BY Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON - At rallies prayer services and marches held in Washington on the
31st anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States,
participants were encouraged to continue their fight against abortion.
During a Jan. 21 Mass celebrated as part of the National Prayer Vigil for
Life, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops'
Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged participants to take to heart Pope John
Paul IIs words -uttered shortly after his elevation to the papacy: "Be not
In his homily at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception, the cardinal prompted applause from the assembly when he said, "Roe
supporters have become the forces of reaction, the forces of entrenched
interests; as we see here again tonight, the pro-life movement has become the
younger, more vibrant force in this great struggle.
"You who are our wonderful young people - young in fact, young in heart you
have taken to heart the words of the Holy Father, 'Be not afraid."'
The cardinal then read a message sent by President Bush thanking them for
their participation in the National Prayer Vigil for Life and for their "ongoing
dedication to building a culture of life in America."
President Bush also addressed March
for Life participants at a Jan. 22 rally at the Ellipse between the White
House and the Washington Monument, telling them by phone from Roswell, N.M.,
that they must continue "to remind our fellow citizens that all life is sacred
and worthy of protection."
He spoke of the abortion-limiting legislation passed during his
administration, including the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act; the ban on
partial-birth abortion, which is facing a court challenge; and restrictions on
use of tax money in international programs that encourage abortion.
He also listed several other pieces of legislation he would support,
including increased federal funding for abstinence education and passage of the
Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would allow prosecution under homicide
statutes for the death of fetuses killed during the commission of a crime.
The crowd gathered on the Ellipse for the March for Life rally resembled a
high school pep rally complete with chaperones. People assembled in small groups
to take pictures of themselves, eat a quick lunch or hold aloft banners before
the speeches began, and they seemed more relaxed than in previous years, perhaps
in part because of warmer temperatures.
At midday, the temperature reached 40 degrees, quite unlike years when
marchers faced below-freezing weather or walked through snow.
Betty Herold, a parishioner at St. Augustine's in Barbertown, Ohio, has been
marching for the past 25 years to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973
Roe v. Wade and
Doe v. Bolton
decisions legalizing abortion. This year, prior to the march she stood at the
side of Constitution Avenue along with thousands of others, making the street
look like a pre-parade gathering. She and other St. Augustine parishioners said
the march invigorated them.
And a group of youths under the banner New Hampshire Teens for Life seemed
"This is huge. I'm so glad I came," said Meghan McNamara, a freshman from St.
Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, N.H., at the Ellipse.
She and her friends said they had a mixed reaction from their friends back
home about coming to the march, but hoped to get a pro-life group together when
they got back.
After the rally speeches, participants walked along Constitution Avenue to
the Supreme Court and then many continued to visit members of Congress and lobby
for pro-life legislation.
Before heading back to their buses, hundreds of marchers stopped at Catholic
parishes located on either side of the Capitol for drinks and snacks.
At the end of the day, when most marchers began their trips home, a few
hundred remained in front of the Supreme Court for a another rally where at
least 50 women held signs that read "I regret my abortion."
The rally was part of the
Silent No More Campaign co-sponsored by the Catholic organization Priests
for Life and the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life, known as NOEL.
One of the first speakers was actress
Jennifer O'Neill, who sat in a wheelchair because of a broken foot. O'Neill
told the crowd that all speakers that night had different stories and different
reasons for having their abortions but one common thread was that they all
regretted the procedure.
"You can't kill your own young and be well afterward," she said, adding that
she had nine miscarriages after her abortion.
She also said that she suffered emotionally after the abortion but pointed
out that her faith in God enabled her to find "healing, hope and restoration."
Alveda King, the niece of the
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., told the crowd she too felt the emotional pain of
having an abortion but also came to experience God's forgiveness.
"Women who don't admit to the pain of abortion are numb," she. said.
Rallies where women speak frankly about the impact of abortion on their lives
have expanded the pro-life movement's emphasis, according to Georgette Forney,
executive director of NOEL and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness
During a panel discussion on abortion and the American woman at Catholic
University in Washington, Forney sand that as women begin to speak more openly
about the physical and emotional pain they suffered from their abortions they
will begin a new grass-roots movement.
Panelist Cathy Cleaner Ruse, director of planning and information for the
U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities agreed, stating that society
as a whole is beginning to understand the concept that abortion kills babies,
but it "still embraces abortion saying it's good for women."
She described the women who are speaking out as "our new prophets who will
bring us to the end of this. These women are the rest of the story."
In a press conference by the National Right to
Life Committee, Wanda Franz, the organization's president, said that "the
days of Roe are numbered: The number of abortions is down and the support for
abortion rights has eroded."
At a separate press conference, the American
Life League launched a new ad campaign with the theme "The Way of La
Crosse," which it said "pays tribute" to letters sent to some Catholic
politicians in Wisconsin by Archbishop Raymond Burke when he headed the Diocese
of La Crosse, Wis., urging them to drop their support for abortion or not
receive Communion at Mass. The league sand all bishops "must send a clear,
unambiguous message" that "you cannot be pro-abortion and Catholic."
Across the country, dozens of Masses, pro-life rallies and prayer services
took place to mark the Roe anniversary.