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Disunited nations

A statement of dissent at the UN, a victory in west Texas, and other pro-life news

Disunited nations

(Devra Berkowitz/UN)

Grassroots pro-life activists just sent a sweeping statement to the United Nations. It started with Marie Stopes International's floundering online petition to declare abortion a human right. Carlo Cassini, an Italian pro-life member of the European Parliament, thought pro-lifers could beat MSI's 600 signatures so he began asking pro-life groups to circulate their own petition. This one affirmed both the family as a fundamental unit and "the right to life of every human being, from conception to natural death."

The movement spread from Europe to America-to Concerned Women for America, United Families International, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). "We did it expecting 100,000 signatures tops and it just skyrocketed," said C-FAM's Susan Yoshihara. In two months, the petition collected almost half a million signatures from 168 countries and was translated into 13 languages.

Pro-life leaders presented the petition to ambassadors in a press conference on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10. The goal for next fall: Collect a million signatures and present it before the General Assembly. Said Yoshihara, "We are going to prove that there's no consensus whatsoever that there's an international right to abortion."

Panhandle flip

Pro-life activists in Texas declared victory after a 12-year battle to oust Planned Parenthood from the Texas panhandle. In 1997, Planned Parenthood operated 19 clinics there-but John Yanta, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, declared a goal of shutting down all 19. Four closed in 1999, a fifth in 2000, five more in 2001 and four more by 2003.

"People were out in front of the clinics praying," said Jim Sedlak of the American Life League. "Every time they had a fundraiser there were people there in front of the fundraiser protesting, alerting them to what Planned Parenthood was all about. Their customers started to drop. Their taxpayer money started to drop." At one 2004 vigil outside a neighborhood fundraiser, the rest of the neighborhood welcomed them and the vigil grew despite police calls.

Planned Parenthood of Amarillo's net assets reportedly fell from $3.1 million in 1998 to $280,000 in 2007. Finally, just before Christmas, the last chief executive announced that she was resigning and that the local Planned Parenthood was breaking ties with the national organization. A 12-year battle won.

Strong on life

Despite the talk of young evangelicals moving toward the center, surveys consistently find that their pro-life con-victions haven't wavered. A Religion and Ethics News-weekly pre-election survey found that 73 percent of young white evangelicals think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases-the same percentage as older white evangelicals.

Not wanting to deliver death

Where will the future abortionists come from? The Washington Post on Nov. 23 ran a long feature that began with Carole Meyers standing at a lectern at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and challenging young medical students: "How pro-choice are you? What does it mean for you? What's your limit? Will you do an abortion on a woman who is 12 weeks pregnant? Twenty-four weeks pregnant?"

The article continued: "Meyers, a 51-year-old obstetrician and genetics expert, has performed hundreds of abortions over the course of her career and, until earlier this year, served as the medical director of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. She loves her work-it's very rewarding, she said." Writer Patricia Meisel then told of bright Lesley, a member of Medical Students for Choice who said she wanted to do abortions: "I want my actions to be consistent with my words."

But as Lesley studied and observed more, she came to realize that she'd "have to steel herself emotionally to perform abortions," and she did not want to: "Vacuuming out a uterus and counting the parts of the fetus did not seem like a desirable way to spend her work days. . . . She had to follow her heart."

Thank you, God.

Alisa Harris

Alisa Harris