By John Heuertz
Special to the Catholic Key
Bishop Robert W. Finn received the Pro-Life Clergy of the Year Award from the Western Region of Missouri Right to Life at its “Stand Up For Life” banquet last Saturday evening.
“We as clergy are called to be leaders, but many times our inspiration comes from dedicated, faithful laity who stand up for life when it is difficult,” the bishop said.
“What a privilege to stand with such dedicated people. It’s a great battle, but the victory has already been won by Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Two long-time Western Region volunteers were also recognized at the banquet.
Rick Jensen, a member of St. John Francis Regis parish, received the Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of several years of behind-the-scenes printing, promotional and operational support.
St. Thomas More parishioner Allan Verhulst received the Joe Palermo Award for lifetime service achievement in the Western Region.
Guest speaker Rebecca Kiessling shared her inspirational story with those present.
Kiessling, a Michigan family law attorney, was conceived at the brutal rape of her birth mother one night in a park by a man who may have assaulted and perhaps even killed several other women.
Her mother tried twice to procure an abortion. But the creepy, sleazy places and situations she found herself in repulsed her.
So Kiessling was born and adopted, and didn’t learn the circumstances of her first moments until she was 18. She made contact with her mother soon afterward — they are close today — but she also learned that people could be anything but sympathetic.
“Have you ever considered how really insulting it is to say to someone, ‘I think your mother should have been able to abort you,’” she asks. “It’s like saying, ‘If I had my way, you’d be dead right now.’”
“That is the reality with which I live every time someone says they are pro-choice or pro-life except in cases of rape. And I can tell you that it hurts.”
Kiessling became a lawyer, perhaps in part because “The fact that I am alive today is because pro-life advocates made sure abortion was 100 percent illegal in Michigan at the time, even in cases of rape.”
“People tell me I was lucky. But I wasn’t lucky. Because I absolutely would have been aborted if it had been legal in Michigan when I was an unborn child.”
“I know that most people don’t put a face to this issue,” she said. “For them, abortion is just a concept. I do hope that, as a child conceived in rape, I can help to put a face, a voice, and a story to this issue.”
Missouri Right to Life works to change hearts and minds through education about the pain and tragedy of abortion. It was established in 1974 as a bipartisan, nonsectarian group and is affiliated with National Right to Life, a leading nationwide pro-life advocacy organization.
Encouraging Missouri lawmakers to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion in Missouri after 20 weeks of gestation, will be the focus of MRL’s “Pro-Life Action Day” on April 5 in Jefferson City.
“And we have very strong pro-life Republican and Democratic Party contingents in Jefferson City,” said MRL state president Pam Fichter.
An estimated 53 million people — enough to populate 18 states — have been killed by abortion in the USA since 1973. A disproportionate number of those killed have been Black Americans, perhaps befitting Planned Parenthood’s impeccably racist pedigree.
But now the pro-life cause is apparently winning the battle for American hearts and minds, especially among younger people.
Following a nationwide trend, the number of abortions in Missouri has fallen nearly in half since 1980. And a recent nationwide poll found that 68 percent of those surveyed favored at least some legal restrictions on abortion in the USA.
“We’re excited to see the changing hearts and attitudes about abortion,” said banquet Master of Ceremonies Richard Bott, president and CEO of the nationwide Bott Radio Network, based in Independence. “And we’re proud to provide a platform for the pro-life message across Missouri.”
“I think the future of this issue will unfold like the story of the Berlin Wall,” Fichter said. “We keep chipping away at it.”
About 275 people attended the banquet at the Embassy Suites hotel near MCI airport in Kansas City.
“It was more people than we expected,” said banquet coordinator Edie Ferrara, a member of St. Andrew’s parish in Kansas City.
“We hope they’ll take the pro-life message to others.”
Visit the Missouri Right to Life web site at www.missourilife.org or call (816) 353-4113 for more information on how to help at the Pro-Life Action Day in Jefferson City on Tuesday, April 5.