Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Katie Short (’80), attorney for David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, leads his defense team at federal court in San Francisco.
Katie Short (’80), attorney for David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, at federal court in San Francisco.

When David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress first devised his plan to expose Planned Parenthood’s practice of harvesting and selling the organs of aborted babies, he knew he would need legal advice. So the undercover journalist turned to San Francisco’s Life Legal Defense Foundation and its co-founder and vice president, Katie Short (’80). Mrs. Short and others helped Mr. Daleiden to prepare for the inevitable legal challenges and to navigate the myriad laws in several jurisdictions.

Katie Short (’80) with David Daleiden of the Center for Medical ProgressKatie Short (’80) with David Daleiden of the Center for Medical ProgressNearly three years later, that effort has proved to be a tremendous success, drawing national attention to Planned Parenthood’s gruesome practices and fueling a Congressional movement to strip the abortion provider of federal funding. Predictably, the abortion industry’s premier trade group, the National Abortion Federation, has struck back with a lawsuit designed to ruin Mr. Daleiden and suppress his findings. And so the young filmmaker has turned to Mrs. Short once again, asking her foundation to defend him against a fevered legal onslaught.

“We at Life Legal have fought for decades to guarantee the First Amendment rights of pro-life activists,” says Mrs. Short. “Usually this happens on a small scale right in front of an abortion mill. Now we are seeing the same drama play out on a grand scale in the public eye, as the NAF throws its resources into crushing David Daleiden’s witness. There’s really little else that they can do, as David truly has the goods on the abortion industry in general and on Planned Parenthood in particular. Only by doing our all at this crucial juncture can Life Legal keep the truth about Planned Parenthood available to the public.”

A home-schooling mother of nine children, Mrs. Short has written numerous briefs for state and federal courts, including petitions for certiorari and amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court and California Supreme Court. She co-authored the text of Propositions 73, 85, and 4, California ballot initiatives aimed at requiring parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion. She additionally served as co-counsel in People’s Advocate v. ICOC, a suit challenging the constitutionality of the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the agency established by Proposition 71 to fund embryonic stem cell research.

Last week Mrs. Short was at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, leading Mr. Daleiden’s pro bono defense team during his deposition — one small step in what promises to be a lengthy, exhausting, and expensive legal battle. “The case has extremely high stakes for all participants,” says Mrs. Short’s husband, Bill (’80), a fellow attorney. “Please pray for Daleiden, the project, Katie, and the rest of the legal team, and encourage others to do so as well.”

Christopher Zehnder (’87)Like his fellow graduate John Finley (’99), Christopher Zehnder (’87) sees a connection between Pope Francis’s warnings in Laudato Si’ and the Supreme Court’s recent attempt to redefine marriage. Writing in his personal blog, Notes from the Wasteland, Mr. Zehnder observes:

“It is fitting, in a way, that the Supreme Court’s decision should so closely follow the pope’s encyclical, for the former brings into focus the major theme of the latter. That theme is not the threat of climate change, whatever those who want either to dismiss the encyclical or coöpt it say. A major — if not the major — theme of Laudato Si’ is that, both in the moral order and the natural order, everything is connected. How we treat the ‘environment’ is how we will treat ourselves, and how we treat ourselves is how we will treat the natural world outside ourselves. …

“Those, therefore, who insist on the integrity of the natural world but rejoice at Friday’s Supreme Court decision are self-confused. Those who deplore the decision, call for respect for the nature of marriage and the basic meaning of sexual acts but ignore the integrity of the natural world, are self-confused. Those who think you must respect unborn human life but can subject human labor to irrational market forces are as confused as those who think you may kill unborn children but not oppress the worker. Sooner or later, these groups will need to decide on their core principle — relativism or respect for nature — for mankind will not remain in a state of interior division forever.”

Mr. Zehnder is the general editor of the Catholic Textbook Project, which aims to create a new generation of textbooks for parochial schools that accurately, beautifully, and engagingly reflect the Church’s contribution to human history. A high school teacher and former headmaster, he is the author of three of the project’s books: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America; Light to the Nations II: the Making of the Modern World; and Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America.

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s Ottawa Morning recently aired an episode about Elizabeth (Susanka) and Jeff Fennelly (both ’03) and their adopted son, Shawn. Now eight years old, Shawn is profoundly deaf and suffers from limited vision, cerebral palsy, and reflux disorder. Doctors once feared that he would never sit or stand on his own, or give and receive affection.

Yet under the Fennellys’ care, Shawn has thrived. He is walking and he feeds himself. His vision his improving, and he delights in the love of his parents. The Fennellys’ devotion to their son is heroic, from their initial fight to adopt Shawn, to their decision to relocate, so that they would be closer to his therapists, to the $10,000 they spend each year on Pedialite. At the moment, they are busily trying to learn American Sign Language so that they can communicate with him more effectively.

Thanks be to God for these loving parents, and may God bless this beautiful family!

Full audio of the episode is available in the player below:

Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90)Over the weekend the Ventura County Star published a lengthy feature about the latest assault on human life in California — physician-assisted suicide, now euphemistically dubbed “aid in dying.” The story includes quotations from both prominent supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 128, which would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. Among those opposed to the measure is an alumnus and tutor of the College, Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90).

“The very idea of physician-assisted suicide is an implicit judgment that a life that involves suffering is not really worth living,” Dr. Goyette tells the Star. “It’s seeing human beings as disposable.” Framing the controversy not so much as one of religion but of human dignity, he adds, “Natural law forbids taking innocent human life,” a prohibition of which “faith reminds us.”

Dr. Goyette continues by observing that assisted suicide’s supporters have a grimly utilitarian view of the end of human life. “The underlying assumption is that a death with pain and suffering is somehow meaningless or undignified — that doesn’t really fit with our experience,” he says. “Suffering is an opportunity for people to show care and compassion. A death that’s filled with compassion, that’s not a meaningless or undignified death.”

The full story is available on the Ventura Star website.

March for Life

Sean Fitzpatrick ('02)As a demonstration “that commemorates those lives snuffed out before seeing the light of day,” the annual March for life, writes Sean Fitzpatrick (’02), “is, perhaps first and foremost, a funeral march.” The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick has penned a poignant and thoughtful reflection about today’s march for Crisis magazine, where he is a regular contributor. He observes:

“The March for Life is a witness to the Gospel of Life, demonstrating by the thousands that though abortion is common practice it is not common sense. The March is a positive outcry against the government’s failure to defend the defenseless and to protect women against the tortures of conscience. Abortion is not simply a failure of justice, but a failure of government itself. President Washington wrote in 1789, ‘The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.’ When that pillar is compromised, the structure fails and falls. It is not out of the question to ask, ‘Who will be the next to lose their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?’ In a statement given one year ago on this day to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama said, ‘this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.’ But at what point, at what precise point, does everyone become someone? Whenever it is, it is no longer self-evident.

“It is not enough to demand justice. Justice, as Our Lord taught, is to be hungered and thirsted after as a means of wellbeing. Just as hunger and thirst can never be forever satisfied in this life, neither can the requirement for the divine gift of justice. This is the truth that beats out the march of Christian soldiers. Though they mourn on this day as they march on the National Mall, they do it in the happiness and blessedness that is their claim, in honor of the dead.”

The full article is available via

“Don't like abortion? Don’t have one.” So read the pro-abortion bumper sticker of bygone days. There’s now an addendum: “But pay for mine.”

Thus begins an op-ed piece by Catherine Short (’80), who — as part of her 35-year effort in defense of the unborn — is taking on a new California policy that requires all insurance plans to provide abortion coverage. (Thomas Aquinas College is, mercifully, exempt from the mandate because it self-insures.)

As the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which she helped to found, Mrs. Short recently sent a letter to the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), decrying its shoddy legal pretext for the new policy:

The DMHC decision apparently rests on two untenable positions. The first is the self-evidently false proposition that all abortions, including elective abortions, are “medically necessary” and thus must be covered pursuant to the Knox-Keene Act. In the context of abortion, “medically necessary” and “elective” are antonyms. Second, the decision asserts that the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. The California Constitution, a s currently interpreted, prohibits the state from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy, by withholding funding for abortions. CDRR v. Myers , 29 Cal.3d 252 (1981). This decision does not prohibit private actors such as religious employers from deciding what services its employee health insurance policies will cover.

The letter additionally notes that the state’s policy is in plain violation of federal law. The 2004 Weldon Amendment prohibits states, such as California, that receive certain forms of federal funding from imposing abortion-coverage requirements without conscience exemptions. “California’s violation of federal law is clear,” writes Mrs. Short on “Equally clear is the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate to enforce that law. What remains to be seen is whether the Administration will follow through on President Obama’s personal pledge to ‘honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.’”


Angela Baird (’00)

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the death of Angela Baird (’00), a champion of life. May her soul, and those of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

Angela Connelly (’87), left, at a hearing in Olympia

Seattle’s reports that legislation requiring Washington employers to fund abortion coverage appears destined for failure — thanks, in part, to the work of Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly, an alumna of the College and a member of its Board of Governors.

Under the provisions of the perversely named Reproductive Parity Act, all insurance plans in the state of Washington that cover maternity care would be compelled to pay for abortion coverage as well. Employers with moral objections would thus be forced either to violate their consciences or to drop maternity coverage altogether.

The Washington Women’s Network, of which Mrs. Connelly is the founding president, has fought the legislation valiantly. The Network sent a delegation to Oympia to testify against the bill before the House Health and Wellness Committee, joined by His Excellency Eusebio Elizondo, Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle. “This bill is not about access to abortion,” said Mrs. Connelly in her testimony. “This is a bullying bill. It’s not about choice. It’s about taking away choice.”

The Network’s efforts seem to have paid off. According to, the legislation has stalled in a Senate committee, with zero chance of making it to a full vote this session. Deo gratias!


With the HHS mandate thrusting the issue of contraception into public conversation, three alumni authors have recently addressed some of the myths — and realities — that shape the debate.

First, in the Washington Times, Catherine Short (’80) questions the rationale for the mandate, namely that “free” contraception will improve the health of women. The legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, Mrs. Short and her co-author, Dorinda C. Bordlee of the Bioethics Defense Fund, have filed an amicus brief (PDF) in some of the lawsuits seeking to overturn the mandate. Their article describes how the HHS has oversold contraception’s purported benefits while ignoring its documented dangers:

For more than four decades, federal and state governments have been pouring money into “family planning” programs … Our brief informs courts of empirical evidence showing the result: a 40 percent increase in unplanned pregnancy, including among teens and low-income women, the very demographic targeted by these programs. Quite predictably, the rates of sexually transmitted diseases have also skyrocketed in these groups, as the false security of abundant birth control leads to riskier sexual activity by teens and young adults. …

[A] 2009 study showed a 320 percent increase in the risk of triple-negative breast cancer, the deadliest form of breast cancer, in women taking oral contraceptives. Long-acting contraceptives — such as one major implant rod, Implanon — increase risk of ectopic pregnancy, pulmonary emboli and strokes. Implanon is the product that replaced Norplant, which is no longer on the market in the United States after more than 50,000 women filed lawsuits — including 70 class actions — over the severity of its side effects. Injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera puts women at double the risk of HIV infection.

Peter Baklinski (’04)What about the other oft-repeated argument for more widespread distribution of contraception — that it would reduce the number of abortions? Journalist Peter Baklinski (’04) debunks that claim in LifeSiteNews. Citing data from Spain, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, Mr. Baklinksi demonstrates that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, higher use of contraception correlates with higher rates of abortion. He quotes two prominent champions of legalized abortion who concede as much:

“Most abortions result from failed contraception,” admitted Joyce Arthur, founder and executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, earlier this year.

Arthur’s statement parallels a prediction made in 1973 by Dr. Malcolm Potts, former medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, who said: “As people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate.”

Peter Kwasniewski (’94)Given the abundance of empirical evidence to refute the claims that widespread contraception improves women’s health and reduces abortion, why do these myths endure? Because, says Peter Kwasniewski (’94), a professor of theology at Wyoming Catholic College writing for Truth and Charity Forum, the demand for contraception stems not from medical need, but spiritual poverty:

Better health coupled with an unbounded desire to share God’s gifts of love and life should naturally have led, in modern times, to larger and healthier families than in the past. The fact that this has not happened indicates the dark side of the motivation behind the development of modern technology. Contraception means spiritual death, the death of the natural “love affair” with life.

In the battle over marriage, procreation, and the defense of life, we must realize that we are up against a combination of metaphysical nihilism and spiritual egoism vastly more powerful than any human army or political system — a demonic corruption of mind and heart, which sound education and the example of a life well lived can prevent from spreading, but which ultimately will refuse to be driven out except by prayer, fasting, and martyrdom.

Sobering words — and a call to prayer!


Frederick DouglassFrederick DouglassA professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), has written a thoughtful article for The Public Discourse about the present state of the pro-life movement:

In a manner similar to the case of slavery as outlined by Douglass, there are two simple points that, once admitted, join to condemn clearly the practice of abortion: (1) the embryo is a human being from the moment of conception, and (2) all human beings have a natural right to life.…

The problem is that the younger and less developed the embryo is, the less it excites what some have called our “moral sense,” our sympathy with it as another human being like us. And as Hume correctly notes, human beings tend to be moved more by their passions and feelings, including the so-called “moral sense,” than by their intellectual understanding of the world when determining their actions. Even if our reason and common sense tell us clearly — as they undoubtedly do — that the embryo is a human being with the right to life, our moral sense or sympathy lets us off the hook. 

So where does this leave pro-life advocates? How can we bridge the Humean — and human — gap between intellectual understanding and actual practice in our nation? The answer lies in the parallel between the issue of abortion and those of slavery and subsequent civil rights. The pro-life movement needs to model more closely in its organization and practices the antebellum abolition movement and the civil rights movement in order to achieve similar success in ending the evil of abortion.

The entire article, Abortion and Our “Moral Sense,” is available on The Public Discourse website, published by The Witherspoon Intstitute.