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Pro-life cause: Winning but not yet won

March for Life head reports progress during Respect Life brunch

Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life group, sits with bioethicist Father Alfred Cioffi at a brunch cosponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life group, sits with bioethicist Father Alfred Cioffi at a brunch cosponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

MIAMI | In the fight against abortion, pro-life forces now have the advantage, a national leader says, but victory is not yet in sight.

“Life is winning – life is winning,” Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life told a local brunch of archdiocesan pro-life activists Oct. 14, who clapped each time she said it.

The annual March for Life is drawing non-Catholics and even the nonreligious, says Jeanne Mancini, president of the group, at a brunch cosponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

The annual March for Life is drawing non-Catholics and even the nonreligious, says Jeanne Mancini, president of the group, at a brunch cosponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Then they listened quietly to her caveat: “Do we have a long way to go? Yes, we absolutely do.”

The audience of 70, meeting in the parish hall at St. Raymond Church, were ready for both sides of the news. Some were leaders in archdiocesan posts and lay organizations. And many were younger than 45, born since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.

The brunch, which began with an invocation by Archbishop Thomas Wenski, was jointly sponsored by two organizations.

The Respect Life Office of the archdiocese was using the occasion to introduce its next director, Juan Guerra. The other sponsor, the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta, had given its Tuitio Fidei award to Mancini the previous day at its annual White Cross Ball.

“We have to bring back the core values of family and society,” said Juan Calvo, president of the Malta association, in explaining its support for the pro-life cause.

Mancini said the Washington, D.C.-based March for Life organization was born in 1974, the year after the Supreme Court declared abortion to be constitutional. The decision paved the way for more than 60 million abortions thus far, she added.


RAIN, SLEET OR SNOW

That case, known as Roe vs. Wade, spawned a judicial culture “outside the parameters of what the court is called to do: interpret the Constitution,” Mancini said.

Elsa Barredo cuddles her son Francisco during a brunch cosponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Elsa Barredo cuddles her son Francisco during a brunch cosponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

In reaction, March for Life has mustered protest marches in the nation’s capital each January, despite the weather — “rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine,” said Mancini, president of the organization for six years thus far.

The march typically brings 100,000 each year, she said, calling it “the most significant social justice movement” and the “largest annual demonstration of human rights in the world.”

She celebrated other advances of March for Life, such as:

  •  Alliances with groups of various religions and no religion. Mancini said the movement has found allies among Jews, evangelicals, even atheists.
  • High-profile speakers at March for Life rallies, including Vice President Mike Pence last year. Other speakers have included the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, author of the 1979 book “Aborting America”; and the late Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of the Roe vs. Wade case.
  • A growing footprint on social media, with methods like the hashtag #whywemarch. 
  • Younger faces at the annual marches. “Young people want to be known as the generation that abolished abortion,” Mancini said. 

Xavier and Jaclyn Caceres, seen here at a recent Respect Life brunch, said they plan to join the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Xavier and Jaclyn Caceres, seen here at a recent Respect Life brunch, said they plan to join the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

The next national March for Life is set for Jan. 18. She said also that the organization is planning a “beta launch” of pro-life marches on the state level. Florida is being considered as one of the sites.


TOWARD STATE LEVEL

That may be a necessary step: As Archbishop Wenski said, even if the Supreme Court reverses itself on abortion, the battle will move to state laws.

“Abortion was legal in some states, like Florida and New York, before Roe v. Wade,” the archbishop said. “So it will become a [state] legislative fight.”

In an interview after her talk, Mancini cited other signs of change. She said that abortion clinics have dwindled from 2,000 in the 1990s to roughly 700 today. Meanwhile, pregnancy care centers have increased from about 500 in the 1990s to 2,000 now.

Introducing the speaker was Father Alfred Cioffi, himself a longtime pro-life activist. He sits on the archdiocesan Respect Life board and has attended several Marches for Life. He also teaches pro-life beliefs in the master’s program in bioethics at St. Thomas University, which he directs.

In an interview, Father Cioffi said he has opposed abortion ever since its legalization, when he was a biology student at Florida International University.

“I was in shock,” he said. “It went against everything I'd studied about pregnancy and human development that I was learning at a secular university.”

“We have to bring back the core values of family and society,” says Juan Calvo, president of the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta, at a recent Respect Life brunch.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

“We have to bring back the core values of family and society,” says Juan Calvo, president of the Cuban Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta, at a recent Respect Life brunch.

Many at the Oct. 14 brunch seemed to bear out Mancini’s claim that the pro-life movement is growing younger. Among them was Elsa Barredo, 30, who came with husband Armando and their son Francisco, who was to see his first birthday on Oct. 22. They're members of St. Raymond parish.

“We need to create an awareness of life, and alternatives to abortion,” Elsa said. “When a mother chooses abortion, she kills part of herself.”


EDUCATION NEEDED

Also at the brunch were Xavier and Jaclyn Caceres, both 37. The couple, who attend St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Miami, said they were not only pro-life, but planned to join the Order of Malta.

“We believe all life has value and there's a purpose for every life,” said Jaclyn, who has four children. “People need to be educated on what the March for Life does. If you can't care for your child, someone else can.”

Ten of the brunch-goers were from St. Augustine Church and Catholic Youth Center, Coral Gables. One of them, Rafael Egues, said a dozen from the youth and young adult groups go to each year’s March for Life along with others in the archdiocese.

It “connects us with the larger movement. I get to be with friends and connect with the right resources,” Egues said.

Father Cioffi joined others in stressing the need to change American culture in order to abolish abortion. “We have to win hearts before we can expect significant legal action,” he said.

Mancini agreed, saying in her speech that people need to see compassion as well as determination from the other side. And they will see it, she assured the audience.

“Love is in the DNA of the pro-life movement,” Mancini said. “And in the DNA of the Catholic Church. And in the Knights of Malta.”

Comments from readers

Michael Plummer (Deacon) - 11/05/2018 09:13 AM
The movie "Gosnell: The Trial" presents a telling picture of abortion in America today. The testimony of the elegant woman in the blue dress is particularly revealing. Take someone with you when you go to see it - you will probably need to process what you have seen.

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