“A few days before my 17th birthday, my girlfriend told me she was pregnant. So we conspired to keep the baby and not tell anyone.”

Still a young man with little life experience in the spring of 1989, future “Bella” filmmaker and then-atheist Jason Jones enlisted in the U.S. Army so he could support his new family.

His girlfriend wore baggy sweaters to conceal the pregnancy from her parents while Jones left for basic training.

But two weeks before Jones would graduate, he received a phone call that changed his life forever.

“She called me crying,” he said somberly. “Her father had forced her to get an abortion.”

Jones’ girlfriend kept telling him: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It wasn’t me.”

“It was the most horrible thing I have heard in my life, to hear someone crying like that,” he recalled.

“The only way I can explain it is that her soul was crying.”

The 17-year-old soldier was stunned and devastated. But that heartbreaking moment awakened Jones to a powerful life calling.

“I promised my high-school girlfriend that day that if it took the rest of my life, I would help end abortion,” he said.

Now Jones, co-executive producer of the award-winning and life-affirming film “Bella,” is doing just that. That pivotal moment convinced him to become a whole-life activist, battling abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia and other human-rights injustices around the world.

He is founder of the Human-Rights Education and Relief Organization, a group that has distributed “Bella” DVDs to 250 pregnancy centers through its Movie to Movement initiative.

This year alone, the campaign saved the lives of 88 babies whose mothers had planned to abort them.

HERO has recently launched a new website for its I Am Whole-Life initiative.

“The Whole Life ethic acknowledges that issues that appear to be separate such as human sex trafficking, political violence, famine, abortion, female genital mutilation, euthanasia, pornography, embryo destruction and many others are actually related threats to the dignity of the human person,” the website states.

College and prison ministry

HERO also sponsors a program called Bella on Campus through its Movie to Movement initiative.

Last year, the group held 22 screenings of “Bella” on campuses, including Yale University, American University, Marquette, Boston University and the University of Michigan.

“Our screening of ‘Bella’ was a huge success!” said Kate Koch from American University. “The reaction to the film was overwhelmingly positive. Members of our audience said ‘Bella’ truly changed their perspective on abortion and the right to life of the unborn after seeing the movie.”

Hilltop prison unit in Gatesville, Texas

Likewise, HERO has a Movie to Movement program called Jose’s Second Chance. In the film “Bella,” actor Eduardo Verastegui plays a character named Jose who finds redemption after a tragic accident and his subsequent imprisonment. HERO screens the film in the nation’s prisons.

“It offers a rare opportunity to those imprisoned to see through the eyes of Jose, and to see their own chance to heal and start again,” the group’s website explains.

Jones recalled a recent screening at a women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas. Many inmates there were post-abortive, and the women shared their stories.

One inmate who had been in prison for more than 20 years for committing a serious crime told the group of her own experience.

“I never lose sleep over my crime because I know God forgives me for that,” she said. “But I still lose sleep over the abortion. My life went downhill, and all the trouble in my life began with the abortion.”

A ‘whole-life’ health bill?

Jones said the abortion industry has been so successful in its propaganda that much of the world’s appreciation for the incomparable worth of the human person has been lost.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

He said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., hijacked the term “whole life” in her Senate floor speech during the debate on abortion funding in the Senate’s health-care bill this month.

“Health-care reform is the most important social-justice vote that we will cast in this decade. Universal access to health care is a basic human right,” Mikulski said. “This bill is pro-life. Making it a debate about abortion is misguided and wrong. … These are pro-life principles … they are ‘whole life’ principles.”

Jason Jones

“She’s really off her rocker when she just glosses over the taxpayer funding of the destruction of the innocent human person,” Jones said. “How can you call taxpayer destruction of the innocent human in the womb pro-life and whole-life?”

He said he wants his own five children, and their grandchildren, to have access to quality health care.

“That’s why I want the government out of health care,” he said. “You can disagree with me on that and really care about human dignity. But if you say that you want the government to pay to destroy children in the womb, you are not whole-life.”

Jones said many people say they are pro-life, but they support destruction of human embryos or abortion in cases of rape or incest. He said some so-called “pro-lifers” are indifferent to assisted suicide, or blind to other human-rights atrocities in places like Iran or Darfur. But he said to be truly whole-life is to value the human over the economic and recognize the incomparable worth of the entire human life, from the womb to death.

“I believe that if they knew what abortion was – if these lawmakers really knew what abortion was – they would not support it,” he said.

‘People kill people’

HERO has also partnered with Manto de Guadalupe and the Persecution Project to help raise money for wells in Sudan and distribute $2 million in food, medicine and other aid to Sudanese people.Their next goal is to install 100 wells in Sudan by March.

In March of this year, Jones traveled with a group to the Darfur region, where an estimated 500,000 people have been killed and an additional 2 million have become internally displaced refugees within the last six years.

Jason Jones plays with children in Sudan during a recent visit

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, responding to an arrest warrant issued for him by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, had expelled at least a dozen foreign-aid organizations already in the country. But Jones’ group stayed.

“We didn’t ask Omar al-Bashir’s permission to come,” Jones said with a chuckle, “so we figured we didn’t need to listen when he said don’t come.”

The group met with Muslim leaders in Darfur, including one of the Janjaweed militiamen, gunmen from Arabic-speaking African tribes who have been warring with Darfur’s African farmers, especially over scarce water and land resources. Janjaweed militiamen have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacre, kidnapping, rape and enslavement of young girls, forced displacement and torture of their own countrymen.

But Jones said the man was very kind to his group and served him tea and cookies.

Jason Jones with a Muslim leader in Darfur

“We asked them, why are you fighting and killing your neighbors?” Jones said.

The man laughed and said, “America is at war. Countries go to war. People kill people.”

Then he asked Jones’ group, “Answer me this: why do you help us? Why do you come here? Why do you help Christians and Muslims?”

“What we told him was, ‘We’re Christians. As Christians, we understand that every human person is made in the image of God. Every person has intrinsic dignity and worth,'” Jones said.

“We said, ‘We’re here because you are our brother. Your children are our nieces and nephews, and they need help. We know that you need help here in Darfur, and we’re here to help our brother because we know your worth.'”

Jones said any American who saw this man in a news report would be “frightened.”

“But he began to cry,” he recalled.

Jones said the man turned to the interpreter and spoke in Arabic, saying, “God must have told them to come here because only God can make someone love their enemy.”

All part of a ‘culture of death’

Jones said the Janjaweed man, who might have otherwise been a good person, had been consumed by “the culture of death.”

“When I was looking at this guy who most likely committed horrible atrocities, he seemed like a decent man,” he said. “But, through an ideology, he’s been indoctrinated not to accept the dignity of a black African.”

He likened Mikulski’s stance on abortion to the Janjaweed man’s outlook on killing.

“Just as this Janjaweed was blinded by an ideology that did not allow him to see the dignity of someone that he believed was completely different and didn’t have dignity or value, Sen. Mikulski can so easily deny the dignity of the unborn child in the womb,” he said.

Jones said he believes Mikulski is probably a good woman.

“She must be. People vote for her,” he said. “They must like her. She must be good to her staff. She must be good to her friends. She must be a good mother and a good neighbor.

“But yet this ideology, this culture of death, can take someone who is otherwise good, and she can call herself pro-life and whole-life and believe she passionately cares about people getting health care. But yet she has no respect whatsoever for the child in the womb – just like the Janjaweed would have no respect for the animist or the Christian.”

Jones said everyone must be aware of their own “blind spots” when it comes to the dignity of a human person.

“We must be vigilant because we are all susceptible to ideologies that can blind us – whether it’s Islamofascism, the culture of death or totalitarian socialism,” he said.

“Those ideologies can take otherwise good people and blind them to the dignity of the few, from an unborn child in the womb to a Christian in Sudan.”

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