This is the third in a series by James Day that shares the stories of strong women forging ahead to make a difference, while courageously bucking the trending indifference. To read previous stories visit occatholic.com
Astrid Bennett Gutierrez; President, The Vida Initiative; Executive Director, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services (Laps), Thevidainitiative.Com
The globalization of indifference has its tentacles in so many aspects of life one can easily get overwhelmed by its reach. Indeed, the mentality that others will take care of it becomes the final word from otherwise well-meaning Catholic Christians who are disturbed by it. While enacting change toward one’s moral perspectives through political legislation is a legitimate avenue, hearts are less open to conversion by force of will alone. And perhaps in no other area of the life spectrum is political jousting and emotions more rampant than in the right to life.
Astrid Bennett Gutierrez is well aware of this landscape. She has been the executive director of the Los Angeles Pregnancy Services since 2006. “The biggest threat to pregnant women who are immigrant or homeless does not come from the circumstance itself, but rather from a network of social services that are intimately intertwined with the abortion industry and see abortion as the automatic answer to these problems,” she says.
So influential is this network its reputation precedes itself. Astrid is committed to shifting this mentality toward an openness to life. But she knows the myriad of situations that threaten bringing a pregnancy to term loom large. Having worked specifically with pregnant immigrant women, often homeless, she has seen the very real struggle of surviving in a densely populated, low-income neighborhood in Los Angeles.
But in spite of the obstacles, hope still emanates. Astrid relates, “We have seen women step up to the challenge and state, as an immigrate woman, Rosita, stated to us recently shortly after giving birth, ‘This baby has given me strength I didn’t have before. He’s given me a joy I didn’t know existed.’”
Astrid also cites Scripture, particularly the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) as a standard for how to love one’s neighbor. Yet she points out, “We don’t need to even mention God for the pro-life position to be justified. The unborn from the moment of conception or fertilization are human beings. This is a fact demonstrated scientifically and philosophically. That it is an inconvenient fact is a different matter altogether,” she says.
But it is the mindset of the Good Samaritan in Jesus’s parable Astrid applies to her work. “The Good Samaritan didn’t ask upon seeing the man lying half-dead, ‘What will happen to me if I help?’ but rather, he felt compassion and asked, ‘What will happen to him if I don’t help?’” It is another parable that offers a powerful alternative to the globalization of indifference.
“In the case of abortion,” Astrid says, linking the action of the Good Samaritan to today, “without our help, without our voice, our unborn brothers and sisters will die.”
Astrid is also the president of the VIDA Initiative. Its mission is to train and activate pro-life leaders. In particular, Astrid is especially focused on communicating the pro-life message to the Hispanic community in the United States, in such a way she says, “that is attractive to Latinos: celebratory, family-oriented, and reflecting our rich cultural heritage.” Enhancing knowledge of the faith and human sexuality while activating the Latino community into the dynamism of the pro-life movement is, Astrid believes, “essential for ending abortion in our country.”
Cultivating a genuine Gospel of Life—the title of Pope John Paul II’s seminal 1995 encyclical on life—only truly takes flight when the most vulnerable are protected. Astrid hopes greater attention from all is placed toward “children affected by broken marriages and the children who perish in abortions.” She says, “If the beautiful truth of marriage is explained, defended, and strengthened from the beginning of a couple’s journey, everybody is spared.”
Astrid believes true transformation of the heart—metanoia—comes from both intellect and will: proper education and a desire for life to grow. “If we are educated to never accept abortion and to have sympathy for the unborn in every regard, we would also be sparing countless women and men post-abortion suffering.”
She recognizes good things never come easy. “It’s the harder path,” she admits, “but it is the right path of love and mercy.”
The globalization of indifference might stonily gaze down at the attempt to renew the world in Christian dignity, but it blinks when facing strong women such as those profiled in this series.
“Go boldly in love,” Tristen Seagondollar (read her story and others online at occatholic.com) advises.
By putting faith into action, these local women are examples of what happens when faith is aligned with life. For them, the two are intimately intertwined. If more Catholic brethren were to do the same, indifference would cower, succumbing instead to the globalization of the Sacred and Immaculate Heart.