Diocese Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux addresses a May 21 gathering of the Pregnancy Resource Network at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. (BOB REDDY | FC)

Faithful work together to save babies

Venice  |  There is a group of dedicated professionals who spend their every waking moment trying to save the unborn or helping newborns have a fighting chance at a good life. From medical resource centers to residential facilities there are about 25 programs across Southwest Florida that either directly work to save the lives of babies, or step in to help struggling mothers provide a bright future for their newborns.  To help learn best practices and to learn about the latest trend, Diocesan Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux hosted the annual Pregnancy Resource Network gathering on May 21 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

During the meeting the more than 25 representatives talked about a variety of topics including: adoption; drug and alcohol abuse; post-abortive women; competition, best practices and most importantly their successes. In addition to the main talks, the representatives met in smaller discussion groups based on services and then by region.

Berdeaux shared updates on the latest fight to protect life from conception both here in Florida and throughout the U.S. The abortion fight has gained the most recent national headlines with state legislatures passing wildly variable laws some with some encouraging protections at the sign of a heartbeat, while others (such as in New York) going to the opposite extreme of permitting abortions at any time.  

The reason for the rush is that if the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for abortion is overturned or modified by coming Court decisions, the result will be that each state will then have to come up with its own abortion laws. 

“They are getting ahead of the Supreme Court and each time a new governor signs a bill there have been strong reactions from both sides of the pro-life debate,” Berdeaux went on to say. “Florida is moving forward with a bill that would be similar to Alabama’s heart-beat bill, but there is a lot of money from Planned Parenthood behind the opposition. Cutting back access or stopping abortion will make them lose money. It’s what it is all about. Not the babies that are being killed, just a cut into their profits.” 

The recent release of the movie “Unplanned,” about the life of former Planned Parenthood Director turned Pro-Life activist Abby Johnson, has also stirred the debate and raised awareness about the issue. 

Jeannine Byrnes, who is co-sponsor of Luncheons 4 Life throughout the Diocese, spoke about an online advertising campaign which plays an ad for women who do an Internet search for key words, including abortion. The ad campaign is aimed at encouraging vulnerable women to choose going to a pro-life pregnancy resource center if they are in a crisis pregnancy. The initial response has been encouraging, Byrnes said. There is now talks to expand this effort beyond the Diocese.

Berdeaux said the pregnancy resource centers scattered throughout the Diocese are often the last option for women who are pregnant. Each resource center offers differing services, but all are pro-life, and all are committed to saving every child no matter the circumstances. The goal is to nurture the mother and offer an ultrasound to show that there is a life growing inside of them and offer the support that is needed, such as counseling, emergency financial aid or housing on a case-by-case basis and much more. 

After the child is born, there are programs which offer comprehensive support for new moms who might otherwise be homeless. Included in this category is Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities in Venice. These residential programs provide intensive case management and support to ensure a bright future for mother and child.

Another major topic was how to talk with women who have had an abortion. Though unthinkable to many, the grim reality is that approximately one-third of all women have had an abortion. Project Rachel is the outreach of the Catholic Church within the Diocese to those who are suffering this loss after an abortion. The outreach offers help through the sacraments, retreats, and referrals for professional counseling. 

For more information about the various pregnancy resource centers within the Diocese please visit http://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/respect-life/pregnancy-resources.