Destructive abortion bill unleashed at state Capitol

NARAL enters fight to reverse pro-life work in state

Nissa LaPoint

Hours of scattered and clumsy debate among lawmakers and citizens over women’s rights and the unborn stymied pro-life advocates who fought an aggressive abortion “rights” bill at the state Capitol last week.

The Reproductive Health Freedom Act, or Senate Bill 175, was pushed through a legislative committee April 10 and may be considered by the state Senate this week.

Click here to read Archbishop Aquila’s “Open letter to Coloradans of good will” 

Click here to read Archbishop Aquila’s “Carta abierta a los católicos del norte de Colorado”

Local abortion advocates gained the support of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) to pass the bill, which threatens to become the first in the country to create unfettered access to abortion and eradicate life-affirming laws in the state.

NARAL stated in releases last week that “It’s time to make sure Colorado stops attacks on reproductive health care once and for all” and ensure pro-life protections “don’t see the light of day.”

The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the Church’s state level public policy, stated the bill poses an “undeniable and irreparable danger” to pro-life laws.

“This legislation has the potential to eliminate a broad range of policies, including, but not limited to, parental notification, conscience protection for health providers, and the list could go on,” conference director Jenny Kraska said before the Health and Human Services Committee.

It could void state laws that restrict abortion and protect youths and school policies on abstinence education, she said.

The bill proposes to deny a government or policy the ability to interfere with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions, defined as “treatment, services, procedures, supplies, products, devices or information related to human sexuality, contraception, pregnancy, abortion or assisted reproduction.”

The language harkens back to the 2009 federal Freedom of Choice Act that U.S. bishops and pro-life advocates nationwide fought against for its proposal to establish abortion as a right and prohibit all interference with the decision. The federal FOCA was defeated. Earlier versions proposed in 1989 and 1993 also failed.

The Church in Colorado responded by launching a postcard campaign to give voice to the dignity of life and to urge lawmakers to uphold pro-life legislation.

Karna Swanson, spokeswoman for the Denver Archdiocese, said the broad interpretation of Senate Bill 175 poses even more damaging threats to mothers and babies.

“The pro-life movement has been working for decades to promote legislation that protects life and promotes a culture that is life-giving and life-affirming. This legislation directly attacks those efforts, and threatens to sever that most beautiful bond between mother and child,” Swanson said.

Open interpretation

Much of the testimony and debate during the April 10 legislative hearing was centered on the bill’s language. Lawmakers questioned the reference to an “individual’s” reproductive health care decisions and what denial or interference means.

Pro-life advocates argued the language threatens the life of the unborn.

“For many of the citizens in Colorado, individuals exist before they’re born. And then I as member of the Legislature in Colorado have a responsibility to defend their inalienable rights,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Larimer, a member of the committee. “I believe it’s important that we understand what we’re talking about and not gloss over the basic philosophy, moral and theological principles that are at play with this legislation.”

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Jefferson, said the term “individual” speaks for itself.

“I definitely believe there is a fundamental right of an individual to make their own decisions about their own body,” Kerr said to the committee. “A person has the right to make those decisions above the government coming into their bedroom and making those decisions for them.”

Others worried the bill’s language would need the court’s intervention and could force organizations to provide objectionable services and devices related to contraception, abortion and sexuality.

Marcy McGovern of Alternatives Pregnancy Center in Denver testified she was concerned the bill would impact their nonprofit.

“We know that as a private organization we still need to adhere to the law. So the concern would be that if this broad law passes there would be trickle-down effects for us,” McGovern told the committee.

Other testimony was split over the freedom to access reproductive health and if there are current limitations on a woman’s decision.

Kraska stated women already have freedom to make reproductive health decisions in the state and that the law is unnecessary.

“This legislation, no matter what the title might imply, is not about freedom,” she testified. “Freedom is more than an unlimited supply of choices. True freedom is the ability to know and the courage to do what is right and what is just. And this legislation is neither right nor just for the people of Colorado and it certainly does nothing to respect the dignity of the human person.”

One woman reiterated she only wants the freedom to choose without government intervention.

“I don’t agree with people who try to legislate their morality on my body,” said Jackie Perkins of Denver.

The conference is urging all citizens with pro-life views to contact their representatives.

Swanson added that speaking against the bill is to take a stand “in favor of mom and baby.”

“There is so much in our culture that tries to tear families apart,” she said. “Let’s take a stand to keep mom and baby together.”

Contact your legislator
Use the conference’s website to find your legislator and contact them.
www.votervoice.net/COCC/Address

Sign-up to join the conference’s Legislative Network and stay updated on events at the Capitol.
www.votervoice.net/COCC/Register

COMING UP: Why icons still matter to a modern world

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Icons have existed from the time of the early Church and grew in popularity over the years as an aid in prayer and worship — but today, icons are often seen as irrelevant to our modern world because of their perceived rigidity and austerity.

But it hasn’t died out, and there’s a reason.

In Denver, instructor Laurence Pierson, a former nun in the Community of Beatitudes, teaches a course at the Botanic Gardens called “Sacred Doorways — Byzantine Iconography,” which is the only icon painting class in the greater Denver metro.

Pierson attributes the long-surviving tradition of icons to the same reason the Church still exists.

“Tradition has great value, and if it’s an art that’s survived so many centuries, that’s because there is a great value to it, and it’s not only the tradition, it’s that mainly, it’s rooted in the Gospel,” Pierson said.

In an article called “Sacred Icons,” painter Aidan Hart quotes John of Damascus, who said of icons, “What the written Word proclaims through letters, iconography proclaims and presents through colors.”

Laurence Pierson, left, is a former nun of the Community of the Beatitudes who has been teaching an iconography class at Denver Botanic Gardens called “Sacred Doorways.” It is the only icon painting class in the greater Denver metro area. (Photo provided)

It is the same story of the Gospel, presented in art rather than word, and as the Gospel is timeless, so is the art of icons. And while they may look austere, that’s not something to be afraid of, nor is it irrelevant in our modern time.

“Even though an icon might look austere, it actually drives us beyond superficial emotions — they want us to go deeper. It’s a deep joy,” Pierson said. “I think you have to be quiet and go deeper. In the spiritual life, our ascetic aspect doesn’t have to be forgotten, and sometimes there is an ascetic aspect, and our human condition needs to be redeemed.”

“It’s a medium that has to be rediscovered, and there is so much potential,” Pierson added.

Sacred doorways and symbols

The deep spirituality of icons is part of what has preserved them throughout the roughly 2000 years that they’ve been around. Hart explains that icons are “not just pictures to look at, but are a door to heaven, a way of meeting those who dwell there.”

Hence the name of Denver’s class, “Sacred Doorways.” The material use of the paintings are a way for us to pass through the material world and into a knowing of the holy people depicted. This is just the tip of the spiritual meaning of icons.

The specific look of the icons: the elongated nose, the wide eyes, the dimensions and perspectives, are all intensely symbolic.

“Icons do not depict outward appearances, but reflect something of invisible, spiritual realities. In fact, all good art does this,” Hart said.

“An artist isn’t just someone who puts colors [on a canvas],” Pierson said. “An artist reveals the reality of this world, which sometimes isn’t possible to see. And icon painting is revealing this invisible reality and making it visible with lines and colors.”

Icons do not depict outward appearances, but reflect something of invisible, spiritual realities. In fact, all good art does this.”

So what are icons revealing through their symbols?

Here are just a few insights from Hart:

– Inverse perspective: “There is a number of perspective systems used in icons. With inverse perspective, the lines converge on us, the viewers. This serves to include us in the action depicted,” Hart said. “A sacred event in the past is still acting on us today, ‘Today Christ is risen.’”

– Flatness: “It helps us pass through the icon to the person and events depicted. The aim…is not to replace the subject depicted, but to bring us into living relationship with them,” Hart said.

– Anatomy: “The eyes and ears of people are often enlarged, and the nose elongated. This is to show that the saint is someone who contemplates God, who listens to him, who smells the fragrance of Paradise,” Hart said.

The spiritual process

Pierson has been painting icons for 25 years and teaching for 18. Following the rich tradition of the painting style is the first step of entering into the “spiritual journey” of painting an icon, Pierson said.

“It’s very important for me to get rooted in Byzantine tradition, especially because it’s an art that comes from the Eastern world,” Pierson said. “You have to be very careful not to distort ancient tradition but also find a way to speak to our modern world, so it’s a very delicate balance. For me, that’s crucial, to find this balance.”

“[Painting] has to be a solitary experience because you have to pray, but for me, it’s important to be anchored in a community and liturgical life,” Pierson said.

Pierson, who is commissioned to paint icons for the community often, begins with research and prayer, both to whom the icon is depicting and for the person who will receive the painting. Then the painting begins, which is an intense, multi-layered process.

The art of painting icons is far more than just a creative process; it’s a deeper spiritual journey that requires a lot of prayer, Pierson says. (Photo provided)

First, a binder, which is what the pigment adheres to in order to stay on a board, is created. The binder consists of egg yolk mixed with an equal part of water. This is mixed with the paint pigment and a few drops of water, creating the egg tempera medium with which icons are traditionally painted.

Next, guiding lines are traced into a gesso-covered wooden board and then engraved with a tool. Then, paint is added, layer by layer, beginning with dark colors and finishing with lighter colors. “It is as though the iconographer begins with darkness and death, and ends with light and resurrection,” Hart said.

The final stage is writing the saint’s name; then the icon is blessed by a priest and venerated. The working time varies, but it is a very long process, taking up to a year.

Revealing a Presence

The act of painting is something Pierson discovered she needs for her life to flourish — “essential,” even.

With icon painting, it “combines art and the vertical connection to God,” Pierson said.

And the connection to God is experienced deeply throughout the painting journey.“There is a journey — there’s a time you feel discouraged or bored. Even though you don’t feel it, you live by faith, trusting what you do has meaning and will bear fruit,” Pierson said. “With iconography, there is a Presence.”

“This whole painting journey teaches you about yourself, it takes patience — it takes time. You cannot finish an icon painting in a few hours. You have to trust the process. You have to trust someone else is inspiring you, even though it might not perfect. It’s all very like our spiritual life. It teaches us all that in a very practical way,” she added.