On Saturday, April 8, a beautiful spring day, several dozen pro-lifers gathered on the Boston College campus for Massachusetts Citizens for Life’s annual convention to hear speakers and to hold discussions on topics ranging from abortion to physician-assisted suicide.
(See photos from the day at the end of this article.)
The theme of the day was “Keep the Momentum Going,” based on the fact that nationwide and in Massachusetts, the pro-life movement is making advances. Anne Fox, president of MCFL, explained, "Abortions are down one-third in the country as a whole and down 55% in Massachusetts, pro-life legislators are in the majority in Congress and in virtually all the state legislatures, we have elected a pro-life President and … we'll have a new Supreme Court Justice whom we expect to rule fairly on life cases. This is amazing momentum on which we plan to build."
The day began with simultaneous talks from Linda Thayer, MCFL’s vice president of education, on “The Abortion Issue in Mass. Public Schools (What Parents Need to Know)” and Helen Cross on “Taxpayer Funding and Planned Parenthood”. The latter talk provided a detailed litany of alleged abuses of the billions of taxpayer dollars siphoned up by Planned Parenthood and the failure of government overseers to properly audit the abortion megacorporation’s use of those funds.
Dr. Marty McCaffrey followed with a presentation on “Abortion and the Burden of Preterm Birth.” Dr. McCaffrey, a neonatologist from North Carolina who was seen in the documentary “Hush”, gave a detailed accounting of the scientific evidence that prior abortions are a major risk factor for preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies. He also provided his own experience in trying to find researchers who would agree on the record that their own studies indicated that abortion is a major risk factor. In fact, he said, there’s more evidence that abortion leads to a greater risk of preterm birth than other causes widely accepted by the medical community, even smoking!
Switching gears to end of life care, Drs. William Lawton, Laura Lambert and Vainuupo Jessop participated in a panel moderated by Joe Glover on the dangers of doctor-prescribed suicide (DPS) from a physician’s perspective. The major takeaways from their presentation were that DPS is most dangerous to the poor, people with disabilities, and minority groups because they are most reliant on Medicaid and low-cost health insurance, which in other states where DPS is already legal has made suicide the preferred “treatment” for certain ailments over other more expensive treatments. They also noted that DPS sours the doctor-patient relationship by making the doctor into a kind of adversary instead of an advocate for their care; removes the whole support team of caregivers—doctors, social workers and others—that help the terminally ill patient holistically as they transition from life and instead puts the whole burden back on the patient; and removes the doctor’s role in treating the existential suffering of the patient by a healing through their presence, even when there is no hope.
Moving from medicine to the law, attorney Paul Linton, a nationally recognized expert on state laws concerning abortion and author of the book Abortion under State Constitutions, explained exactly what we could expect to happen if a future Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In short, not much would happen at first because two-thirds of the states no longer have laws banning abortions on the books and would have to enact new statutes. Even then an overrule of Roe might not be a complete setting aside of the decision, but might see different standards applied to laws regulating abortion. Linton also noted the dangers of prematurely challenging Roe, as he believes another reaffirmation of the decision, which would be the fourth following Casey v. Planned Parenthood, only solidifies the precedent for the future.
Craig Collins then discussed his book Yesterday’s Law, Abortion in Modern America, in which he posits a new strategy for pro-lifers in which they would claim that the conditions that pro-aborts in 1973 said made Roe necessary are no longer true. The argument that the stigma of single motherhood and out-of-wedlock birth required abortion is now moot because our society no longer places a stigma on those conditions. He argued that the sexual permissiveness of our society today should be used to the advantage of the pro-life movement.
Finally, Fr. Thomas Bouton, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, inspired the convention with his story of his younger brother, Robert, who was born with Down syndrome and the ways in which his brother exceeded the expectations of the medical professionals who suggested he should be institutionalized. Instead, Robert lived a life full of joy and love, graduating from high school and even earning the rank of Eagle Scout.
In between the informative talks, participants had opportunities to converse with one another, to network, and to speak to the presenters to gather more information on their topics. They ended the day energized and informed and prepared to keep the the pro-life momentum going in Massachusetts and beyond.