By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator  

Modern culture is one where innocent lives are extinguished daily, and where the elderly and those with disabilities are often overlooked and neglected.  

 

pro life photo 1b.tif

Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops executive director Rob Tasman speaks during the Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent conference sponsored by the Office of Marriage and Family Life of the Diocese of Baton Rouge on Oct. 6 at the Bishop Tracy Center. Tasman was one of three speakers that included Dr. Kathy Allen, director of Louisiana Black Catholics for Life and Danielle Van Haute, director of the diocese’s pro-life program.  Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

Consequently, now more than ever, pro-life supporters must reach out to those who might not share one’s faith, or might even look different, to create a commonly held vision of what it means to respect life and the dignity of human life.  

That was the message of Louisiana Black Catholics for Life director Dr. Kathy Allen, the keynote speaker at the Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent conference on Oct. 6 at the Bishop Tracy Center in Baton Rouge. The conference was hosted by the Office of Marriage and Family Life of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  

“Life is a gift, it is never an accident or never a mistake,” said Allen. “Life is sacred at every stage.”  

The morning conference also featured Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops director Rob Tasman speaking on faith and public policy and Danielle Van Haute, director of the diocese’s pro-life program, speaking on contraception.  

Monice Oliphant, director of religious education at St. Isidore the Farmer Church in Baker, brought a group of more than 20 high school students to attend, partly to help them in their preparation for confirmation. 

“It’s important (the students) get the information on what our Catholic Church teaches,” she said. “If they’re going to be confirmed and they are living life as a disciple of Christ they need to understand what that means.”  

Allen, who admitted she had an abortion while she was a student at Michigan State University, said pro-life supporters must actively work for a greater commitment to justice and peace. She said too often many are so wrapped up in their own lives, worried about their homes, their money or other exterior distractions, that they have little time to be concerned with the homeless or the less fortunate.  

“Too often we have an individualist view; my car, my joy, my group of friends,” she said, adding that is how many determine the value of their own lives.  

But a eucharistic lifestyle is one of solidarity and rooted in grace.  

“I understand that with a personal relationship with God I am valued, cherished and that leads to greatness in the community,” she said. “It is patterned after Christ. It commits us to one another. We come together to be a body of Christ.”  

She said that a greater union with God helps individuals to become vibrant members of their community, and to give their gifts and talents to the community.  

“My hope is everyone here chooses life, from contraception to natural death,” Allen said. “We have to choose life for the unborn, for the elderly, for the people in this building, for people in later stages of life.”  

But first, “we must choose life for ourselves. If we don’t, we can’t authentically talk to anyone else about choosing life.”  

Allen explained that choosing life means surrendering one’s duties, responsibilities, anxiety and fears to God and get their priorities in line with what God desires.  

“Pro-life means choosing Christ,” Allen said. 

pro life story photo 2.tif

Dr. Kathy Allen

 

She cited statistics showing that 60 percent of abortions in Louisiana were performed on African-American women. She noted that there are more than 9,000 abortions performed annually in the state, with East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge parishes combining for more than 1,500 of those procedures.

“We have a mission and are doing this in line with what God is asking us to do,” she said “We need people to join us.”  

Activism was also the theme of Tasman’s talk. He encouraged all in attendance, especially the young people, to participate in the political process.  

“It thrills me to see young people here because if you are not of the voting age you are on the cusp of having your voice matter,” Tasman said. “Your voice</span id=”21″> matters. And the reason you are </span id=”22″>being heard is astute politicians are understanding what issues they are going to be able line up with as they move on their political careers. They know you are on the cusp of new voters.”  

He also encouraged everyone to speak out for the needy, and for those who might not have a voice, especially the unborn. But when advocating on any issue, Tasman strongly urged individuals to be Catholic first.  

“And then be a Democrat, or be a Republican,” he said. “But be a Catholic first. If you are doing that, you will recognize the full breadth of (what) the church becomes involved in.”  

“It can be messy, it is a tough process,” Tasman added. “But that is the challenge, for us to be involved in that process.”  

Van Haute discussed how when hormonal contraception was developed in the 1960s, it was going to change everything. She noted that at the time a fear of massive, worldwide famine existed because of the expanding world population, and that contraception would help curb that growth.  

“What you have to remember is they were specifically talking about contraception for women,” she said. “This does not sound very fair. This idea something chemical can make us more human doesn’t jive with me.”  

She said there are several methods, such as Natural Family Planning, that are as effective as hormonal contraception.  

She also discredited the common perception that contraception helps reduce abortion rates.  

“This is absolutely false,” she emphatically stated. “Contraception does not only not lower the abortion rates but it fuels the demand for abortion.”  

Statistics show that 54 percent of women seeking abortions are using contraceptives.  

She also challenged the widespread belief that hormonal contraception addresses reproductive problems. She said the pill treats symptoms but the healthier process is to identify the health problem and treat it.  

“I was already pro-life about everything but today really showed me how serious abortions were,” said Kaylon Cormier, a member of St. Isidore and a junior at Central High School. “It helped me to better understand what I can do.”