Youth rally and Mass will precede Oct. 5 Respect Life Walk

BOSTON -- Alyssa smiled and stroked her baby’s dark hair. “I can’t imagine life without him, but I know he wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t gotten help,” she said.

She looked around at the cozy living room and recalled how different life had been months before when she had arrived at Friends of the Unborn crisis pregnancy center and sheltering home in Quincy.

“My parents had told me to leave if I didn’t have an abortion. My boyfriend took off,” she said. “I was sick all the time, and so scared and alone. I felt desperate.”

But Friends Director Marilyn Birnie took her in, as she had more than 1,800 young women since she first opened her home to one girl on Sept. 11, 1984.

“Often girls only choose abortion because they think they have no other option,” she said.

But like Alyssa, they do. She received shelter, food, medical care, guidance, compassion and friendship. “I feel happy again, and hopeful that my son and I will make a home together,” she said. “I thank God for leading us to people who really cared.”

As a Christian-based organization, Friends is totally supported by donations. It’s one of 47 Massachusetts groups that will benefit from the October 5 Respect Life Walk to Aid Mothers and Children, an annual fundraiser held by Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL).

“Every group helps real women, real children,” said Helen Cross, MCFL Walk chairman. “Being pregnant is the tip of the iceberg -- there’s drug abuse, homelessness. Some women are told -- abort or you lose everything. These groups offer food, education, hope; they offer life in the broadest sense. They show the face of Christ to those in need.”

MCFL is the only beneficiary group devoted solely to pro-life education and legislation. “Some wonderful groups have pro-life positions among their many concerns; other wonderful people do sidewalk counseling and many babies have been born because of their efforts,” said MCFL President Anne Fox.

But there’s a need for political action as well as spiritual and material assistance, she added. Fox drew an analogy: “We’ve heard this issue justly compared to slavery, where the Supreme Court also classified a group of human beings as ‘less human.’ The Underground Railroad saved many slaves, but it took the abolition movement to get slavery outlawed and give legal recognition to all human beings. The abolitionists did this by keeping slavery ‘in people’s faces.’”

And raising public awareness takes money. “This isn’t just a rally,” Cross said. “It’s a major fundraiser for these groups who rely on sponsorships raised by registered walkers.”

MCFL itself needs money, Fox acknowledged. “I’m a volunteer; most of us are. But we need professionals and technology to help us educate and activate others,” she said. “People who were younger than 18 on Jan. 22, 1973 don’t remember when abortion was illegal. They’re supportive of prayer breakfasts and they give money, but they aren’t activists. For them it’s like it was for people who lived under communism -- they honestly don’t understand things can change. We must educate them to the fact that the law can be changed and that they can -- and must -- do it.”

This 22nd Walk is dedicated to the memory of pro-life benefactor Thomas J. Flatley. Speakers from five beneficiary groups will recount real success stories at the 1:30 p.m. opening assembly at the Boston Common’s Parkman Bandstand at Tremont and Boylston streets. Keynote speaker will be Joe Fitzgerald, Boston Herald columnist, sportswriter, and Red Auerbach biographer.

Prior to the 5-K Walk, the Archdiocese of Boston will hold a youth rally featuring music with Father Stan Fortuna at 10 a.m. at Cathedral Grammar School. At 11:30 a.m., Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley will celebrate a Respect Life Mass across the street at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, after which the young people will enjoy a pizza lunch, then walk together to the Common.

Getting “Laura’s Law” passed is one of MCFL’s legislative goals for the 2009-10 session. Technically called the Woman’s Right to Know Bill, this informed consent legislation will be reintroduced, this time with a local woman’s tragic story behind it.

Laura Hope Smith of Sandwich was the 22-year-old victim who, along with her unborn child, died during a legal abortion last September. The abortionist now faces a manslaughter charge in Barnstable County Superior Court.

Laura’s parents asked MCFL to rename the bill in Laura’s memory; her mother Eileen Smith will be honored at MCFL’s annual dinner Sept. 17 at Lantana’s Restaurant in Randolph. Guest speaker will be Amherst College law professor Hadley Arkes, architect of the 2002 federal Born-Alive Infants’ Protection Act. He will explain how a package of legislation, such as the informed consent bill and others prohibiting sex-selection and coerced abortions, can further the cause for life.

Tickets at $50 each should be reserved by Sept. 12. Call MCFL at 617-242-4199 or go to to reserve dinner tickets or obtain Walk registration and sponsorship forms.