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Fighting for the right to be born

Fighting for the right to be born

Apr 10, 2018

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

LITTLE ROCK – No one was more surprised by the announcement that the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock was withdrawing funding from Arkansas Right to Life than the leader of the 44-year-old pro-life advocacy group.

After all, when the non-profit organization was formed in 1974, the support and financial assistance of the Bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock helped make it possible, according to Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life.

The dissatisfaction of the Diocese was with Arkansas Right to Life’s selection of the keynote speaker for its annual March for Life at the Arkansas Capitol in January, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who, in addition to being a strong supporter of pro-life causes, is also a supporter of capital punishment.

“We were asked by the Bishop of the Diocese to disinvite Rutledge because of her role in the executions that occurred in Arkansas in 2017,” said Mimms. After Mimms met with her board, Arkansas Right to Life decided to stick with its decision and issued the following statement:

“The 40th annual Arkansas March for Life will go on as planned. Arkansas Right to Life is a single-issue organization dedicated to seeking protection for the lives of innocent unborn children. We hope that everyone who shares our views, that innocent unborn children should be protected, will support and attend the march, regardless of their views on other issues in which Arkansas Right to Life does not take a stand. Arkansas Right to Life is and has always been a single issue, right to life organization.”

March attendance down

Attendance at the 2018 March for Life was down from previous years.

In February, Arkansas Right to Life received a letter from Bishop Anthony F. Taylor advising that the Diocesan subsidy of $5,000 annually was ending because he felt it was “inappropriate,” said Mimms.

The letter from Taylor read in part, “(I)n January it became clear that Arkansas Right to Life’s focus is not as inclusive as the reaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity and sanctity of all human life as evidenced by your choice of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge as the primary speaker for this year’s Rally for Life (sic), which made it impossible for me to promote or participate in that event.”

Mimms reiterated that Taylor “did offer us the opportunity to apply for a pro-life grant and I have done that,” adding, “The Diocesan subsidy was not a huge amount of money, but we counted on it and we are working to recoup that loss.”

Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, said some who seek to defend and advocate for unborn children in the context of legalized abortion are accused of hypocrisy when they do not oppose and speak out against capital punishment in the U.S.

“Those leveling the charge have knowingly or unknowingly conflated the term ‘pro-life.’

The universal and virtually exclusive understanding of what it means to be pro-life is to seek to protect defenseless, innocent human life. One who has been charged, tried and sentenced to die for a capital offense in this country by definition is not defenseless or innocent. No one reaches that point without constitutionally mandated and protected due process, a fair and impartial adjudication before a judge and jury of his peers, and a near endless stream of appeals.”

Page added, “It is simply disingenuous to attempt to make a case of moral equivalency between a baby in the womb and an adult who, with premeditation and extreme disregard, intentionally takes the life of another. No matter how much effort is expended in using cleverly disguised figures of speech and rhetorical devices, that is a chasm too wide to bridge.”

Legislative impact

The impact of the work of Arkansas Right to Life is evidenced by a list of legislative accomplishments the organization has supported.

Perhaps the most significant is Amendment 68 to the Arkansas Constitution approved in 1988, which states explicitly, “No public funds will be used to pay for any abortion, except to save the mother’s life,” and “The policy of Arkansas is to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution.”

More recently, Arkansas Right to Life supported the passage of the 2009 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, legislation in 2011 to license and inspect abortion facilities, the state opting out of abortion in the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) in 2013, a ban on webcam abortions in 2015 and the 2017 passage of the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion measure.

Arkansas has been so successful in limiting abortion that Americans United for Life named it the second most pro-life state in the U.S.

Mimms said Arkansas gets a solid “F” on the National Abortion Rights Action League Pro-Choice America reproductive rights “report card.”

“We wear that as a badge of honor,” said Mimms.

As a non-profit public service organization, Mimms said Arkansas Right to Life’s single-issue focus is the preservation of the lives of the unborn.

“Arkansas Right to Life is a nonprofit organization that has no religious or political affiliation. We focus primarily on abortion because of the enormous loss of life over the last 45 years as the result of legalized abortion and seek the help of anyone who agrees with us that the killing of unborn children is wrong, but also recognize the impact that the loss of the sanctity and dignity of human life has on those who are weak and vulnerable in our society to the threats of infanticide and euthanasia,” she said.

“The success of the pro-life movement and the work of Arkansas Right to Life has been that we not weaken our strength in the defense of human life on other outside issues that would divide and destroy unity which is so critical to the pro-life movement,” Mimms said.

Non-denominational

Mimms, a Catholic, says a common misconception about Arkansas Right to Life is that it is a Catholic organization. In actuality, it is non-denominational and maintains a board made up of individuals of various faiths, including Catholics, Baptists and those who are non-denominational.

The president of the Arkansas Right to Life Board of Directors is Andy Mayberry of Hensley, a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives for District 27, which includes portions of Saline and Pulaski counties. Mayberry and his wife, Julie, own The East Ender newspaper in East End in Saline County. Mayberry is a member of a Missionary Baptist church.

“I believe that (as a Christian) we’re supposed to speak up for the defenseless, for the weak, for the most vulnerable, and it doesn’t get any more vulnerable than the unborn child in the womb,” said Mayberry.

“We’ve had a good working relationship with the Catholic Church through the years. I’d like to have an even stronger relationship with them and churches of all denominations.”

The Arkansas Right to Life organization complements the work of Southern Baptists in Arkansas through 22 pregnancy care centers located throughout the state that receive limited funding from the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

Centers the ABSC supports by providing $200 per quarter are located in Blytheville, Batesville, Little Rock, Malvern, North Little Rock, Russellville, Clarksville, Wynne, Mena, Searcy, El Dorado, Monticello, Warren, Pine Bluff, Mountain Home, Paragould, Rogers, Ash Flat, Benton, Cabot, Arkadelphia and Jonesboro. The ABSC also hosts the quarterly meeting for the centers and provides lunch.

“So many people get us confused with the pregnancy help centers or lump us all together and think support of one is support of all,” said Mimms. “While our goal is the same, our mission and strategy for ending abortion are different. They do it one on one, and we do it on the mass scale through education and pro-life laws. Others think we are a Catholic organization or a Republican organization.

“Arkansas Right to Life is a grassroots organization that is funded entirely by individuals, families and some churches through membership dues and donations that support our educational programs and outreach efforts.”

Impact of abortion

Since the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, the National Right to Life estimates there have been more than 60 million abortions in the U.S. The number of annual legal abortions in the U.S. has decreased steadily in the past several decades from a high of 1.6 million in 1990 to 926,000 in 2015. The Guttmacher Institute attributes the drop in abortions to a drop in the number of abortion providers from a high of 2,918 in 1982 to 1,671 in 2014.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, there were 3,207 induced abortions in 2016 (the most recent reporting period). Women ages 20-24 had the largest number of abortions and were of the following ethnicity: black (521), white (460), other (88) and Hispanic (65). Most abortions in the age group occurred at 5 to 6 weeks. An overwhelming majority of women having abortions were unmarried.

Abortion in the U.S. is big business, generating at least $477 million in revenue annually. Nearly one-third of all abortions in the U.S. are performed by Planned Parenthood, according to the National Right to Life.

Many pro-life proponents and legislators who have worked for years to defund Planned Parenthood were dismayed March 23 when a government funding bill signed by President Donald Trump provided $500 million in taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.

For more information on Arkansas Right to Life visit artl.org or contact Mimms at artl4237@att.net.

Contact Tim Yarbrough at tim@arkansasbaptist.org.

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