion, she encouraged them to visit StandingWithYou.org, run by SFLA.

Nearby, 23-year-old Redi Degefa from the Washington area, held a sign reading “PRAY THE ROSARY TO END ABORTION.” She wanted to show people her age, especially young girls, that young people exist who believe that abortion is evil and that life starts at conception, she said.

The event followed a letter published June 15 by National Review in which pro-life leaders and scholars across the political aisle argued that “our North Star in the pro-life movement remains the same as ever: the end of abortion through ensuring the equal protection of the laws.”

The speakers June 24 appeared to come from more right-leaning groups, but more progressive groups, such as Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAUU) attended. Founder Terrisa Bukovinac said she arrived after PAUU held an event at the Supreme Court.

“I just want to join with my pro-life community in celebration of the overturning of the deadliest Supreme Court case in history,” Bukovinac, one of the signers of the letter, said. “We support equal application of the law for every single human being. And the unborn are human beings. They are persons.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 11 passed two pro-life measures, however neither has a clear path through the U.S. Senate to become law.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act passed first in a 220-210 vote, with one member, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, voting present, and with Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, joining Republicans to support the bill. According to proponents, the bill would require any infant that survives an abortion procedure to receive appropriate medical care for their gestational age.

Pro-life advocates gather near the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 18, 2019. The U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 11, 2023, passed two pro-life measures on abortion, although neither have a clear path to passage by the U.S. Senate. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A second measure, a resolution condemning violence against “pro-life facilities, groups and even churches,” also passed in a 222-209 vote. This resolution condemned the violence that erupted following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned prior precedents that found a constitutional right to abortion.

Three Democrats, Rep. Gonzalez, as well as Reps. Chrissy Houlaha of Pennsylvania and Marie Perez of Washington state, joined the resolution.

Neither measure is likely to be considered by the Senate, which remains under Democratic control.

The measures come in the first week of legislative business for the new Republican majority in the House after spending their first week in power electing a House speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The votes took place as some Republican leaders, including former President Donald Trump, have blamed the issue of abortion as being responsible for the GOP’s lackluster performance in November’s midterm elections.

However, the House saw Republicans publicly restate their commitment to advancing pro-life policies.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., the House Republican Conference vice chairman who introduced the resolution condemning the violence against pro-life facilities, said in a statement Congress needed to “make the position of Congress crystal clear: violence, property damage, threats and intimidation tactics must be condemned, and these clear violations of federal and state laws must be prosecuted.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in remarks on the House floor that “pregnancy care centers across the country have suffered a surge of violent attacks, firebombing and vandalism by pro-abortion activists in a coordinated effort to intimidate frontline volunteers and licensed medical professionals providing critical support to mothers in need and their unborn baby boys and girls.”

“Now more than ever, we – and that includes the Biden administration – need to ensure the safety and security of the estimated 3,000 pregnancy care centers that provide life-affirming alternatives to abortion — offering critical, quality care for pregnant women facing challenging circumstances and helping to save so many unborn, innocent lives,” Smith said.

Some lawmakers supportive of legal abortion, including Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., however, argued Republicans should condemn violence against abortion clinics.

“Republicans have put forth a measure that condemns attacks on anti-choice facilities but says nothing about the growing violence against women’s health clinics,” DeGette wrote on Twitter. “By ignoring these attacks, Republicans are sending a dangerous message that will embolden the extremists behind them.”

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., who sponsored the reintroduction of the Born-Alive bill, said in a statement the legislation would “provide commonsense protections for innocent children and their mothers and will ensure all babies receive the essential care they need at an incredibly vulnerable moment.”

“All children should have the right to receive life-saving care, especially those who survive an abortion,” she said.

However, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the House Progressive Caucus, stated the bill is redundant.

“This bill is absurd for so many reasons, number one, it is obviously ALREADY illegal to kill a baby,” she posted to Twitter, adding: “The only new action this bill takes is to threaten jail time for health care workers.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, praised the House for passing the Born-Alive bill.

“We commend the House of Representatives for passing legislation to protect innocent children from infanticide, and urge the Senate to follow suit,” Bishop Burbidge said in a statement. “Babies who are born alive during the process of an abortion deserve compassionate care and medical attention — just the same as any other newborn baby.”

Infants who survive botched abortions are rare, but Melissa Ohden, founder and CEO of the Abortion Survivors Network, said in a statement that tens of thousands of abortion survivors like her do exist.

“We applaud Congresswoman Wagner’s leadership in ensuring infants like me, and countless others, are guaranteed medical care and legal protections when abortions fail and life wins,” she said.

Other leading pro-life organizations praised the House for passing these measures.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said in a statement her organization “is grateful to House Republicans for prioritizing commonsense and compassionate pro-life bills in the new Congress.”

“We urge all legislators to vote in favor of these measures which align with the values of the vast majority of Americans,” she said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in a statement, that the GOP leadership recognized the federal government’s “crucial role in protecting our most vulnerable children and their mothers in the Dobbs era,” and both initiatives “affirm the sanctity of life.”

“Our government’s most sacred duty is to safeguard the lives of all Americans,” she said.