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Join Deacon Steve Greco as he welcomes back a gentleman who continues to work “in the trenches” on behalf of the unborn. His name is Joe Schirripa; and, this marks the second time he’s been on the EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT

radio program.

On this podcast episode, you’ll hear all about a powerful nationwide (and now, WORLDWIDE) movement called 40 Days for Life. Listen in, and be inspired to action!






Originally broadcast on 9/22/19


Columbus, Ohio, Aug 18, 2019 / 04:55 pm (CNA) – Ashley Bratcher, lead actress in the pro-life movie “Unplanned,” has helped establish a scholarship for women pursing an education during an unexpected pregnancy.

“Women can pursue their careers, live out their dreams, and have richer, more fulfilling lives while balancing motherhood. Sometimes, it just takes a little help,” Bratcher said in a recent press release from Heartbeat International.

“I wanted to be a part of empowering mothers to chase their dreams and to provide a means for those who choose life to continue their educations.”

The scholarship, called the Unplanned Movie Scholarship, will give $5,000 annually for a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. It can go toward educational educational opportunities including college or trade school.

The project is backed by Heartbeat International, a pro-life agency providing pregnancy resources to expecting mothers in over 2,000 locations worldwide.

“Not only will the scholarship financially support the decision of mothers to continue their education, but it will also connect them to an organization that will support them throughout their pregnancy and beyond,” Bratcher added.

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, said the scholarship will help expecting mothers embrace education and life.

“Tucked into Unplanned is a vivid reminder that education can present an obstacle to accepting the new life within,” said Godsey.

“The Unplanned Movie Scholarship will be a lifeline to a young mom’s future as she makes the brave choice to embrace motherhood.”

Bratcher played Abby Johnson in the movie, “Unplanned.” The story follows the life of Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood, who had a conversion experience after witnessing the horrors of abortion. Today, Johnson is a pro-life advocate and the director of And Then There Were None, a ministry that helps other abortion workers leave the industry.

Following the movie’s release, numerous women reached out to Bratcher to share their stories of difficult pregnancy situations. Andrea Trudden, director of communications for Heartbeat International, told CNA that many women shared a common conflict – they needed financial support to finish their education.

“After the release of ‘Unplanned,’ Ashley had a lot of different questions from moms who were reaching out sharing their stories about their unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

“The education aspect tended to be one of the hurdles.”

Trudden said the scholarship’s development is still underway. She said applicants will be recommended from one of the agency’s pregnancy help centers, where the mothers’ needs will be best addressed.

“[Pregnancy centers] provide parenting classes and financial classes. We are able to couple what we do through these pregnancy health organizations with the woman who wants to continue her education,” she said.

“We are really looking at exactly how to partner with our pregnancy help organizations in order to provide the funds to the women.”

She said the scholarship will begin accepting applicants at the end of this year, after the organization receives enough funds. The scholarship is now accepting donations at

Trudden said the opportunity will provide women the support they need to pursue their education, but it also presents a bigger message.

“Women can have careers, they can have fulfilling lives and be mothers. It’s not an either-or situation,” she said.

“We want to do everything we can to support the mothers during these hard decisions, to help prepare her for motherhood and … [provide her with] everything she needs to get through her pregnancy in a loving and caring way so she can positive choices for her life.”


New York City, N.Y., Jul 14, 2019 / 03:26 am (CNA) – Poor women are the most likely population to obtain an abortion.

While it may seem logical that a woman who is already struggling financially is one of the most likely candidates for an abortion, the trend is relatively recent, reports the New York Times.

According to a July 9 article, data from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, shows that 50% of women who obtained an abortion in 2014 were considered low-income, compared to 1994, when only one-fourth of women who got an abortion that year were living in poverty.

The reasons for this are many, according to the New York Times. More people overall live at or below the poverty line now than did 25 years ago. There are many financial resources available for poor women who are seeking abortions, and hotlines to help them access these resources.

The article ended with the story of a poor woman who, finding herself unexpectedly pregnant, decided to get an abortion in order to get through college.

But there are also abundant resources available for poor, pregnant women who want to carry their pregnancies to term and parent their children, and they should be included in stories such as these, pro-life advocates told CNA.

“The New York Times is so disingenuous to pretend that there are no services for women, no help for women, no hope for women, and basically their message is – you might as well have an abortion,” Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Students for Life of America (SFLA), told CNA.

“It’s a defeatist message and it’s an anti-feminist message, because we should be about empowering women. We should be about protecting their rights against pregnancy discrimination. We should be about making sure that if you want an education, you can get one,” she added. “So I find it fascinating that these so-called champions of women aren’t willing to champion pregnant women.”

SFLA is a pro-life group that works specifically with pregnant and parenting students on campus to ensure that their rights are protected and that they have access to the resources they need.

“It’s really part of the work we’re doing every day, letting women know that there is help for them, there is support for them, and that defeatist messages from the abortion industry – that’s a marketing pitch, but that’s not the truth,” Hamrick said.

One of the main things that SFLA’s “Pregnant on Campus” initiative does is work with schools to ensure that the rights of pregnant women are protected, and that the campus is creating a welcoming environment for them.

For example, Hamrick said, SFLA works with students to ensure that their Title IX protections aren’t violated. Title IX protects pregnant students from being discriminated against based on accommodations needed for their pregnancies, making it illegal to take away scholarships, housing or placement in schools for pregnant students.

Hamrick recalled one case in which a pregnant woman missed finals because she was giving birth, and her school threatened to pull her financial aid and her place at the school.

“So SFLA got involved, we got her financial package reinstated, and frankly communicated with the school that you can’t do that. That is discrimination against women,” she said. The student was allowed to continue at the school, and her financial aid was reinstated.

Besides working to fight pregnancy discrimination, the group also works with schools to create welcoming environments for pregnant and parenting students by adding things such as short-term handicapped parking, nursing stations, and access to daycare programs on campuses.

Hamrick sent CNA an internal document used by SFLA of a list of more than 20 resources available to pregnant women in need, which includes resources such as counseling, food stamps, shelter, church groups, abortion pill reversals, adoption programs and more.

When it comes to scholarships, Hamrick said they work locally with women to determine what they are eligible for in their region and from their school. The website also lists more than 19 scholarships and grants available to pregnant women of various qualifications.

Marisol Health, a service of Catholic Charities in Denver, is another pro-life service that exists to help pregnant women in need.

In 2017, Marisol Health provided care to 821 clients, 70% of whom had incomes under $30,000; 45% had no income or incomes less than $15,000 a year. Of patients that year, 45 percent had Medicaid and 32 percent were uninsured.

“You are unique, capable and strong. You deserve to be listened to and cared for in a way that’s confidential and empowering,” Marisol’s website states on its homepage.

Senite Sahlezghi, the program director of Marisol Health in Lafayette, Colorado, told CNA that they seek to serve the whole person in their services.

“The whole person… is not only a physical body, but we all have a multilayered context to our lives as well and so I think it’s just been really beautiful that Marisol Health is this comprehensive OB/GYN clinic with wraparound supportive services to meet the urgent and ongoing needs of women and families,” Sahlezghi said.

Sahlezghi said the first thing Marisol does when a woman in need seeks their help is to listen to them fully.

“A lot of our families and women that come to us are in crisis situations,” she said, “which means that they’re coming through our doors with a lot of circumstances that are overwhelming to them.”

The first step is to welcome these women and families in, offer them a cup of tea or a glass of water, and listen to their story and how they are doing, in order to better understand what help they most need, Sahlezghi said.

Through a partnership with Bella Natural Women’s Care, Marisol is able to offer women free pregnancy testing, free ultrasounds, STD testing and treatment, counseling, fertility awareness education, and other OB/GYN services.

But beyond services, they also provide women with accompaniment throughout their pregnancy and afterward, Sahlezghi said.

“When you’re in an unexpected pregnancy or crisis situation, it is unbelievable how profound the feeling of loneliness can be and what decisions and consequences come from it,” she said. “Our main goal is to really be their village and to let them know that they’re not alone.”

Besides OB/GYN services, Marisol Health is able to connect women with a variety of services, including housing, food and financial assistance through Catholic Charities. Marisol Homes provides housing for both pregnant women and homeless women with children. Through a partnership with Gabriel services, Marisol also connects women with parenting classes, education classes and other support.

Marisol also offers support groups for postpartum women, mentoring programs for fathers, and counseling and support for post-abortive women. They provide these services to women in need without discrimination, including to women who are undocumented and may have difficulty finding care elsewhere, Sahlezghi added.

“That doesn’t even begin to describe the scope of the continuum of care that Catholic Charities offers,” Sahlezghi added. “Mother Theresa said, ‘Find them, love them,’ and I think that the continuum of care really allows us to try and strive after that idiom well.”

Although it has only been open for three years, Marisol Health has already helped more than 1,330 women through unexpected pregnancies.

“We want to make sure that women know that this is available to them and that their life isn’t over because they’re pregnant,” Sahlezghi said.


On today’s broadcast, Deacon Steve welcomes back his longtime friend, Kathleen Eaton-Bravo of OBRIA Clinics. Kathleen has been a champion and leader in the pro-life movement for many years.

Our conversation today will touch on the state of all things ‘pro-life,’ as we assess where we stand here in the Summer of 2019..





Originally broadcast on 6/30/19


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 


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 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.