An Evangelist for the People

Author: John Kurzweil

An Evangelist for the People

Mrs. Judie Brown -Catholic of the Month

Sunday March 5, 1995

Publisher: Geradine A. Frawley (copyright :Catholic Twin Circle, Vol. 31, No. 10, p. 10-11) Interview by John Kurzweil

The media often portrays pro-life Americans as fevered fringe characters driven to imposing their will on everyone around them, as people who are likely to become abusive, even violent, at any moment.

Judie Brown, president of the American Life League (ALL), fights these lies by working to convey an accurate picture of the pro-life movement. She and her organization refocus the debate where it belongs-on the moral dimensions of abortion and of the pro-death "quality of life" ethic in America.

The American Life League's 250,000 - supporters make it the nation's largest pro-life organization. Brown's biweekly Communiqué newsletter reaches more than 5,000 activists nationwide. She has appeared on "20/20," "60 Minutes," "Good Morning America" and "Today."

Judie and her husband Paul A. Brown have three children. They have worked in the pro-life movement since 1969.

CATHOLIC TWIN CIRCLE: Do you feel the pro-life movement is growing?

Judie Brown: The pro-life movement continues to grow. What we are not seeing in the media is that there are more active pro-life outreach ministries, educational organizations and political groups than ever before.

CTC: Ralph Reed's new book about the Christian Coalition, Politically Incorrect, points out the vast numbers of people joining churches around the world. Is this translating into the growth of the pro-life movement you describe?

Brown: I think so. I think there is a direct relationship between your faith commitment and your involvement in the prolife movement.

It is harder to attract atheists and agnostics, although certainly not impossible. But, when an individual has a basic faith philosophy and a relationship with God, it is almost a natural outcome that that individual will want to do something pro-life.

CTC: Have recent laws made abortion counseling more risky?

Brown: That is a perception having nothing to do with reality. I think we have to understand that the media would like to describe sidewalk counseling and any kind of non-violent, direct action that is within the law as being violent, as being activity that invites violence.

It is the rhetoric of the media and of our opposition that intimidates people into not wanting, for example, to participate in a picket or become part of a sidewalk counseling team.

CTC: What exactly does the new FACE law say?

Brown- The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law- which we presently are challenging through the courts, we're in appeals right now with it-- literally says that an abortion clinic is somehow a protected entity and that, if you are even perceived to be harassing someone in the opinion of the clinic employee and/or the client, you can be charged with violating this law.

That has a chilling effect on constitutional free speech rights. The language of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act is so nebulous it has convinced many people that they can no longer picket or participate in sidewalk counseling.

That is not true. We are challenging the law's nebulous language.

CTC: Have recent killings of abortionists convinced many Americans that prolifers are all violent?

Brown: The problem is that those involved in promoting abortion and performing abortion would very much like the average American to think that every time a pro-life organization says "abortion kills" that that organization is inviting someone to be violent, to take the life of someone involved with abortion.

An ad by Planned Parenthood ran in The New York Times that said, "Words kill." The U.S. Catholic Conference response to it said, "Words do not kill, abortion kills."

CTC: How do you answer the frequently heard charge that prolifers are irresponsible because they "only love the child until birth" and don't think about its welfare afterward?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------- There is a direct relationship between faith commitment and involvement in pro-life work. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Brown: The truth is that, with more than 3,000 pro-life mother- and child-care centers in this country and such wonderful organizations as the Nurturing Network, Birthright, Mom's House and many such organizations around the country, all women who are facing a difficult pregnancy can find care for themselves and their pre-born children not only up until the moment the baby is born, but well after.

Many of these homes are run for the express purpose of giving the mother and her newborn baby a place to stay until she can get on her feet and be about her business on her own.

Again, this is not widely known in the secular marketplace, because no matter how hard we try to put forward the individuals who lead these organizations and invite others to interview them, it is rare that you will see a focus piece, for example in The New York Times, on someone like Mary Cunningham Agee. They simply prefer not to let people know.

I am amazed there has never been a "60 Minutes" or "20/20" segment on these homes. The liberal press cries constantly about caring for the underprivileged; and, yet, when it is the underprivileged mother of a new baby who is being cared for in one of these homes, that isn't a story.

CTC: A great proportion of the women cared for in these places are minorities, correct?

Brown: Yes. More minority women facing difficult pregnancies are impoverished and need help. Many pro-life agencies focus only on them.

But, again, you don't hear or read about it. No People magazine cover features a mother and her baby cared for in a prolife center.

CTC: In fact, efforts have been made to pass laws to restrict pregnancy counseling centers. Are any in effect?

Brown: Oh, yes. There is a tremendous problem, for example, with the way you are listed in the Yellow Pages.

Stringent guidelines exist, created by the telephone companies and people who publish telephone books.

Pro-life counseling agency's Yellow Page ads must say so up front, or say, "We will not refer for abortion," so that a woman looking through the Yellow Pages immediately knows she wouldn't want to call this agency.

In California and other states, pro-life agencies have been groundlessly accused of misrepresentation and distortion because the abortion industry is being damaged by pro-life agencies. And, obviously, the abortion industry stands to lose a great deal of money when pro-life agencies succeed in robbing them of their clients.

CTC: Do you share the impression that one of the Clinton administration's few consistencies has been its blanket support for abortion in virtually every possible way?

Brown: Bill Clinton was the abortion candidate, and now he is the abortion president. He is intransigent on abortion; he is committed to it.

I am interested to see comments from Planned Parenthood and other groups that the one thing the president has done consistently is keep his promise to protect abortion.

In fact, he has done that. He is constantly after the Justice Department, for example, to do more investigation of prolife organizations and pro-life activists. He recently nominated an abortionist to be surgeon general.

CTC: Do you think Dr. Henry Foster will be confirmed?

Brown: No, I don't. As more information about his historical involvement with abortion over the past 20 years comes out, I think there is less chance he will be confirmed. For instance, he was involved with an abortion pill- "a do-it-yourself" abortion suppository.

Even people who consider themselves abortion advocates, such as Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.), are uncomfortable with someone nominated for surgeon general who has done abortions.

CTC: Why should they feel uncomfortable with someone who has done something they consider properly legal and good?

Brown: I don't know. She is saying- I find this very interesting-someone should have told her in advance that this man had actually done abortions because it has made her uncomfortable just knowing this.

I think it is a matter of rhetoric: It's easy for a politician to sit in their office on Capitol Hill and say, "Keep abortion safe and legal." But actually to have to look at and vote for an individual who has done abortions is different, apparently, even to Sen. Kassebaum.

CTC: A release from your organization implies that Foster believes out-of-wedlock pregnancies are impossible to avoid, that it is naive to think otherwise, and that therefore it is only rational to see abortion as one of the solutions for dealing with this unstoppable fact of life. Is that correct?

Brown: Yes. It is a great problem for the country when the president talks about his campaign to deal with the "problem" of unwed pregnancy.

His solution is unacceptable to us. He feels there have to be more contraceptives in classrooms and more contraceptive education. He is concerned not that there is a pregnancy, but that the pregnancy might result in a live birth.

One of the things I am most concerned with is that all this talk about welfare reform will mean a dramatic increase in abortion because the solution to teen-age pregnancy, as far as the president is concerned, is to eliminate it by killing the baby.

CTC: How would welfare reform bring about more abortions?

Brown: What we have read about welfare reform indicates it would give the unwed mother an incentive to have an abortion. It would punish her simply because she is carrying a baby. There is going to be tremendous pressure on her to abort her baby.

That is not the way to reform the welfare system. If the welfare system has a problem, why don't we look at the entire welfare system and not one segment of the people involved in that system who happen to be unwed mothers.

The system is structured in such a way that you are punished if you are in poverty and have a two-parent family expecting a baby. A single, unwed mother can receive more money than a married couple in poverty expecting a child.

CTC: But isn't it now possible for a single mother to secure herself more welfare by having more babies?

Brown: That is a very difficult question to answer. It depends on the particular circumstances of the individual expecting a baby. Some poor people on welfare are totally irresponsible. So in some cases, yes, it is.

But, in the vast majority of cases, it is not. And it would seem to me, especially as Catholics, we have to do everything possible to see that the poor are taken care of and not look to government to correct our social behavior. That comes from within a human being, not from the government.

CTC: Has the Church, in your opinion, always made this point? Or has it turned toward government perhaps too much, as if the state in fact could serve to correct social behavior?

Brown: I think the Church is changing its direction.

If you look at the way the Church has felt about social policy and government policy over the last 10 years, for example, I think the Church is coming to understand that, when the government is involved in a social program, there is a price to be paid, and that the price of a human soul is not a good price to have to pay for the sake of a government program.

I haven't seen enough information from the Catholic Conference to be able to say where the Church is going to come down on welfare reform, but I think the Church in America has to rely less on government and more on itself. I hope that is the way the Church is beginning to go.

CTC: What is the status of the abortion pill, RU-486?

Brown: RU-486 is in clinical trials at 20 locations around the country.

Our focus has been, number one, to make sure that every single individual involved with the clinical trials is being fully informed. We have yet to receive an adequate report from the government on that question.

Number two, we want to put as much pressure from the medical community as possible on the Food and Drug Administration not to approve this chemical, no matter how these clinical trials come out.

It is far too early to say what will happen when the clinical trials are finished and an application for approval goes to the Food and Drug Administration. That will be at least a year or two from now.

CTC: Do you expect a Human Life Amendment from the new Congress?

Brown: I would like to answer that very succinctly. Until the pro-life movement to lay down the gauntlet sooner or later and say, "We are working for an amendment, we want an amendment, and we will not elect people who do not support an amendment." We haven't said that for years. I find that very unfortunate. There are reasons to -believe we could achieve great victories for the babies in this Congress, and it will be up to us.

Politicians will do what they are asked, but they will not come up with good ideas on their own. I am convinced that, with this Congress, if we ask for things in a proper way and work for legislation that is very tight and without exceptions, we can get it.

CTC: California recently defeated a euthanasia proposition, while Oregon passed one. What is the status of that issue?

Brown: Massachusetts is considering a proposal similar to the one that Oregon passed. I am concerned about the average American's concept of euthanasia. It is a much abused word right now; it has 500 definitions.

Pro-euthanasia forces now call it "physician-assisted suicide.'' The Church and the pro-life movement must conduct a massive educational campaign to convince people not to allow the government to be involved in ending life. Everyone knows he is going to die; we don't need a law to tell us that. Without a proper educational push, we could well see more of the Oregon-type initiatives pass.

CTC: What about alleviating the pain of very ill people?

Brown: Doctors in the United States are not as efficient with regard to pain control as they should be. The medical profession is trying to become more effective in this regard. I think that should be our response: that taking your own life is not the response that we give as Christians to suffering.

The medical profession must do everything possible to keep those of us who are suffering as comfortable as possible, but we don't turn to our physician and say, "Will you please kill me?"

The media would have us think that there are countless numbers of human beings suffering intractable pain at the end of life. That is not true. Everyone remains a human being until the moment death occurs; and we must be treated that way, we must be treated with respect.

The response of the Church in Oregon after the law was passed was wonderful. I wish it had been greater before. I had hoped that before it got onto the ballot that the Church had done a massive educational campaign in all Oregon's parishes. It did not; I don't know why.

But I know the role of the Church is to instill an appreciation for the gift of life and to assure us that our call to follow Christ means we will bear crosses and that some will be painful. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Kurzwell is the editor of the California Political Review. copyright belongs to Catholic Twin Circle and the publisher is Geradine A. Frawley.

Provided courtesy of: American Life League