At the Corner of Command and Conviction
by Sonja Morin, MCFL Communications Intern
It’s safe to say that the June Medical Services v. Russo decision was a startling piece of news to wake up to this Monday morning. In a 5-4 split, the Supreme Court declared that a Louisiana law - which required abortion-providing doctors to have hospital admittance privileges - was unconstitutional. Not only is it a scathing decision that defeated hopes for a case that could ultimately lead to the Court overturning Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, but it endangers women by preventing these additional checks on abortion. This case and its consequences warrant much discussion and consideration within the pro-life movement, as it deliberates the best course of action in the coming months.
One may wonder why a reflection on a SCOTUS decision belongs in a column that focuses on culture and abortion. While law and culture are distinct entities, they have an intersecting, mutually-effective relationship. The formation of laws guides the public conscience, dictating what is right and wrong. People look to their government - and thus their laws - for moral guidance. These beliefs are cemented in culture with ease. On the other hand, culture can help shift or progress laws. When people realize that a law is unjust, their use of cultural means - such as art, demonstrations, and persuasive writing - allow for a shift in public conscience against those laws. Politicians are meant to be inclined to the will and well-being of the people. When they see a strong movement against a law, they are likely to follow the pressure from the people and remove or alter the law. This intersection of command and conviction is incredibly crucial to understand and to use within a movement.Read more
But If Not
by Sonja Morin, Communications Intern
We find ourselves facing once again the most prevalent issue in American history up until now: human rights. A human being has the right to exist and live, no matter the circumstances in their lives, no matter the inherent elements of their identity, no matter the societal and cultural beliefs that are aimed towards them. A human being has a right to respect, not because of who they are or what they do, but because of what they are: humans endowed with dignity. A human being has the right to live free from violence. A human being has the right to fair treatment in a situation of legal intervention. These rights are among those most basic and inherent to our human identity.
Yet, time and again, they have come into question, not because they themselves have changed, but because human selfishness intervenes. Slavery was an effort aimed towards economic success, completely ignoring the dignity of Black people in exchange for desired personal advancement. Women were denied rights so that present leaders could retain their status. In the moment, we wish to serve ourselves, and often lose sight of what is right. This is where injustice shatters peace. Our American culture has ingrained values that attempt to protect rights, but our nation has certainly failed to carry those values out in different situations. We see it in the treatment of the pre-born, the elderly, the marginalized, the sick, and racial minorities, especially the Black community. The United States is wounded because of these injustices, sinking into a dark despair that would claim humans cannot rise above their sinful tendencies.
In the past few weeks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been looked to not only as a model of justice and respect, but of hope. People have sought out his words and shared them with others in an attempt to advocate for better conditions. This made me look to a sermon from 1967, entitled “But If Not”. In this sermon, Dr. King relates the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three stood against the tyranny of the Babylonian ruler, refusing to worship an idol and thus violate their religious rights. They were thrown into a fiery furnace, but even then, they refused to deny their God. Miraculously, they were saved, and this event prompted the king to reverse the unjust law.
Dr. King masterfully uses the story of these three Hebrew men to demonstrate that injustice has always accompanied humanity. There have always been times of unjust persecution, when the rights of individuals were sacrificed on the altar of self-gratification. The utilization of people as a means to advance one’s own interests is a deplorable condition that humanity has struggled with for centuries, and continues to wrestle with as years pass. As a result of these corruptive actions giving way to each other, the issue of creating justice in an unjust world seems almost insurmountable to many.
However, the constancy of injustice has always been accompanied by the constancy of those who fought against it and for their fellow human beings, for a restoration of equity and peace. Those of us who suffer because of our age, because of our race or ethnicity, because of our physical or psychological abilities, or any other circumstances, are not alone. Those of us who fight to secure the rights of those cast off by society and culture are not alone. Behind us are thousands of years’ worth of individuals who stood up for the truth, even if it meant risking their lives.
What do these times mean to and for us? Dr. King’s sermon holds the answer: “You must love ultimately because it’s lovely to love. You must be just because it’s right to be just. You must be honest because it’s right to be honest.” As members of the pro-life movement, it is our chiefest duty to defend and celebrate human life from conception until natural death. We do so, not because it is convenient or easy, but because of our love for each other rising from our shared humanity.
As so many issues pertaining to life reach a boiling point - prominent among them racially-motivated discrimination and violence - we must work more persistently than ever to ensure that individuals are respected and treated with love. That love begins with us, in the way we interact with those around us. It begins with how we treat others online. It begins with how we respond to chaos - seeing it as an opportunity to care. It begins with refusing to transform deep wounds into political bullets. If there’s a time for standing up for those who are most vulnerable and marginalized in society, it is now. Raise your voices with Dr. King, with the Hebrews, with all those before us who stood for the truth. Let us work peacefully now for an end to discrimination and violence, to ensure that all people, who have been created equal, can live in the joy of that equality without fear.
No One is Irrelevant: Person of Interest Review
by Sonja Morin, Communications Intern
Genre: Drama, Crime, Science Fiction
TV-14 (violence, heavy themes, some language)
MCFL Rating: ✭✭✭✭✬ (4.5)
I couldn’t quite contain my excitement when I found out that Person of Interest, one of my favorite series of all time, was available to stream in its entirety on Netflix. Set in modern-day New York City, the series follows Harold Finch - a secluded billionaire - and John Reese - a former CIA agent - as they use government-created A.I. to stop crimes before they occur. It intertwines crime drama with just a hint of science fiction in an intriguing and slowly intensifying story.
A story driven by using artificial intelligence might seem like an odd pick for a series of reviews dealing with pro-life content. However, the five-season show does an excellent job in exploring the themes of intrinsic rights, family, and the value of human life. By far one of the most underrated series on CBS, Person of Interest is a thoughtful exploration of what it means to be human.
The series opens with John Reese, struggling after his sudden departure from the CIA. Presumed dead, he wanders the streets of New York City to find some nourishment and shelter each night. One particular day, Harold Finch approaches Reese, and offers him a job: to aid in his quest to prevent crimes before they happen. Finch uses the Machine, a sophisticated A.I. he invented initially for the government to detect signs of a dangerous situation, accompanied with the number of a person that is involved in the situation. Together, the two must work together to determine if the person is the potential perpetrator or victim, and administer justice in the situation as best as they can.
Person of Interest is certainly a series that needs to be watched from the beginning and continued through to the end. Attempting to start on a random episode will likely make someone confused, because the storyline is masterfully expanded and made more complex over the course of the five seasons. Enemies become allies, the team grows, and old problems return to haunt the characters. The Machine grows in its capabilities, but grapples with its own freedom. By its last season, the series does not lose its intrigue or become monotonous in plot repetition; new situations and information appear, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats, waiting for more. The growing complexity and stakes of the story, as well as the continual fleshing-out of the characters and their motivations, are a crucial part of what makes this series incredible.
The most prevalent theme in the whole series is summed up in two lines from the show’s introduction: “The government considers these people irrelevant. We don’t”. The Machine was created for the government to distinguish and point out terrorists from common criminals, to prevent large-scale catastrophes from occurring. The people that would be potentially involved in terrorist activity - either as perpetrator or victim - would be labeled as ‘relevant’, while others would be marked ‘irrelevant’ and left alone to fend for themselves. The mission that Finch and Reese placed upon themselves was to protect these ‘irrelevant’ people that would not have otherwise been protected. Reese and Finch - and later the other characters that join them in their work - are brought together by this shared mission of saving lives. Their work and motivations mirror that of the pro-life movement to a grand degree, in that they strive to recognize and protect lives, even if others do not.
All in all, Person of Interest is a fantastic pick that fittingly explores the ethos of the pro-life movement, while being continuously creative in its approach. The series is an excellent selection, especially for fans of crime dramas or science fiction, but has a wider appeal and intrigue for all viewers. The storyline and characterization throughout the series is phenomenal, and keeps the audience intrigued even after the show ends. Person of Interest is more than just a well-planned and fascinating series, however; it explores the themes of dignity, rights, and the human family in a way that is evident and inspiring. In short, if you’re looking for a fulfilling series that will grab your attention and leave you wanting the next episode, look no further.
By Sonja Morin, MCFL Intern
Hello, dear MCFL members. It seems that we find ourselves in odd and difficult times as of late, with the pandemic outbreak and our state under a stay-at-home order for the foreseeable future. Many of us have used the free time we’ve been given in this time to watch more films and television. Some of us are stuck, scouring our streaming platforms for good content, or unsure of where to start on our watchlists. To respond to this need, the next posts in this column will be film and television reviews, highlighting pro-life content from various genres and tastes. I hope you’ll find these reviews useful and enjoyable.
Our focus today will be family films. Being the oldest of seven children, I know the struggle of trying to find movies that are engaging and entertaining for various ages. Older kids enjoy stories with more substance, while younger viewers like bright visuals and fun characters. Bridging the gap - and finding a good message within it - is no struggle for these following movies.
- Meet the Robinsons (Rated G, streaming on Disney+)
This underrated 2007 gem masterfully explores the themes of family and human existence in a fun and engaging way. Louis, the teen protagonist, struggles with the fact that he might never be adopted and find a family of his own. When a science experiment and several parent interviews go terribly wrong, Louis begins to lose hope in his dreams for life. In the midst of the chaos, he is approached by Wilbur, a teen who takes Louis to the wonderful future. Louis encounters the Robinsons, a zany family willing to take him in as their own and accept him for who he is. But with the threat of the Bowler Hat Guy looming, Louis must make decisions that will save both his present time and the future.
Adoption as an expression of love is a central theme in the film. Louis attempts to find out why he was given up for adoption, and the exploration of those reasons becomes a poignant point in the film. His discovery, as well as his experience with the Robinsons, depicts adoption as an exchange filled with love. Since adoption is such a central discission in the pro-life movement, this introduction for younger viewers is definitely important. Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy this excellent movie, with its captivating story, bright and expressive animation, and fantastic one-liners.
- Tarzan (Rated G, streaming on Netflix and Disney+)
Yet another underrated animated classic, Tarzan is a beautiful story on the themes of family, redemption, and belonging. A mother gorilla finds an orphaned baby in the jungle and takes him in as her own, naming him Tarzan. While Tarzan is accepted by some of his community, he is still shunned for being different. When a human expedition interrupts the jungle’s peace, Tarzan discovers that he is not a gorilla, and begins to learn more about human civilization from one of the expedition’s participants. Torn between the human and animal worlds, Tarzan must come to terms with his life, and find where he truly belongs.
This movie particularly explores the theme of unity. For the characters, all it takes is a caring heart and understanding to make all the difference in someone else’s life. It does not matter whether there are differences between them, but rather what they are willing to do for the good of the other. These themes intertwined so well in the storyline, paired with beautiful hand-drawn animation and a stirring soundtrack by Phil Collins, make this a worthy watch for families.
- Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who (Rated G, streaming on Hulu)
If you have ever been to the March for Life, you’ve likely seen at least three signs with the inscription taken from this film: “A person’s a person, no matter how small”. This classic story from Dr. Seuss (a Massachusetts native, no less) is brought to life in colorful animation in this flick by Universal Studios. Horton, an elephant who lives in a peaceful jungle, hears a cry coming from a speck one day. Upon investigation, he discovers that there are Whos living in the speck. Despite insistence from other jungle animals that he is crazy, Horton is determined to protect this newly-discovered life at all costs.
The story is simple enough for even the youngest viewers to digest the message, but surely entertaining for people of all ages. The aforementioned message of the film definitely harkens to the core belief of the movement: the dignity of all human life in all stages and forms. While this mission may sometimes be difficult, it is certainly worth it in the end. This movie is a great selection, especially for families with children of varying ages.
We'd love to hear yours and yours families' reactions to these recommendations, or send us a note
with movies in which you've found encouragement, and life-affirming messages.
by Sonja Morin, Communications Intern
The Oscars ceremony aired this past Sunday night, fittingly closing the film awards season. Movies are meant to reflect cultural values. What is supported in film is meant to be lauded in real life, be it qualities, beliefs, or ideals. Award shows amplify this by denoting particular movies of interest. We, the public audience, then draw our attention to them and what they represent. These award shows also tie in presenters, acts, and performances in between to give focus to certain themes.
What kind of values did the Oscars represent in relation to the pro-life movement?
At first glance, there really was not much to take away from this year’s ceremonies in terms of a political message. There weren’t many political speeches during the Oscars, surprisingly enough. Those that did speak of any particular theme did so vaguely, referencing unity and the need for equality in our society. After a long week filled with division in our political system, in a way, it only makes sense that the Academy would have taken such a nonpartisan approach. However, it is clear that they made a life-affirming statement, and quite possibly without intending it.
To present the Oscar for the category of Live-Action Short Film, actor Shia LaBeouf was accompanied by Zack Gottsagen. The latter is an up-coming actor who starred with LaBeouf in last year’s film The Peanut Butter Falcon. Last night gave Gottsagen an incredible opportunity, as he became the first person with Down syndrome to present an Oscar. With LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen gave the award, and even delivered the famous line, “And the Oscar goes to…”.
MARK RALSTON / AFP/Getty Images
It was a touching moment. In a culture riddled with stigma against those with Down syndrome, the Academy’s choice to represent the community through Gottsagen was an impressive one.
One of the many themes the Oscars seems to represent is the idea that anyone, no matter their circumstances, can achieve greatness. People tend to devalue those with Down syndrome, either out of complete ignorance or patronization. The prevailing belief is that, due to some of the struggles that comes from the syndrome, that people who have it will never be able to succeed in most aspects of life. Gottsagen is living proof that this assumption is wrong. His life is worth living in itself, and he was able to make something beautiful out of it.
What does that mean for us as pro-lifers? For one, it shows that the attitudes surrounding Down syndrome are certainly changing, and that parts of our culture are attempting to ensure that it happens. It also reminds us that we must lobby to ensure that babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are not aborted. In the United States, 67% of the pre-born diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted, simply as a result of the diagnosis. This terminal example of discrimination is something that we as a culture must defeat.
There are immediate opportunities for us to help counter the destructive attitudes our culture still has regarding those with Down syndrome. Our state and nation face two bills that must be opposed at all costs: the ROE Act (S.1209/H. 3320) in Massachusetts and the federal bill H.J. Resolution 79, which would remove the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ROE Act and the ERA would not only ensure that aborting babies with Down syndrome remains legal, but possible at any point in pregnancy and funded by taxpayers. These laws would only serve to deepen the prejudices against those with Down syndrome, restricting their ability to rise and drive the course of their life like Zack Gottsagen has.
This is where your action matters. Call your state and federal representatives and senators to oppose these dangerous bills. Your voice, counted with many others, are the small shifts that our culture needs to turn the tide. We can create a culture that is more accepting of life in all its circumstances by putting just a few minutes aside for this pertinent cause. While our actions may not be as widely televised as the Oscars, they are still just as important in creating a culture that is more accepting of all people in all stages of life.
You can instantly contact the members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary by accessing this link and emailing and calling Chair Claire Cronin.
Look up your legislator here and request that they personally meet with Chair Claire Cronin asking her, and the committee, to oppose the "ROE" Act.