Pennsylvanians for Human Life

Click here for photos from the 2009 PA Conference.
From the November 5, 2009 issue of The Catholic Light:
Information & Inspiration
Pro-life supporters get both at statewide conference here

By William R. Genello, Catholic Light Editor

Northeastern Pennsylvania has sometimes been called the pro-life capital of the country.

Although that designation is unofficial, our region recently was at the forefront of pro-life activity again when the Pennsylvania Pro- Life Federation held its annual statewide conference here.

Approximately 400 people from around the state attended the event on Oct. 24 at the Hilton Scranton and Conference Center. They left with a lot of information and inspiration to continue promoting the cause for life at all stages.

Bishop John M. Dougherty, former auxiliary bishop of Scranton, welcomed the conference to the Diocese in the name of Cardinal Justin Rigali, who had wanted to be there but could not attend due to other commitments.

Bishop Dougherty recalled the thought of the French author Pascal: “Between us and hell or heaven there is nothing but life, which of all things is the frailest.”

“The frailty of life is at its start and ending – the very frailty you are bent on protecting,” Bishop Dougherty told the audience. He praised, thanked and blessed them for their work.

The banquet’s keynote speaker, former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, talked about the principles of our nation’s foundation and the rule of law to respect God’s creation of human life.

“You cannot proclaim the truth and live a lie. You cannot destroy the innocent and claim America’s promise (of life and liberty for all),” he told The Catholic Light in an interview prior to the banquet.

“If we walk away from that (respecting all human life), then all the rest will disintegrate over time. We are playing a dangerous game by trying to compromise with evil,” said Mr. Kline, who gained national attention for his battles with Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion operation.

The banquet was preceded by a day-long program of presentations on a variety of topics.

Bobby Schindler, brother of euthanasia victim Terri Schindler Schiavo. The Schindler family unsuccessfully fought the court ruling that allowed Terri to die, but Bobby Schlindler said his family never sought attention or tried to do anything heroic.

“We just wanted to bring Terri home and care for her,” he said. “But we were not allowed to do that, and that’s a barometer of how far we’re drifting and becoming bankrupt as a society.

“As a result of the court decision, it is okay to kill someone purely on the basis of quality of life. But all life is sacred. If we don’t value life, how can we value anything in our society.”

Terri’s case became a national media event, but coverage of the life issues is often scant or done from a pro-abortion perspective, according to Teresa Tomeo, who spent 27 years as a talk show host, radio and TV reporter, and newspaper columnist before founding her own speaking and communications company. She hosts a daily radio program, “Catholic Connection,” that airs on 120 Catholic radio stations across the country, including JMJ Radio in our area.

In a conversation with The Catholic Light, she referred to a secular media “groupthink” that assumes that the right to choose abortion should be legal. “Some try to cover the story objectively, but they can’t seem to leave their own opinions at the door. They end up promoting what Pope Benedict called ‘a dictatorship of relativism.’”

To counter this, she urged people to write letters to the editor, contact advertisers and continue to speak the truth.

Other presenters included stem cell research expert Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council; and two-time cancer survivor and adult stem cell transplant recipient Carol Franz.

Dr. David Prentice spoke about the life-saving impact of adult stem cell research.

“It’s only adult (not embryonic) stem cells that are treating people now,” he said, noting that adult stem cell research has resulted in successful treatments for nearly 80 forms of disease. He said “zero treatments have resulted from embryonic stem cell research. All it does is create tumors in rats and mice.”

Special breakout sessions for students included talks by “Umbert the Unborn” cartoonist Gary Cangemi and nationally-recognized abstinence expert Emily Parke Chase.

Pennsylvania Students for Life was represented by its president, Dennis Monaghan, a senior at the University of Scranton. He explained that the organization tries to connect with various student groups across the state to further the pro-life cause through collective action and individual witness.

“It would be easy to go with the flow and be tolerant, rather than examine your own beliefs and make the right decision to respect life, be grateful for the life you have, and commit to protect the future lives of those yet to be born,” Mr. Monaghan said.

PPLF Executive Director Michael Ciccocioppo said the conference was a “great success” based on the comments he heard from many attendees.

“They felt more informed, more energized and more motivated than ever to work hard for life,” he said.

Shari Lewis and Shannon O’Donnell came from Westmoreland County outside Pittsburgh to be there, and Ms. Lewis told The Light that it was “important to keep up-to-date and learn as much as possible, not only about saving babies in the womb but also about euthanasia, stem cell research and other issues.”

Ms. O’Donnell considers everyone involved in the pro-life cause as “champions for Christ who have to keep spreading the message of life and hope.”

Two of those champions were honored at the conference. Betty Caffrey and Helen Gohsler received the 2009 Pennsylvania Pro-Life Lifetime Achievement Award for their commitment to protecting and defending the right to life from conception to natural death, while promoting respect for the dignity of human life.

Mrs. Caffrey and Mrs. Gohsler have been president of the Wyoming Valley and Scranton chapters of Pennsylvanians for Human Life, respectively, for a combined 59 years.

Click here for the November 5, 2009 issue of The Catholic Light, including the original version of this article.

Pennsylvania Pro-Life Conference, Saturday October 24, Hilton Scranton and Conference Center
Pennsylvania Pro-Life Conference

Saturday October 24
Hilton Scranton and Conference Center

Combined morning session for all adults and teens!

9:30AM Welcome

Welcome to Scranton

Opening Prayer


10:00AM Lighting the Way for Life through the Mainstream and Christian Media – Teresa Tomeo


11:15AM Stem Cell Update: Patients vs. Politics – Dr. David Prentice with Carol Franz

12:20PM Lunch on Own


1:35PM Threats to Life Post-Terri Schindler Schiavo – Bobby Schindler


2:50PM Stop the Abortion Agenda – Michael Ciccocioppo, Charlene Bashore, Esq., Maria Vitale


Closing Prayer

4:00PM Adjournment

Afternoon sessions just for teens!

12:35PM Lunch for students

Umbert the Unborn: A Womb With A View – Creative Approaches to Pro-Life Issues - Gary Cangemi


1:45PM Finding the Path to Purity in a Polluted World – Emily Parke Chase


2:55PM Remembering Terri Schiavo: My Families’ Battle to Save My SIster’s Life – Bobby Schindler

4:00PM Adjournment


4:30PM Reception

5:30PM Welcome



Award Presentations

PA Pro-Life Federation Video

7:15PM KEYNOTE ADDRESS — Phill Kline, Esq., – former Attorney General of Kansas


8:30PM Adjournment
Featured speakers:
Charlene Bashore, Esq. is the Legislative/ PAC Director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. Prior to joining the Federation, Charlene was on the staff of the Republican Legal Staff in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. In addition, Charlene has served as an adjunct instructor at Messiah College. She also clerked for the late R. Dixon Herman of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Charlene is a summa cum laude graduate of Grove City College where she majored in Business Administration and History and received her J.D. from the Dickinson School of Law.

Cartoonist Gary Cangemi is the creator of the pro-life comic strip Umbert the Unborn, which now appears in more than 120 publications with more than 700,000 readers in the U.S. and abroad. Cangemi is Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Scranton chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life, a chapter of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. His first book, Umbert the Unborn, a Womb With a View, was released in 2003 by Circle Press.

Emily Parke Chase, MA, has served as Coordinator of Educational Services at the Capital Area Pregnancy Centers of Camp Hill, PA, for more than 20 years. She developed the "Waiting-the Smart Choice!" abstinence education curriculum and speaks hundreds of times each year to teens and adults about relationship issues. Her curricular materials are used across the country and also in Africa, Europe, Canada, and Central America. Chase is the author of Why Say No When My Hormones Say Go? (Christian Publications, 2003), among other books.

Michael Ciccocioppo has served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation since 2002. He energizes pro-lifers at the grassroots to work for a society that respects human life from conception to natural death. Prior to joining the Federation, he spent 31 years in hospital administration in the U.S. Air Force and Catholic health care. He earned a Master of Health Administration degree from Baylor University. He and his wife, Peggy, have been married for over 35 years and have four grown children.

Carol Franz is a testament to the success of adult stem cells. She survived two bouts of myeloma cancer, thanks to adult stem cell transplants. Franz is an avid supporter of the use of adult stem cells and continues to lobby the government and educate the public about the benefits of adult stem cell treatments. She was on the dais with President Bush when he vetoed legislation that would have provided for taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Phill Kline, Esq., former Attorney General of Kansas, is known as the prosecutor who took on Planned Parenthood. Kline served as both a district attorney in Johnson County, Kansas, and as Kansas' 41st Attorney General. He was known for his efforts to protect society's most vulnerable citizens, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. A former member of the Kansas House of Representatives, Kline now serves as a law professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Dr. David A. Prentice currently serves as Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at the Family Research Council. Prior to that, he devoted nearly 20 years to teaching and research as Professor of Life Sciences at Indiana State University and Adjunct Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is a founding member of Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics.

Bobby Schindler is the executive director of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation Center for Health Care Ethics which works to protect the lives of the medically vulnerable and disabled from the threat of euthanasia. After his sister Terri's tragic death by euthanasia, Schindler gave up his job as a high school teacher to become a fulltime prolife and disability rights advocate. He has appeared on such programs as The Today Show and Good Morning America to discuss endoflife issues.

Teresa Tomeo is an author, syndicated Catholic talk show host, and motivational speaker with nearly 28 years of experience in TV, radio, and newspaper. Tomeo's daily morning radio program, "Catholic Connection," is heard on more than 120 Catholic stations nationwide. She appears frequently on EWTN Catholic Television and has been featured on The O'Reilly Factor and Fox News. Tomeo has written several books, including Noise-How Our Media Saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families.

Maria Vitale is Education Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and a columnist for Prior to her work in the pro-life movement, Vitale was an awardwinning reporter in public broadcasting. Vitale also has experience as a television producer and served as an adjunct faculty member in journalism at Ohio State University.

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