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.

Sign-up to join the conference’s Legislative Network and stay updated on events at the Capitol.

COMING UP: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”