(published in the Picayune Item, Picayune, Mississippi)
By Gina Burgess
In Jackson, across from the Capital, stands a bullet-proof glass case that is half full of pennies. It stands at the corner of the Baptist Building and is a Memorial to the Missing--missing babies that have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade case made abortions legal.
The case was designed to hold 50 million pennies which amounts to $500,000 and will weigh in, after it’s full, at 156 tons. That is about how much 75 elephants weigh or the same weight as Mickey’s Fantasia hat at Disney World.
"It’s not the 50 million pennies that are important," said Jimmy Porter, executive director of the convention’s Christian Action Commission. "It’s the 50 million children." Each penny is in memory of an aborted child.
"There is an abortion in this country every 20 to 22 seconds," Porter said. That equates to about 3,900 abortions per day in the U.S. or about 1.43 million abortions per year.
Jim Futral, the state Baptist Convention’s executive director/treasurer said, "The effects of abortion on children are well-known. But, since the Supreme Court legalized the practice in all 50 states, it has wrecked the lives of countless women who have had them and their extended families as well."
Futral went on to say, "I received a letter from a couple from out of state that was particularly moving. They were visiting Jackson and heard about the memorial. The letter said they came by and just stood there in awe for a while at the number of pennies inside. This couple had two daughters who between them had had three abortions. The wife asked her husband if he had any pennies. He had three pennies in his pocket and he went to put them in, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t let them go because they represented the three grandchildren they’ll never get to hold. Eventually they had to put them in together."
The U.S. penny is the most insignificant and unwanted piece of money in any person’s pocket or purse. Very many of them can weigh a lot and a penny doesn’t buy much. People just don’t bend over and pick up a penny in a parking lot any more because it is hardly worth the effort. Until now.
Mississippi Baptists, like the three women pictured, are not only bending and picking them up, they are bagging them and either shipping them or taking them to the Memorial in Jackson. Some are mailing in checks which are converted to pennies and added to the memorial.
In February, Charles Gibson, anchor for ABC World News Tonight, commented that Baby Amillia, who was born at 25 weeks and has survived, is a miracle. "The fact that she has survived and grown to more than four pounds, and is about to go home, is a miracle, yes, but a miracle that may have an effect on the debate over abortion. And it may change what people think about life."
Tony Perkins, with the Family Research Council, was interviewed by ABC for the story. "As we see, with the advancement of medical technology, we have children surviving outside the womb younger and younger," Perkins said. "It really brings into focus how valuable and how precious this human life really is."
The abortion debate is a political hurdle that some may use to try to stump a presidential hopeful indicated by a question posed to John McCain on his trek across New Hampshire last weekend.
"I am a pro-life person. That's been a solid 24-year record," John McCain said Sunday. "I have not changed my position. I have been an advocate for human rights -- having been deprived of them for a period in my life -- from Burma to Bosnia to China to Cuba, and I believe human rights also extend to that of the unborn," said McCain, who endured years of torture and deprivation as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Friday was the 34th anniversary of his release, he said.
ABC News reports that South Carolina lawmakers are considering legislation that would force women seeking abortions to see an ultrasound image of their fetus. The proposed bill has angered abortion rights groups, who say politicians in South Carolina are trying to interfere in a medical decision women should make with their doctors.
In Florida, doctors, school nurses or any health provider who finds that a girl under 16 is pregnant would have to tell the police, under a bill anti-abortion lawmakers are pushing in the Florida Legislature, reports the International Herald Tribune, 9 March 2007.
"This bill will scare young girls and their parents from seeking health care at the time they need the care the most," said Lillian Tamayo, president of the Planned Parenthood chapter in South Florida. "It criminalizes sexual activity among minors." The law already says a health care provider must report child abuse, she said. This bill has yet to be referred to any legislative committee to date.
The Bismark Tribune reported on March 12, that the lawmakers in the House of Representatives of North Dakota have passed a bill banning abortion with only loss of mother’s life as an exception. It includes a "trigger" which would activate it into law. What would trigger it is the rescinding of the Roe v. Wade decision.
Senate Majority Leader in North Dakota, Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, invoked a rarely used procedure to table a bill that would grant citizenship to fetuses. "Bizarre," he called it, adding, "Nobody wanted to debate or vote on that bill."
The AP reports Pope Benedict XVI, insisting that the faithful hold firm to Church teaching, told Catholic politicians Tuesday they must support the Vatican’s nonnegotiable rejection of abortion and gay marriage.
Benedict also rebuffed calls to let divorced Catholics who remarry receive communion.
The Pope sent Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, to inaugurate an international conference in Mexico City on Friday. He is the Vatican’s chief anti-abortion proponent. This comes in spite of a constitutional law banning religious groups participating in politics. The bill under consideration is to legalize abortion within the first three months of pregnancy in Mexico. Currently, it is only legal if the mother’s life is in danger, or in the case of rape. The law does not prevent wealthy women to cross the border into the U.S. for an abortion, but poorer women are relying upon illegal, back-street operations. Advocates of the bill say legalization would make for safer conditions.
When Futral conceived the idea for the memorial in Jackson, the families of those who have abortions may not have been first and foremost in his mind. But today he is happy that the memorial is magnifying the problem beyond what was originally intended. "But the true weight of the problem and the weight of the loss – there is no way to calculate that," Futral said.
The Baptist Press reported last January the Memorial to the Missing will be collecting pennies until the 50 million goal is met, then the money will be invested in an endowment with the Mississippi Baptist Foundation to create a permanent fund for pro-life projects such as crisis pregnancy center operations and other projects for women with unwanted pregnancies. "No salaries or administrative costs will be paid for with the pennies," Porter said.