By Kim Steele
Harker Heights Herald
It took an abortion clinic moving into Killeen to galvanize local activists into forming a pro-life organization here.
Central Texas Voices for Life, headquartered at St. Paul Chong Hasang Parish in Harker Heights, took root in 2004 after an advertisement for the Killeen Women's Health Center appeared in a new telephone book. The ad said the health center would be opening to provide local abortions.
"That got a lot of people stirred up," said Linda Busti, prayer coordinator for CTVL. "So we got more than 3,000 signatures voicing opposition to the opening and took out a full-page ad in the newspaper. We knew we didn't want the clinic here and had to do something. It was hot on everyone's mind."
A campaign began to petition the Killeen City Council to create a city ordinance banning abortion facilities. The activists - four Knights of Columbus councils, numerous churches, the Killeen Ministerial Alliance, KPLE television station and others - gathered the required 1,800 signatures but the effort failed.
The loss led to the formation of CTVL, a community service organization dedicated to protecting and preserving human life from conception to natural death. The 75-member group uses a mix of prayer, service and education, and public awareness to push its message of supporting life.
"I've always had a pro-life heart," said Busti, a member since CTVL began. "When I heard the abortion clinic was coming, I knew I had to be proactive for a culture of life. Our organization's motto is 'Committed for Life,' and I'm definitely a lifer."
Busti said CTVL uses a variety of methods to accomplish its goals, starting with prayer. Members pray the Rosary for Life before each morning Mass, recite the Rosary for the Unborn and offer a Holy Hour of Prayer for Life each Thursday evening. Also, volunteers pray each Wednesday morning near the clinic.
And each September, they also participate in 40 Days for Life, an international lawful and peaceful prolife campaign seeking to end abortion through prayer and fasting. CTVL members sign up to pray for an hour from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily outside of the Killeen clinic during campaign.
"We believe a baby is a human from Day 1," said CTVL Chairman Dennis DeWine. "And we're all committed to fighting abortion, because it's an insidious evil. Some days, we are a voice in the wilderness. That's why prayer is so vital for us. Only God can change this situation and stop abortions."
For the organization's service and education goals, some CTVL members serve as volunteers at local pregnancy centers. Also, members distribute prolife materials and show educational videos on life issues to local interested groups and churches, including youth groups.
Last year, CTVL organized its first Spiritual Adoption Campaign, called "We're Having a Baby," in St. Paul Chong Hasang Parish. The organization distributed a pink or blue "Gift of Life Bag" to each person that contained a 12-week-old baby model, as well as two prayer cards.
The educational campaign taught about the development of a child in the womb from conception to birth, Each month, CTVL shared the growth process of the "child" - during the first month alone, the heart, brain, spinal column and nervous system were almost complete.
When the "child" was ready to be born, the parish celebrated with a baby shower, giving $4,000 in cash and items to Hope Pregnancy Center in Killeen and the Gabriel Project, a Catholic-based pregnancy help outreach in Houston. CTVL is interested in presenting the program in other area churches.
"We're not against people who are pro-choice," said Busti. "We're just trying to get the message out about life. Once people are educated about abortion, they do see. I can't tell you how many women have changed their minds after learning about the life growing inside them."
The organization's third goal of public awareness is accomplished by renting billboards for prolife messages, wearing prolife pins, sporting bumper stickers, writing letters to area newspapers, and holding signs during non-violent prayer vigils each Wednesday morning during abortions at the Killeen clinic.
Also, group members will be marking the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Sunday, Jan. 22, with a prayer life chain along W.S. Young Drive in Killeen. Roe v. Wade was the controversial landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on Jan. 22, 1973, that made abortion legal in the United States.
About 150 participants in the prayer life chain will meet at 1:30 p.m. in either the Hobby Lobby parking lot or the Killeen Mall parking lot between Blockbuster and Sears to pick up signs. At 2 p.m., they will line the north and south sides of W.S. Young Drive near U.S. Highway 190 for an hour.
DeWine, who is chief executive officer of ERA Colonial Real Estate in Harker Heights, said he got involved with CTVL in 2009 when he was invited to a meeting. When they asked him to be chairman of the group, DeWine quickly said no because of his work responsibilities.
DeWine said he was very supportive of CTVL, but didn't believe he was qualified to lead an organization that had been active for five years and whose members had more experience than him. But his decision bothered him for two weeks, and he finally decided to assume the office.
"Abortion is like slavery," said DeWine. "At one time, it was OK to cater to selfish desires and own other people because of the color of their skin. The prejudice had been there for a long time, and there was a lot of animosity toward the people who were fighting slavery. It's the same now with abortion."
For Busti, the reason for participating in CTVL is even more personal.
"As a mother and grandmother, when I look in my offspring's eyes, it weighs heavy on my heart to know they wouldn't be here if they had been aborted," said Busti. "Life is a God-given gift, and God has a plan for each person. I want to be a part of this mission to help women in crisis choose life."
Contact Kim Steele at email@example.com or (254) 501-7567.
If you go
What: Central Texas Voices for Life prayer life chain
When: Meet at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, for 2 p.m. prayer life chain
Where: Hobby Lobby parking lot or the Killeen Mall parking lot between Blockbuster and Sears near W.S. Young Drive.