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Selected Biographies of Speakers at the World Meeting of Families

Leading up to the 2015 World Meeting of Families, Catholics for Choice provides a selection of biographies for some of the more stridently anitchoice speakers—from keynotes to breakout session leaders—who are slated to appear in Philadelphia.

Dr. Janet Smith

An outspoken critic of reproductive rights in both the national and international media—CNN, Fox, Al Jazeera—and a three-term consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family, Dr. Janet Smith has a close relationship to conservative clergy situated in the highest levels of the church. She is currently the Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Throughout her career, Smith has gained a reputation from numerous anti-contraception articles and papers, which include: “The Connection between Contraception and Abortion”; “The Family under Siege: Winning the Battle for the Culture of Life”; and “Birth Control—The Pill—Why use Contraception?” Among the “harmful consequences” that Smith attributes to contraception are: an increase in divorce, the facilitation of adultery, financial independence for women and a higher number of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Smith is also a vocal advocate for ministries focusing on chastity for individuals she describes as “experiencing same-sex attraction.” She has stated that “the testimonies of those who have left the ‘gay’ life and are seeking holiness is so important,” and that these voices are ones “the media ignores or discounts.”

Terry Polakovic

As president of ENDOW, a “formational apostolate for women,” Terry Polakovic’s views on a woman’s right to choose are explicit: “Regulating and restricting abortion, as state legislatures have increasingly worked to do, is the first step towards protecting women from a practice which is little better than predatory barbarism.”

ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women), was co-founded by Polakovic in 2003 and now claims a presence in 130 dioceses worldwide. The organization takes the core of its ideology from the “New Feminism” teachings of John Paul II, including “feminine genius” and “complementarity.” As the face of ENDOW’s high-profile New Feminist educational efforts in the Catholic community, Polakovic has repeatedly taken hard stances against both choice and LGBT rights. In addition to writing a variety of antichoice articles, Polakovic has also stated that “gay marriage is not natural.”

Polakovic’s work has been praised by polarizing figures like Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. While speaking at an ENDOW event on the invitation of Polakovic, Archbishop Chaput both praised her efforts and categorized abortion as “private, legally protected murders that kill conveniently unseen lives.”

Helen Alvaré

Before becoming a law professor with an interest in antichoice policies and litigation, Helen Alvaré began working with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in 1987—first in the Office of General Counsel and later as the director of information and planning for the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-life Activities. (Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York spoke of the bishops hiring an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman—Alvaré—to speak against abortion, and that it was “the best thing we ever did.”) Alvaré testified on behalf of the US bishops before federal congressional committees and lobbied members of Congress on federal legislation concerning abortion and healthcare.

Alvaré is currently a professor of law at George Mason University.