Keynote speaker Deborah Flora speaks at the 33rd Annual Interfaith Assembly for Life in Faneuil Hall Jan. 15. Pilot photo by Peter Smith
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That is the sentiment that pervaded the 33rd Annual Assembly for Life, held Jan. 15 at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston.
Over 200 pro-life supporters braved the bone-chilling temperatures to attend the rally, which is held every year on the Sunday before the March for Life in Washington D.C. This year’s event featured a showing of “A Distant Thunder,” a 35-minute psychological thriller tackling the issue of partial-birth abortion, as well as a keynote address by Deborah Flora, lead actress in the movie.
“Abortion and all pro-life issues have never ended in importance,” said Father David Mullen, pastor of St. Brendan Church in Bellingham who emceed the event. “They are the central issue of our culture and our time.”
“There is a future of hope,” declared Peg Whitbread, president of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the group that sponsored the event, referring to the recent Supreme Court appointees as well as to several proposed federal laws. “There is the possibility that Roe will be overturned in a few years,” she said as the crowd broke into spontaneous cheers and applause.
“I’d like to say ‘when’ Roe is overturned, not ‘if,’” Whitbread added.
However, Whitbread noted several challenges to pro-life issues currently before legislators on Beacon Hill. In particular she denounced legislation filed last month that would extend buffer zones at abortion clinics.
“It is so sad that the choice, once made, can’t be undone before [the abortion] is done,” she sighed.
Whitbread also set forth plans to oppose the legislation that would mandate all public schools to adopt the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Education Frameworks, a sex education curriculum that includes the topics of homosexuality and abortion.
“Massachusetts Citizens for Life will do everything in its power to make sure that legislation won’t pass,” she vowed.
“It’s up to you and me as citizens of Massachusetts to help change the culture,” Whitbread stressed. “Stand up for life and the truth that we possess.”
Father Mullen also stressed the importance of continuing to support pro-life issues “not only because we are believers in God, but also because we are Americans and we believe in the basic ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Deborah Flora, keynote speaker and leading actress in “A Distant Thunder,” told the assembly following the screening of the movie, “I believe all of us were born for such a time as this.”
The drama explored the subject of partial-birth abortion through the eyes of one woman. Written and directed by her husband, Jonathan Flora, the former Miss Colorado told the assembly she hopes the movie will serve as a “tool” to bring about discussion about people’s views of abortion.
Flora, who explained her husband was unable to attend the assembly because the film was being screened at the American Film Renaissance festival in Hollywood, spoke of their motivation for creating “A Distant Thunder.”
“Making a film about partial-birth abortion in Hollywood, you don’t do it for your resume, or for your fortune, but because you really believe in it,” she said. According to Flora, shortly after marrying the couple was told they would be unable to have children. Already somewhat involved in the pro-life movement, they began to see that “here we wanted a child so badly, but in our country unwanted pregnancies were treated as a bad cold — something to resolve and get rid of.”
As their involvement with the pro-life movement increased, so did their desire to do something that would challenge people to speak about their views of abortion. Because of their involvement with the movie industry, the couple decided to create a film that was both non-judgmental — one of the principal characters is pro-choice — and compelling.
“We purposely made it in a way that makes people talk,” she said. “Open conversation — that’s what we want.”
The final address to the assembly was delivered by longtime supporter of pro-life issues, Boston Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley. The archbishop attributed the challenges to life to the violence of the past century which “has led to a certain disconnect that takes place in our hearts.”
“We have grown desensitized to violence,” he said.
In addition, the “exaggerated individualism” of our times, and the “incessant changes” of our society have led to the “low ebb in respect of human life,” he said.
“Some people accuse my Church of being a one-issue church,” the archbishop said.
He countered that criticism, pointing to the countless times the Holy See and the U.S. bishops have taken a stand on issues such as racism, poverty and social justice.
“Ask Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations how many issues they are interested in,” he declared as the crowd broke into applause.
“Be assured of my prayers and support,” concluded the archbishop. “May He prosper the work of your hands.”