AP NEWS

Funds raised at Focus on Life dinner

April 14, 2019

Mason County Right to Life hosted its annual Focus on Life benefit dinner on Thursday evening at Lincoln Hills Golf Club.

The event had record-setting attendance, with about 315 guests seated at 39 tables, compared to last year’s dinner, which only filled 32 tables, according to event leaders.

“This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had,” said Dee Bennette of Mason County Right to Life, who has been organizing the dinner for 16 years. “I’m overwhelmed with excitement.”

She said Mason County Right to Life has existed since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The Focus on Life dinner is the main fundraiser each year for Mason County Right to Life, she said.

She estimated that $2,000 in proceeds was raised for Mason County Right to Life and that an additional $16,000 to $20,000 was donated to Right to Life of Michigan. During the event, $1,000 was also donated to West Shore Pregnancy and Family Support.

The keynote speaker for the event was anti-abortion activist Rev. Fr. Frank Pavone, who is the national director of Priests for Life, the president of the National Pro-life Religious Council, a Roman Catholic priest and author.

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, who emceed the dinner, said Pavone is one of the most prominently and internationally known leaders in the anti-abortion movement and that he’s impressed by the speaker’s work.

“This guy’s the real deal ... His work has been praised by presidents, popes and countless citizens,” Cole said.

Pavone said he is grateful for the efforts of Right to Life of Michigan and said the organization sets a good example for anti-abortion efforts in other states.

“Brothers and sisters, let’s make no mistake — this is the most important battle we are engaged in. If we don’t get this right, we can’t get anything else right. If we cannot defend the unborn, we’re not going to advance human rights in any other arena,” Pavone said.

Pavone criticized states that have passed laws to reduce limitations on which stages of gestation abortions are allowed to be performed in, and he lauded states that have imposed more restrictions on abortions.

He also expressed his gratefulness for President Donald Trump, calling him “the most pro-life president we’ve ever had,” and thanking him for appointing federal judges who are in favor of the anti-abortion movement. Pavone said that because of these judges, he believes Roe v. Wade will eventually be reversed.

A main topic Pavone and others addressed was the proposed Michigan House Bill 4552, called the “partial-birth abortion and dismemberment abortion ban act.” The proposed law would prohibit a procedure frequently used during second-trimester abortions to “dismember” and extract a fetus from the womb, unless it would be necessary to save the life of the pregnant person.

Pavone said the proposed legislation is effective in spreading awareness about what the abortion procedure entails because of the attention-grabbing phrasing in the act’s name. He said that growing awareness is key to changing people’s minds about abortion.

The audience also watched a video with an animation depicting the abortion procedure.

Mason County Right to Life President John Beckett told the Daily News he thought the event was “fantastic” and that he was impressed by the speaker and the presentation.

“It opens your eyes about what, even in the second trimester, what they have to do (to perform the procedure),” Beckett said. “It’s horrifying.”

His wife, Cathy Beckett, said the presentation urged people such as herself to participate more in the anti-abortion movement.

“Each one of us needs to stand up and do our part,” she said. “Every life is precious.”

Randy Royston of Right to Life of Michigan said that if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoes the proposed legislation, the organization will lead a petition drive for a ballot measure to let voters pass the ban into law.

“It would be great if she signed it into law,” Royston told the audience. “But we don’t think that’s going to happen. That’s why we need you.”