Catholic Free Press

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Defending life

Posted By January 24, 2013 | 1:12 pm | Lead Story #1, Uncategorized
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By Tanya Connor

Before – and after – the legalization of abortion, local Catholics were helping women with problem pregnancies to choose life. They still are.
It was 40 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy in all states with the decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton handed down Jan. 22, 1973.
“There were all kinds of back alley abortions” before abortions were legal, Roger Dubuque of Worcester said. So after the change in the law, doctors were going to do them legally and “make them safe.”
Even “safe” abortions were not acceptable to many people of faith so the efforts to stop abortion providers from locating in cities and towns ensued.
Roger and Joyce Dubuque, members of Christ the King Parish in Worcester, are still active in the pro-life community. They told The Catholic Free Press about the early days and how Worcester became the center of a longstanding battle to save lives and help women.
Before abortion was legal, Mrs. Dubuque volunteered at Marillac Manor in Worcester, a diocesan-run home for unwed mothers, giving pregnancy tests, helping girls talk to their parents, helping them through their pregnancies. Catholic Charities put the Church teaching on the sanctity of life into action through Marillac Manor and Lifeline, telephone hotlines set up to take confidential calls from women needing help with their pregnancy.
Mrs. Dubuque lamented the eventual closing of Marillac Manor, but rejoiced that Visitation House in Worcester is now doing the same work.
After abortion was legalized, she did basically the same things as a counselor at Problem Pregnancy, a crisis pregnancy center created in 1982 after an effort to stop Planned Parenthood from locating an abortion clinic in Worcester failed.
Mr. Dubuque recounted the first awakening he and his wife had to what was coming after abortion was legalized. It happened at a gathering in Southborough in June 1976 where efforts were under way to open an abortion clinic there.
But the proposal for an abortion clinic in Southborough was soundly defeated. “There were people that were sweeping them out of town,” he said.
“That’s when we first met some of the people from Massachusetts Citizens for Life,” he said.
In January 1977 he and his wife went on an MCFL bus to Washington, D.C., for the national March for Life, which was started after the Supreme Court legalized abortion. For the next four years the Dubuques led the new Worcester chapter of MCFL.
Also in 1977 a federally chartered agency evaluating local health care needs recommended that an out-patient abortion clinic be established in Central Massachusetts. According to a Catholic Free Press story at the time, the Central Massachusetts Health Systems Agency issued a maternal and newborn care report with that recommendation. In May, a petition drive in Leominster signed by 4,500 people opposed the siting of such a clinic in that city. Fitchburg, too had a petition drive to change zoning laws to restrict the building of an abortion clinic in that city.
Mr. Dubuque recalls that there was a controversial public hearing in Worcester in 1977 with “a tremendous amount of audience participation,” he said.
“Every time we had those hearings we got to meet more people who were pro-life,” he said. “It allowed us to gather names and to band together” to build a Citizens For Life group in Central Massachusetts.
The Worcester chapter of Massachusetts Citizens for Life was called to greater action when in January of 1980, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts announced it would establish a “reproductive health care clinic” in Worcester.
What followed was several years of public hearings and court battles.
Planned Parenthood tells the history of the clinic this way on its website making reference to the pro-life forces: “The Public Health Council soon approved PPLM’s Determination of Need (DON), but antiabortion forces stepped up its efforts to halt the clinic’s establishment. The opposition spent 2 1/2 years challenging the clinic’s opening, but despite their considerable efforts, all cases were ultimately decided in PPLM’s favor.”
“Our appeal was turned down,” Mr. Dubuque said. “Attorney (John W.) Spillane appealed to the appellate court of Massachusetts. That whole process was able to delay the opening until 1982.”
Planned Parenthood opened in the Commerce Building at 340 Main St. in Worcester. Within two months, on the same floor of the same building a group of volunteers opened the first Problem Pregnancy office to offer women alternatives to abortion. Problem Pregnancy incorporated in December 1982. According to Mr. Dubuque, many people were involved with Problem Pregnancy, under the leadership of Gerard and Margaret Russell, who succeeded the Dubuques as leaders of the MCFL affiliate.
Problem Pregnancy’s mission was and is to save lives and to support “women who are being victimized and exploited by Planned Parenthood,” according to a letter to supporters in 1983.
Problem Pregnancy continues to offer life saving alternatives to abortion at the door step of Planned Parenthood; which was first located on Main Street, then on Lincoln Street, and is now on Pleasant Street.