In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary…then the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. (Luke 1:28 ff)
Next Tuesday, March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, marking the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, announcing that she would be the mother of the Savior, the Word made flesh. It is also the day of an international pro-life celebration: the International Day of the Unborn Child. Established by St. Pope John Paul II to coincide with and honor the Feast of the Annunciation, the pope wanted people in every part of the world to celebrate the gift of life by remembering all unborn human life. In inaugurating this day in 1999, the great champion and defender of human life united the universal Church in a single act, boldly proclaiming the value of every human life while in the same moment stressing the necessary importance of defending the most vulnerable.
Instituting the day as, “A positive option in favor of life and the spread of a Culture for Life to guarantee respect for human dignity in every situation,” the soon-to-be Saint John Paul wanted us to reflect on the Incarnation — the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit — because it reminds us of the gift that forever affects human history and affords to man and woman their dignity. He also wanted to prick the conscience of society by making us remember the millions of unborn children whose lives have been violently ended by the crime of abortion — globally nearly 50 million every year.
Having just returned from Austria, I saw first-hand what love for life could accomplish. Austria’s pro-life movement began with the foundation of Human Life International Austria eighteen years ago and the opening of the Life Center in Vienna. Today, there are three additional Life Centers in Austria — Salzburg, Graz and Hohenems — each utilizing the original model established in Vienna. Because of their efforts, six abortion mills have been closed and over 15,000 babies and mothers have been saved.
During my visit with Joannes Bucher, HLI’s Regional Director for Europe, I was privileged to spend time with HLI’s pro-life missionaries in Vienna and Salzburg. I witnessed the transforming work the Life Centers are doing, as well as the impact they are having in saving the lives of children and their mothers. Through determination, love and in spite of tremendous suffering at the hands of radical defenders of abortion, these pro-lifers are making a difference in Austria. They are creating a positive option in favor of life.
Sixteen years ago, the corrupt international abortion business Marie Stopes opened one of Vienna’s largest abortion mills, averaging 70 abortions per week. Through heroic efforts and prayer, as well as enduring some of the most venomous attacks from abortion supporters, the number of abortions has progressively decreased. Today the mill averages 15 abortions per week — which is still 15 too many. We want no lives to be lost to the crime of abortion, but the efforts of these defenders of life are making a powerful difference. It should also be noted that the Life Center in Vienna provides generous assistance to women and their children. They continue to witness against the culture of death by providing services that genuinely care for women, their children and families.
The murderous influence of the Gynmed Abortion Center in Vienna is also being altered because of the tireless efforts of pro-lifers. When this particular facility opened in 2003, it was terminating the lives of 60 unborn children per week. The abortionist, Dr. Christian Fiala, who is connected to International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates (FIAPAC), has spent large amounts of money to stifle pro-life efforts. The abortionist has gone so far as to employee people to ridicule and molest sidewalk counselors and people praying as they stand in witness to the gift of life. Episodes of this harassment have been caught on tape. Though saving lives at this facility has been more difficult, pro-lifers are determined to continue their work. Please pray for their efforts.
John Paul II’s desire to raise greater awareness and accountability is making a difference. While many nations celebrate the unalienable dignity and value of every unborn child, we recognize that the threats against the unborn are still present and growing. The Feast of the Annunciation invites us to reflect upon the wonder of every human life, particularly the amazing world of the developing child yet to be born. Please join me on March 25th by participating in pro-life events in your community. Let us stand in solidarity with the universal Church in its call to prayer and active defense of every human life. John Paul II wanted a positive favor for life to be cultivated. Let us make it a greater reality.