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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pro-life updates from New York

[Today's blog post is by SPL supporter Phil Eddy, who works for Students for Life of America as Northeast Regional Coordinator. It is cross-posted from his Students for Life blog, where you can view more pictures. I happen to know that Phil is not Catholic, but he reaches out to any and all pro-life allies, including Catholic dioceses. He is a wonderful role model for pro-life unity!]

This past week saw me drive more than 1,000 miles around the states of New York and New Jersey, and we’re seeing great things happen on the local level. On Friday, Lisa Hall – the Respect Life Director for the Syracuse diocese – hosted a huge pro-life youth rally attended by almost 500 students. She showed them “The Tide is Turning,” and had me briefly speak on the importance of taking action as a student. They’ll be bringing a large group down to the March for Life this year, and we look forward to seeing the fantastic work coming out of the myriad of pro-life efforts in Syracuse!

Much of the Northeast saw heavy snow last weekend, but Buffalo proved to be relatively balmy in comparison. There was no snow on the ground (yet…), and I had a great time meeting with students and local pro-lifers. The leaders of the group at Canisius College expressed a desire to see greater student participation on their largely apathetic campus, and we mapped out a plan for achieving that. This will be the first year that they’re bringing a group down to the SFLA conference and March for Life in January, and we discussed logistics for their pro-life winter road trip down to D.C.

Interestingly enough, they expressed a desire to see more male students involved. This is a sentiment expressed all too often by pro-life organizations, as the majority of our movement is made up of women.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to visit the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center in downtown Buffalo and see firsthand some of the amazing work they’re doing. Assistant Coordinator Doreen Oshirak showed me around while volunteer Sharise sorted through donated items and her baby boy played nearby. SGMPOC had two walls stacked high with diapers, and several rooms filled with donated supplies. They used to be in a much, much smaller space, but a few months ago moved to the larger three-level location downtown, and were excited to be able to better serve the hundreds of mothers and children that utilize their services each year.

I also met with Cheryl Calire, Director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities for the Buffalo diocese, and she shared with me some of the incredible work they’ve already accomplished, as well as the ambitious goals they’re working on. Buffalo can get pretty cold in the winter, and a wonderful group of local women has been donating their knitting and patchwork skills to create clothing and blankets for the children the center serves. Cheryl showed me several giant plastic tubs filled with these donated materials, and told me about Project Linus, an organization made up of thousands of crafty folks nationwide whose mission is “to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.””

One of the highlights of my trip was getting to finally meet students from the now infamous UB Students for Life group. They shared with me their detailed plan for the next three semesters, as well as the alliances they’re working on with other student organizations. They asked my help with their unique problem – getting “American” students involved! You see, the UB SFL group consists of mostly international and non-white students, and they joked about the non-involvement of white students on campus. One student – Sonika – said that for her, being pro-life was just a natural part of her being Indian, and that she couldn’t fathom the idea of someone back in India actually fighting for the right to kill a child.

Gautham from Malaysia sent me a message after the meeting, with these words for the SFLA community of students and supporters: “We will certainly stand strong and make our presence felt…With your continuous support, encouragement and commitment in making UB Students for Life what we should be, we will not let you down and will definitely keep growing into a well-established student organization.”
Unfortunately, UB SFL has hit yet another roadblock on campus. Group president Sara B contacted me Wednesday afternoon to let me know that they are still dealing with an uncooperative Student Administration:

“Apparently our budget and finances were frozen by the Student Association. Instead of just punishing the dozen people who attacked our Cemetery of the Innocents display last month, the school is seeing fit to punish us as well in what we believe to be an ideologically motivated attempt to limit us….ridiculous, right? We had a meeting today with someone from SA, but they never showed up. So even though we’ve done everything right and had a big fundraising banquet with 130 people to raise even more funds for our activities, the school has essentially neutered us financially.”

Just before hitting the road for my overnight drive back down to New York City, I met with Josh, a student from Buffalo State University that is starting a pro-life group there. If Buffalo State’s administration is anything like UB’s, then it’ll be an uphill battle…but one that we will eventually win. I’m going to be focusing heavily on western New York the next couple of months, so if you know any students in that area that are interested in starting or building up a campus pro-life group, please get a hold of me [pedddy[at]studentsforlife.org].

I want to leave you on a positive note, and this observation I made while up in western NY made me smile…

The theme of our annual SFLA conference in Washington, D.C. this year is “Envision a World without Abortion,” and a huge component of getting our culture to that point involves a multitude of small steps, like making establishments more accommodating for pregnant and parenting individuals. I was pleasantly surprised to find that several Wegmans supermarket locations in the Buffalo area had changing tables and complimentary diapers and baby supplies in both women’s and men’s restrooms! It’s a small step, but an important one as we advance our goal of making our world more accommodating to parents and children.

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