Catholic pro-life heroes recognized at Her PLAN event

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Nearly 30 honorees across at least eight denominations were recognized as pro-life heroes by Her PLAN (Pregnancy and Life Assistance Network) on Thursday, March 17 at Fondren Church in Jackson.
Ranging from sidewalk advocates of Mississippi’s only abortion facility, adoption leaders, pregnancy center leaders and policy champions, these heroes have been at work in the pro-life movement for decades making strides against abortion. Those leaders included several Catholics from around the diocese: Dr. Beverly McMillan of St. Richard Jackson, Tanya Britton of St. James Tupelo, Monica Walton of St. Paul Flowood, Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, OP of St. Dominic Health Services and Charlene Bearden of Holy Family Jackson and coordinator of the office of family ministry for the Diocese of Jackson.
Anja Baker, Mississippi state coordinator for Her PLAN and parishioner of St. Jude Pearl, said that her reason for having a “Mississippi Moment” with pro-life heroes was two-fold. The first being to reflect and acknowledge all of the hard work that has been done to save the lives of the unborn, but also to talk about preparing for a pivotal moment in history – the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide, with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, set for a decision in June.

JACKSON – Charlene Bearden and Dr. Corinne Anderson, parishioners of Holy Family Jackson, speak to Erin Kate Goode, executive director of the Center for Pregnancy Choices Metro area at a luncheon held by Her PLAN recognizing Mississippi pro-life heroes on Thursday, March 17 at Fondren Church. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

“Regardless of what happens this summer, regardless of what changes in policy, we know that a larger safety net of support is needed,” said Baker.
Born in 1994, Baker got her start in the pro-life movement at age 15 when she saw a “40 Days for Life” flyer in the back of church. This led to attending pro-life banquets and getting involved in Students for Life before eventually working as a coordinator for Her PLAN.
A project of Susan B. Anthony List, Her PLAN also operates in Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia, and facilitates collaboration between assistance providers and their communities to empower women and families through comprehensive medical, social and material support.
At the event, Baker acknowledged all of the work those present had done since Roe, saying “my generation and generations to come have a lot to learn from you. Your voice and your example is the reason we have something to build upon in the first place and the reason … Mississippi is the one everyone is talking about.”
One of those examples is Walton, who was called to be actively pro-life back in high school after her best friend asked her to drive her across state lines to have an abortion. Today, Walton is the executive director for Birthright of Jackson, joining the group as a volunteer in 1994; as well as, office manager for St. Paul Flowood.
“I love the Birthright way of gentle love and care for women struggling with an unplanned pregnancy. We sit with them and listen to their worries – free of judgment, pressure and scare tactics. We make sure they have all the information to make a good decision about the future of their unborn child,” said Walton.
Sitting across from Walton at the event, Bearden’s passion for life was sparked in the 1960s after she and her husband Booker, lost their first child right after her first birthday due to meningitis.
“Bishop Brunini … welcomed Booker and me, and our other two young children into their community of various social and faith formation activities at St. Peter. … I became very interested in the church’s teachings pertaining to social justice, poverty, and the respect for all life,” said Bearden.
Her passion then grew to promote the sanctity of life at the time the Supreme Court instituted Roe in 1973 and after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the “Declaration on Procured Abortion” in 1974.
As time progressed, Bearden began praying against abortion outside the abortion clinic. She even worked on a “whole life” front, from 1999-2006 with the Mississippi Department of Human Services to design, develop and support a computer application to track abused, exploited, neglected and adopted children.
Today, Bearden works with the Office of Family Ministry for the diocese, promoting and supporting a variety of pro-life programs. Among a long list of pro-life causes and events, she works with the Knights of Columbus to fund ultrasound machines for pregnancy care centers, collaborates with Catholic Charities of Jackson to respect life through a variety of services, offers support to parishes in the diocese for the USCCB’s “Walking with Moms in Need” program, and provides support and referrals to pregnancy care centers, among many other programs.
Walton and Bearden’s work are just some of the many connections Her PLAN hopes to make in its campaign to create a network of helping hands for new mothers in need.
“What ties us together is the battle to protect the unborn and the women that hold that life within them,” says Baker.
Bearden is also collaborating with Her PLAN to share resources through the diocese for women in need of support, whether it is medical, social or material. Their goal is to help empower women and have them choose life.
Bearden says, “Respect for the dignity of all life and the support of all life, especially pregnant mothers in crisis, is critical to supporting and being pro-life. This is our Christian belief; this is our Catholic belief.”

(To learn more about Her PLAN visit