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Recap of the 31st Annual Respect Life Conference in Florida

What a terrific weekend we just experienced at the beautiful Bonaventure Convention Center in Weston, Fl., as about 450 Pro-Lifers gathered Two-gether to celebrate the vibrant Pro-Life Movement we have going in the state of Florida. Pro-Lifers came from as far south as Homestead and as far north as Jacksonville and St. Augustine – including our beloved Bishop Estevez (Bishop of St. Augustine), who presided over the early morning Mass on

Saturday at 7:30 am. All in all, I would give the entire Respect Life Conference a B+, as there is always room for improvement and always room for more people. Thank you, Joan Crown (Respect Life Director for the archdiocese of Miami), as she put in a ton of work to pull this event off…What a Blessing for all.

Marian Center Down Syndrome Bell Choir played bells like there was no tomorrow.

The opening evening was a very emotional one as the awesome tribute to Dr. Jerome Lejeune (French doctor/scientist who worked with people born with Down Syndrome), was spectacular, mainly because the tribute was highlighted by a group of young people who were born with Down Syndrome – “Marian Center Down Syndrome Bell Choir” – as they played their bells like there was no tomorrow. And, notice that I said “born with Down Syndrome” rather than saying “suffering from Down Syndrome” – as the body language and the smiles on these beautiful people’s faces clearly showed that not a single one of them is “suffering”.

On the contrary, each one of them lifted up the entire room, bringing so much joy to everybody and yes, a few tears to my eyes. I know all about people born with D.S., first-hand, as my beloved 13 year old Swan Moon, was born with D.S., but, she brings so much joy to the Guardiola Family. Don’t ever estimate the love and gift a person born with Down Syndrome can bring to a family, a community, a church…a Respect Life conference.

What a terrific tribute and what a wonderful performance by the awesome Marian Center Down Syndrome Bell Choir. God Bless You All!

Speaking of music, the young Christian praise & worship group, Epic, did a nice job with the music early in the evening to set the tone for the 2-day conference as well as providing the music for the beautiful “Benediction and Adoration” that ended the wonderful evening, as Father Jordi Rivero did a terrific job presiding over this ever-sacred prayer program.

It was a great send-off for what was to follow on Saturday, which was a full day (14 hours), of some terrific guest speakers and presenters. The list was extensive and everybody came well prepared, especially the one speaker who blew us all away – former abortionist, Dr. Anthony Levatino. Wow!

From the Diocese of Palm Beach, Donna Gardner, shined and brought some serious Food for Thought about how “men suffer from abortion” just as much as their female counterparts.

More on Dr. Levatino in a moment as the other speakers and presenters truly shared some terrific information, statistics, stories and did a wonderful job in shedding light on the realities of the atrocity of abortion – including “post abortion”. That’s where my dear friend and Pro-Life colleague from the Diocese of Palm Beach, Donna Gardner, shined and brought some serious Food for Thought about how “men suffer from abortion” just as much as their female counterparts.

Having spent 16 years working for the Diocese of Palm Beach as the director of Rachel’s Vineyard (counseling men and women who have been traumatized by past abortion experiences), Donna was passionate and thorough with her explanation of this awful phenomena. Her presentation was very eye-opening and moving as the story that she told about Jason and what he went through after his wife chose to have an abortion, was as emotional as they come.

I personally learned a great deal about this issue from Jason’s story as I am that much more compassionate with those men who have gone through this dreadful experience, which they will have in their memories until their dying day. Folks, we need to pray for these men just as much as we do for the beloved women who have the abortion. Let us pray…

And, let’s not forget the impeccable Dr. Alveda King, niece of the Great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose most inspirational talk on “Civil Rights for the Unborn” was very moving as she brought back many memories of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. And, yes, she shared her touching testimony of her own two abortions, GOD’s forgiveness and healing, and then going on to have 5 children.

I really wish I had the time to write about all the wonderful speakers and presenters but, I want to dedicate that precious time to our featured speaker, Dr. Anthony Levatino, the former abortionist from Albany, N.Y., whose topic was “Recognizing the Humanity of the Unborn Child”. His one hour presentation was beyond description as the majority of the attendants had tears streaming down their cheeks during most of his talk. It was that emotional. It was that graphic. And, it was that truthful. Yes, he even brought some of his “tools of the trade”, including the deadly forceps, as he demonstrated to the crowd how a baby is torn out of the mother’s womb, one limb at a time. You could have heard a pin drop…but, you could not hear a baby cry…

Listening to [Dr. Levatino’s] life-changing testimony and hearing that in his “other life”, he killed over 1,200 unborn babies, through his very moving testimony, listening to what happened to him, his wife and his young “adopted” daughter, Heather – my heart cried for him and what he had to go through to finally retire the deadly forceps.

Friends: In all my years of working with the Pro-Life Movement, I have seen, read about and met many abortionists. From Miami in 1973 (when I was only 15 years old and was working at Westchester General Hospital) – I met famed abortionist, Dr. Henson, who was the only doctor performing abortions at this hospital, which had just gotten their “license to kill” a couple of months before I began working my summer job there. Keep in mind, that Roe v. Wade took place on January 22nd, 1973 – a mere 5 months before I began there in June. I can write a book about what I personally saw and experienced there as a naive 15 year old as it was my very first encounter with the abortion industry and an experience that will be etched in my memory until the day I leave this earth. That is the summer that revolutionized my mind and the event that truly made me more Pro-Life than any other up until this day…

Well, another event that revolutionized my mind took place this past Saturday at the Respect Life Conference as listening to this Dr. Levatino for almost 60 minutes truly made a remarkable impression on me. Like I said above, I have seen, read about & met many abortionists since 1973, but I had never met a former abortionist in person.

Listening to his life-changing testimony and hearing that in his “other life”, he killed over 1,200 unborn babies, through his very moving testimony, listening to what happened to him, his wife and his young “adopted” daughter, Heather – my heart cried for him and what he had to go through to finally retire the deadly forceps. You see, Dr. Levatino was Pro-Choice. His wife was Pro-Life. He was killing babies for a living. She was trying to get pregnant. She couldn’t, so the two of them went to extremes to try to get pregnant, when they finally placed an ad in a paper, targeting other doctors, OBGYNs, etc., that had connections with women who were pregnant – and Presto – a 15 year old abortion minded girl was willing to give up her baby girl for adoption and the Levatinos took her up on the offer.

Dr. Levatino continued performing abortions in Albany – $800.00 a pop. He kept trying to quit but could not give up that money…until a dramatic event took place on June 23, 1984.

They now had a beautiful adopted daughter by the name of Heather, and lo and behold, one month after Heather was born, Mrs. Levatino surprisingly got pregnant, herself! It was a baby boy – 10 months apart, folks! A family of four now…and yes, Dr. Levatino continued performing abortions in Albany – $800.00 a pop. He kept trying to quit but could not give up that money…until a dramatic event took place on June 23, 1984, that made him give it some serious thought about quitting the abortion business completely. On that horrific day, his beloved adopted daughter, Heather, was hit by a car and was killed. Not a dry eye in the convention center, folks. That horrific event changed his life…but, he continued performing abortions for several more months, where he was still caught up in the “blame game”, blaming everybody for his grief and guilty feelings. He and his wife fought like Italians vs. the Irish…

February of 1985 is when Dr. Levatino’s life changed completely as he was performing one of his 1,200 abortions when he pulled out an arm, then a leg, then another arm…and while he was stacking all of these baby body parts on the tray like he had done 1,200 times before, he got a sick feeling in his stomach and now it became his heart vs. his brain – and the heart won. That was his last abortion and 9 months after that event, Anthony and his wife were invited to a “Pro-Life Potluck Party”, and folks, that was the most awkward thing he had ever done in his life as everybody knew him as a ruthless abortionist and nobody knew that he had quit. The stares in their eyes were piercing as their old friends turned their backs on them and wanted nothing to do with them. The new friends they met were now all devout Pro-Lifers and they met some incredible prayer warriors, and that is a great point that Dr. Levatino shared with us – PRAYING FOR THE ABORTIONISTS…AND PRAYING FOR THEM BY NAME…

And, that was one of the most inspiring parts of Dr. Levatino’s talk as the story that he told us about a 13 year old girl whose own father was an abortionist, was beyond amazing. One of Anthony’s good Pro-Life prayer warriors would go out to the different schools and educate the teens on abortion and how they had to pray for the abortionists by name. You see, this 13 year old girl had no idea that her father was an abortionist and she was praying for this selected abortionist to quit killing babies…Little did she know that it was her own father. And, as fate would have it – her father quit and also became a “former” abortionist – only due to the power of prayer and by these Pro Lifers actually praying for abortionists by name. What a remarkable story, guys!

Needless to say, after Dr. Levatino’s spectacular talk, a group of enthused Pro-Lifers gathered around him to ask him some questions, when I was introduced to him by non other than Maria Wadsworth (close friend and Pro-Life colleague who is the coordinator of the Respect Life ministry at St. Louis Catholic Church in Miami). Maria said some very nice things about me and Christian on a Mission and I was able to speak to him directly for a few minutes and pick his brain about some of my major concerns, beginning with Defunding Planned Parenthood right here in the state of Florida. He was all ears and as approachable and helpful as can be. We took some pics together; I gave him one of my Christian on a Mission pens and I promised to keep in touch with him. Folks, of all the guest speakers that I have heard in my life up close and in person- from my basketball days (Miami Heat President, Pat Riley to Shaquille O’Neal, who I had speak at my basketball camps in Miami back in the 1990’s), to my political circles (Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Colonel Allen West, Dr. Ben Carson – all the way to President Trump) – I don’t think any of these terrific, high-profile speakers have moved me as much as Dr. Anthony Levatino did this past Saturday at the Respect Life conference in Weston. GOD works in mysterious ways – look at what he did for this former abortionist, Look at what happened to that 13 year old student who prayed for her father, an abortionist. And look at what GOD has done in my life to allow me to be blessed to have all of this unfold in my life and, in turn, be able to share my amazing experiences and phenomenal stories with all of my good Pro-Life friends on this extensive e-mail list. GOD is good…

In closing, I just wanted to say Thank You to the archdiocese of Miami; to Joan Crown and the entire group of volunteers who set up this entire conference; to all the clergy who showed up – including quite a few priests (including Archbishop Wenski, Bishop Peter Baldacchino, Father Richard Vigo, Father Jordi Rivero), and a tremendous group of “real live nuns in habits” and all; to our wonderful friends from the FCCB in Tallahassee – led by Michael Sheedy and Ingrid Delgado; to the musicians; the inspirational Marian Center Down Syndrome Bell Choir; all the wonderful speakers and presenters and to the 450 Pro-Lifers who attended this remarkable 2-day conference.

According to Uncle Don Kazimir (Respect Life coordinator from the Diocese of Palm Beach and a dear friend of mine) – we had a total of 32 Pro-Lifers from our Diocese. Even though it was a much bigger number than have attended before, 32 is really nothing to rave about. Being that we have 53 parishes in our beloved diocese, 32 is not a real big number, especially when the event took place just a mere hour way from the Cathedral of St. Ignatius. Let’s see if for next year’s Respect Life Conference, we can come up with a solid “100” Pro Lifers. That’s a good, strong number to shoot for as we need to set our eyes on that goal & begin promoting this up-coming conference today, like I am doing here. Let’s do it for the babies. Let’s do it for the One who created them all in His image and likeness. In GOD We Must!! In our Pro-Lifers We Trust!!

About the Author
Willy Guardiola is a passionate Catholic activist and a freelance Catholic journalist,involved with many types of ministries, organizations, events and activities throughout the state of Florida, serving as a catalyst and evangelist in promoting numerous events.

A former highly respected NCAA Basketball Official with the SEC, the OVC & the Atlantic Ten, Willy spent a lifetime running up and down the hardwoods throughout many parts of the country. He also ran the most prolific Basketball Camps & Corporate Leagues in South Florida for 27 years. He was inducted into the Junior College Basketball Hall of Fame on March 6th, 2004. “Christian on a Mission”, since 2006, where his organization ministers to the poor, the homeless, the less fortunate, the orphans of the world, and the most vulnerable – the unborn. Willy also serves as the President of the Palm Beach County Right to Life League.

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