Story by Maria Ferris | Correspondent
Educating the community about alternatives to abortion and resources that are available to women in unplanned pregnancies was the focus of a Respect Life gathering held Sept. 28 in St. Monica Parish, Jackson.
Entitled “Sanctity of Life: Alternatives to Abortion,” the event was hosted by the St. Monica Council Knights of Columbus as part of a kick-off to Respect Life Sunday, which was observed Oct. 1. The evening featured a talk by John White, community director for the council, who gave a presentation on abortion facts.
Using slides and a video as visual aids, White addressed topics such as defining the three methods of abortion – surgical, medical and chemical – and reasons why women consider abortion as the only option when facing an unplanned pregnancy.
“That’s the hard pill to swallow,” he said. “It’s not pretty, but we have to say it.”
White noted how there are women who do not believe the preborn child is actually a developing human being so they justify abortion by claiming that the baby is just a “clump of cells.” He also noted how organizations such as Planned Parenthood profit greatly from convincing their “target clients,” primarily young girls ages 16-24, to undergo abortion procedures.
The video that was shown featured women who talked about the anguish they experienced after having had an abortion.
“We must educate about abortion and teach that there are many other options out there, such as being a birth mother and giving the baby up for adoption, or seeking help from a pregnancy care center,” White said.
The video introduced viewers to Rachel’s Vineyard – a ministry for anyone struggling after abortion loss that enables grieving, forgiveness and healing. Abortion can have a devastating impact on family members of the aborted child and friends of the mother. Rachel’s Vineyard retreats are offered periodically in the Diocese as a means to experience the healing mercy and compassion of God.
White enhanced the validity of life beginning at conception with scientific facts – such as the stages of prenatal development – that provide a powerful tool in educating those who are considering an abortion.
Speaker David Withers, a member of the board of directors for Open Door Pregnancy Center, Toms River, discussed the free services the faith-based organization provides to pregnant women and their partners – including education, counseling and pregnancy testing and material assistance such as clothing, diapers and formula.
“The mission of the Open Door,” said Withers, “is to share the hope and love of Jesus Christ and to encourage understanding of the sanctity of human life, and offer life affirming alternatives to abortion and support these alternatives with practical, compassionate care.”
Withers also acknowledged the Knights of Columbus councils in Ocean County that pooled their resources in 2012 and purchased an ultrasound machine for Open Door, and how that donation “has changed lives and given life to many of the unborn.”
“The ultrasound machine introduces that mom to her baby,” Withers said. He reiterated how the Open Door staff attempt to fill the void in the lives of the young, expectant mother who often find themselves alone in their situations, “treating her with love and respect in a nonjudgmental environment.”
The evening also gave the council an opportunity to introduce its Baby Bottle Boomerang fundraiser, in which members distribute baby bottles to parishioners and ask them to fill the bottles with money. When the bottles are returned, the Knights distribute the money to pro-life organizations such as the Open Door Pregnancy Center.
As he reflected on hearing the importance of reiterating the message that there are viable alternatives to abortion, council member John Tvaroha said, “Life is a miracle and shouldn’t be wasted.”
The event struck a chord with Knight Ron Borrello and his wife Roseann who were reminded of their own experience in marrying later in life and how they were urged to undergo certain tests when Roseann became pregnant.
Though the couple did give birth to a healthy baby girl, Ron Borrello said that “It wasn’t even a choice we could possibly think of whether to have a test to possibly abort a child.
“We were having that baby no matter what,” he said.
Caroline White, who assisted her husband, John, with organizing the evening which included a social, remarked on how the intent of the gathering was to involve as many people as possible in promoting alternatives to abortion.
It is through such conversations, she said, “we open doors.”
Parishioner Xenia Gallo, reflecting on the evening’s presentations, empathized with the women who ultimately choose to abort.
“I really feel in my heart that those who have abortions don’t realize the pain it will cause them later in life,” she said.
John Tvaroha, Knights of Columbus member, said that “Life is a miracle, and shouldn’t be wasted. As an adoptive parent, I understand the need to get the message out that there are alternatives.”
More information about Rachel’s Vineyard retreats can be found by contacting Judy Warenkiewicz, 732-536-6871. All inquiries are strictly confidential.