Pro-Life fight continues, 51 years post-Roe

In the 51 years since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for legalized abortion in the United States in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, more than 65 million innocent lives have been lost. However, since Roe was overturned by the Supreme Court by the Dobbs decision in 2022, great progress has been made to protect women and their preborn children in Florida.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane joined the Florida Conference of Catholics Bishops in releasing a statement ahead of Jan. 22, 2024, the Roe v. Wade anniversary, and now known as the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. In the statement, the Florida Bishops call on the faithful to pray for the protection of the unborn while emphasizing the gains made since the 2022 Dobbs decision which put all abortion regulation in the states.

Since 2022, Florida established a 15-week abortion limit, which remains in effect as the Florida Supreme Court considers a challenge to it. The State Legislature’s passage of a bill to further limit abortion to six-weeks of gestation during the 2023 session, and its approval by Governor Ron DeSantis, is a momentous achievement. This legislation also increases resources to pregnant women and young families, almost six-fold, through the Florida Pregnancy Care Network. If the 15-week law is upheld, the further limit to six weeks will go into effect 30 days later, ushering in a new era.

“Much remains to be done to properly recognize the dignity of the child in the womb, but this marks tremendous progress in the legal protection of preborn children in Florida,” the Florida Bishops stated.

The Florida Bishops warn, “This progress, as well as gains made over the past several decades to protect women and their preborn children from the harms of abortion, is at significant risk.”

An extreme ballot initiative proposing to amend the state constitution to legalize full-term abortion is viewed with grave concern. If passed, the amendment will legalize abortion up until birth, including when the baby is capable of feeling pain. The proposed amendment would eliminate the current law requiring parental consent for a minor daughter to receive an abortion while permitting notification.

“As is required of the petition initiative process, the proposed ballot language is under review by the Florida Supreme Court. In our briefs to the Court, we contend that the ballot title and summary are misleading, which should preclude its placement on the ballot,” the Florida Bishops stated. “The title states the amendment ‘limits’ government interference with abortion when the amendment actually prohibits all regulation before viability. Neither does the language provide fair notice of its impact on existing statutory protections for women. If this extreme amendment ultimately appears on the November 2024 ballot, we urge all Floridians to ‘vote no.’”

Even with the overturning of Wade, the Diocese of Venice is actively involved in seeking an end to abortion of any kind.

Each year, huge numbers of people participate in prayer vigils at abortion facilities throughout the Diocese of Venice while many others participate in larger local, state, and national prayer walks.

For example, a group of students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers will be participating in the Jan. 19, 2024, National March for Life in Washington, D.C. This March began in the wake of the Roe decision and remains a key rallying point for the Pro-Life movement in the U.S.

Locally, the Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Ministry is hosting its third annual March for Life, at 10 a.m., Saturday Jan. 20, in Ave Maria. The walk begins with remarks from Bishop Dewane and other dignitaries at the Ave Maria University football stadium. From there, participants will recite the rosary as the walk proceeds through the university on its way to the town square. There, closing remarks and additional prayers will take place prior to a light lunch provided by the Knights of Columbus. This event has grown each year.

“The necessary work to build a culture of life in this great Nation is far from finished,” said Sharon Levesque, Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Coordinator. “Pro-lifers must continue to steadfastly stand together to fight for the lives of all the vulnerable among us in all 50 states of this great Nation. Florida Pro-Lifers are committed to continue in the fight for the protection of the lives of the unborn.”

The opportunity to actively participate in Pro-Life activities is not limited to single marches or events.

For example, each year a large group from the Diocese, including Catholic high school students, takes part in Catholic Days at the Capitol. This trip brings people to meet state legislators to speak about the Pro-Life agenda of the Florida Bishops. The 2024 trip will take place February 6-9, with Bishop Dewane accompanying the group.

The 40 Days for Life campaign takes place each Lent (starting Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14), and again in the fall to coincide with October, National Respect Life Month.

The 2024 spring 40 Days for Life prayer vigil will take place in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples. The kickoff event for the Sarasota vigil is 10 a.m., Feb. 10, at St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road. In Fort Myers, the opening event will take place Feb. 11, at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility at 6418 Commerce Park Drive.

Each day throughout the 40 Days, prayer warriors will be outside the Fort Myers facility, as well as the Planned Parenthood at 736 Central Ave., in Sarasota, and at 1425 Creech Road, in Naples, daily through March 23. Those interested in participating can attend at any time, or check with their home Parish for designated time slots. For more details, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/.

The Diocese of Venice is a proud partner in the “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This program educates the Parish staff and ultimately the faithful on where to send a pregnant woman for assistance. This program is crucial, as, for years, the Diocese has partnered with pregnancy help centers throughout the 10-county region. This is to ensure that pregnant moms have access to the support and resources needed to encourage them to choose life; it is important that they know they are not alone.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, to which Bishop Dewane is a consultant, aid in a statement ahead of the Roe anniversary, that “each of us is called to radical solidarity with women facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy.”

Bishop Burbidge reminded all that the most immediate way to protect babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with loving support in programs such as “Walking with Moms in Need” in their journey of motherhood.

For women or men who have been scarred by abortion, the Diocese offers “Project Rachel,” an outreach of the Catholic Church to those who are suffering and in need of healing following an abortion. This program offers help through the sacraments, retreats, and referrals for professional counseling, all confidentially. For assistance, please contact, Sylvia Jimenez, Project Rachel Coordinator, at 941-412-5860 (English and en Español), or project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org. The Diocese also works with “Support After Abortion,” a national outreach to provide individualized care for individuals impacted by abortion. For details, visit https://supportafterabortion.com/.

The Florida Bishops concluded their communications on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, by stating, “A healthy society can only continue to flourish if based on a consistent recognition of the rights of each individual, especially the weakest and most defenseless. With this in mind, we remain committed to pursuing full legal protection of preborn children and continue to support efforts to offer practical assistance and accompaniment to women and their families experiencing difficulties during pregnancy and beyond. We invite all people of good will to join us in these endeavors.”

For more information on Respect Life issues, or to participate in Respect Life events or initiatives, please contact Diocesan Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

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