As Lent draws to a close, time still remains to participate in a final Lenten devotion, one that might require a special act of charity for some: praying and fasting on behalf of a trio of criminal abortionists.
The Pro-Life Action League (PLAL) organized this campaign at the onset of Lent and has promoted it through print and social media campaigns. As Lent enters its final hours this week, organizers are imploring Christians worldwide to take up this unique Lenten activity.
“So much of our work has involved exposing criminal abortionists,” explained Eric Scheidler, PLAL’s executive director. “But Ash Wednesday of last year we had a revelation: to come full circle and encourage people to pray and fast for them. We shouldn’t wish just to see them behind bars, but to convert them, ultimately. It’s a natural fit for Lent.”
Scheidler noted that one of PLAL’s strategies to end abortion in the United States is encouraging people to pray for everyone involved in the abortion industry. But this Lenten campaign is focusing in particular on these three individuals:
Brian Finkel, who is serving a 35-year sentence after being convicted of sexually abusing patients at his Phoenix, Arizona abortion clinic;
Kermit Gosnell, the notorious Philadelphia abortionist who is serving life without parole for the murder of three babies he stabbed in the neck after they survived his abortion procedures;
Naresh Patel, who was indicted for fraud and racketeering and is awaiting trial after being caught in a sting operation at his Oklahoma City abortion clinic trying to sell abortions to women who were not pregnant.
Three obvious choices
The choice of the three was not difficult, Scheidler said. Including Kermit Gosnell was a “no brainer”; his case was so egregious that it got massive media exposure worldwide.
Although Gosnell was charged with delivering hundreds of live babies and then severing their spines, he was convicted in 2013 on three counts of doing so. The Philadelphia grand jury that investigated Gosnell noted that he “catered to the women who couldn’t get abortions elsewhere—because they were too pregnant.” For him “they were an opportunity. The bigger the baby, the more he charged.” Although he claimed to be helping poor people, Gosnell’s practice generated almost $2 million a year in income.
Reporting overseas, London’s Daily Mail described Gosnell’s clinic as a “house of horrors,” populated with cats who urinated freely among pieces of dirty surgical equipment. The facility was stocked with jars, bags, and jugs containing the rotting remains of aborted children.
Moving from Philadelphia westward across the country, there is the case of Naresh Patel. He is an Indian immigrant who became a millionaire by eliminating potential citizens of his adopted country. He is no stranger to controversy. Regularly reported upon in Oklahoma print and TV news, he has faced civil lawsuits going back to 1984, with allegations ranging from botched abortions to sexual harassment of clients. He even gained national exposure in 1992 for admitting to burning dozens of aborted fetuses on a rural road—the remains were discovered by local fisherman—because he said the local hospital would not let him use its incinerator.
But last December he was slapped with felony charges for providing abortion-inducing drugs to three women he knew were not pregnant; he charged each $620. They turned out to be undercover agents doing a sting operation.
The abortion-industry watchdog group Operation Rescue played an important role in Patel’s arrest. The group went to the Oklahoma state attorney general’s office and testified to the litany of crimes and violations taking place at his clinic. This led to the undercover police operation resulting in his arrest. (Operation Rescue also was key to the arrest of Kermit Gosnell, bringing evidence of his atrocities to the authorities and demanding a citizen grand jury.)
Operation Rescue director Troy Newman was “elated” when he first heard about PLAL’s plan for a Lenten prayer and fasting campaign for Patel and the other criminal abortionists.
“We believe in the God of the universe, who put all in existence,” he said from his headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. “He hears our prayers…. I applaud the work of Eric and Joe and his wife Ann, and we’re happy to collaborate in any baby-saving measure they come up with.”
The last of the three abortionists also lives the furthest westward—and he is arguably the most wayward. Currently he resides in the maximum-security prison in Florence, Arizona.
Brian Finkel has claimed that at one time he performed approximately 20 percent of all abortions in Arizona. Unlike most abortionists, including Patel and Gosnell, he not only made no bones about what he was doing: he gloried in it. He boasted about performing at least eight abortions a day at a clinic he called “the Vaginal Vault.” In 2000 he gave a tour to one reporter, who likened the place to “a pawn shop,” decorated with Elvis Presley and John Wayne memorabilia. The walls of the operating room featured a mounted antelope head and Native American wall rugs. He called his abortion vacuum pump his “Super Sucker.” Pointing to the machine, he told the reporter, “This is where I do the Lord’s work. I heal the sick with it.”
In December 2003, Finkel was found guilty of 24 counts of sexually abusing patients, both while examining them and while performing abortions. Finkel’s appeal for a new trial was recently denied by the Arizona Court of Appeals.
“The sad thing about Finkel is that he’s rejected every kind of effort to help him discover redemption,” said Jack Jakubczyk, who served as president of Arizona Right to Life at the time of Finkel’s conviction. “Some individuals concerned for his soul have tried to make contact with him. God is going to have to use someone there [in prison] to reach him, to encourage him to look deep into his soul. I hope this [the PLAL Lenten campaign] somehow leads to the salvation of a soul that’s fallen into the depths of sin and remains unrepentant.”
“If we don’t pray for them, who will?”
Jakubczyk said he cannot overstate the importance of Christians praying on behalf of all of the Finkels, Patels, and Gosnells, as well as for those still working in the abortion industry. “It’s important that we as believers take the time pray for them and ask God that someone might intervene in their lives and help them choose the path that leads to reconciliation with God,” he said. “While there remains hope for the living, the tragedy of dying unrepentant and unredeemed is obvious.”
Eric Scheidler reports “overwhelmingly positive feedback” to the campaign, which has created “quite a buzz in social media.” But he also has encountered pushback from some who would “wish to see these men suffer, even go to Hell.”
Scheidler agrees praying and fasting for such people can be difficult. “It’s easy to fast for a kid who’s left the Church, but hard [to do so] for somebody rotting in prison for horrific crimes against humanity. These men are the enemies of all the women they exploited, of all the babies they killed, and of all who honor the sanctity of human life. Yet, if we don’t pray for them, who will?”
He also noted that praying and fasting for those who have so distanced themselves from God can only serve to draw the person doing that praying and fasting into an even deeper relationship with Christ.
“Another benefit of making sacrifices for guys like these is that it makes you think what you yourself would be capable of doing under the wrong conditions, and how undeserving of God’s love all of us are.”
“There is always cause for hope, if not optimism,” Father C. John McCloskey said of PLAL’s Lenten campaign. He should know: he helped bring into the Church the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was instrumental in the effort to legalize abortion and performed more than 60,000 abortions himself, including one upon a woman whom he had impregnated. Then in 1974 a new technology, ultrasound, allowed him to watch an abortion being performed from the inside out—a nascent human being plucked out and destroyed. The event would shock him into the reality of what he was promoting and practicing. He eventually became one of the country’s leading pro-life advocates.
Father McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest who has helped many on their journeys into the Catholic Church, instructed Nathanson in the Catholic faith and witnessed his baptism by New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor. He acknowledges that the three abortionists in the present Lenten campaign are “undoubtedly hard cases.” “Unlike my friend Dr. Nathanson, they knew exactly what they were doing,” he said. Father McCloskey also noted that the proverbial deathbed conversion is actually quite rare if someone is so “in service of Satan,” even unwittingly.
“And yet I know from personal experience that it takes prayer and patience when it comes to making any ‘pro-choicer,’ especially an abortionist, understand that the baby in the womb is a child of God waiting to be delivered into the world on his way to heaven,” he said.
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