Shining a light on life
Just yards away from the future site of Planned Parenthood’s massive, regional abortion facility on South Claiborne Avenue, hundreds gathered Nov. 1 for a Louisiana Needs Peace prayer service and candlelight vigil and heard Archbishop Gregory Aymond decry the facility’s ultimate purpose.
“If anyone asks us, ‘Why do y’all get so uptight and so excited about that?’ let me remind them of that powerful creation story,” Archbishop Aymond said. “God breathes life into us in the womb, and we must always protect that life, not only in the womb but to the end of natural death and anywhere in between. We believe God is for life because he has breathed life into us.”
The candlelight vigil was part of a two-day conference sponsored by Louisiana Right to Life to better inform pro-lifers from across the state about issues such as the status of pro-life legislation, Planned Parenthood’s impact on the black community, the scientific link between abortion and breast cancer, and the increase in abortions that will occur because of the new, $4.2 million regional facility.
As Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, spoke to the crowd, he saw a billboard near Ochsner-Baptist Hospital that proclaimed, “Babies are coming back to Ochsner.”
He said the geographic proximity and the message of the billboard were “ironic” because, given the national rate of what happens at Planned Parenthood’s facilities across the U.S., 90 percent of the pregnant women who walk into the planned facility will have an abortion.
9 out of 10 get abortions
“Ninety percent of the babies who come here (to Planned Parenthood) will not come out alive and will never get to experience the beautiful things about our city,” Clapper said. “We know this could be a regional abortion facility, reaching people from across the Southeast.”
Archbishop Aymond skewered the idea that there is a “choice” involved when it comes to protecting innocent human life.
“We might have free will, but do we have a choice?” he asked. “If God has given us life, and if we believe life is sacred and if we believe God is for life, we don’t have a choice but to respect life from the very beginning of conception to natural death. We must remind people that we are not God and that we have no right to take life. Only God can give life, and only God has the right to take life away.”
Also speaking at the candlelight vigil were two Protestant pastors – Rev. Corey Hicks of The Vine Church in New Orleans and Rev. Antoine M. Barriere of the Household of Faith Family Worship Church. Hicks said he felt compelled to get involved in the effort to stop Planned Parenthood because of the sheer numbers of abortions across the U.S.
Hicks said he got a Facebook message last year asking him if he knew what the leading cause of death was for the African-American community.
“Growing up in New Orleans, I immediately thought about black-on-black crime or diabetes or high blood pressure – things that are very common knowledge,” Hicks said. “The leading cause of death in the African-American community is abortion. Wow. I was brought into a world of information that I never knew. The Bible says people perish for lack of knowledge.
Finding out this knowledge, I began to have a heart for the young ladies who would encounter the people that would say, ‘You need to have an abortion.’”
Hicks recently found out that the daughter of one of his church members was pregnant and considering an abortion, and he was able to discuss and pray with her about the dilemma. The woman decided to keep her child.
Mother made right choice
Hicks said his mother found herself in a difficult moment when she discovered she was pregnant with him, but she decided to stand firm against those advising her to have an abortion.
“God spoke very clearly to her and said, ‘If you have this abortion, you will never have another child again,’” Hicks said. “By the grace of God she had the conviction in her heart to have me – and I’m very grateful that I can stand before you today as a man of God with a great heart for the city of New Orleans.”
Life will defeat death
Barriere said he takes comfort when Jesus warns his disciples that the thief comes for no other reason than to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus comes so that “they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Barriere said. “We ought to be about life – every life, life in the womb, life in the street. It’s amazing when you see so much death in our community, but when the church comes together, we can see life more abundantly.
“It’s time for us to stop fighting each other, to stop seeing the murders in the street. But, more importantly, if we cannot allow the spirit and the people of God to rally together and protect unborn human life, how can we ever protect life on the street?”