By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
Vastly outnumbered by the hundreds of thousands taking part in the April 25
March for Women's Lives in Washington, pro-life groups conducted a largely
silent witness along the march route.
Even the group Silent No
More Awareness, which urges its members to speak publicly about their
abortions; decided to stay quiet at its locations along the route of those
marching to keep abortion legal.
'Today we're being silent," said Georgette Forney, the group's co-founder.
"It won't do any good to engage them. This is not the forum."
About 90 members of the organization, including many members of
American Collegians for Life, lined one sidewalk near the start of the
march route bearing signs and wearing T-shirts with a pro-life message.
Annie Banno, Connecticut State Leader of
Operation Outcry: Silent No More, told Catholic News Service she was in
denial for 20 years after her abortion. She said in the five years since she has
gotten to the point that "I can stand here and talk about it without crying my
Luz Marina Tomayo of Miami, also holding an "I Regret My Abortion" sign, said
her husband coerced her into an abortion 13 months ago. "I've been depressed
ever since," she told CNS.
At a second location along the march route, close to 100 pro-lifers lined the
curb at an intersection.
There, Andrea Staargaard, 19, a student at Penn State University, talked
about the abortion she had when she was 16. "This isn't the first time I've done
this," Staargaard said, referring to talking about her abortion. "But it has to
be done," she continued, "because there are millions of women who think this
(that abortion is OK), and millions of children who have been lost."
Staargaard said her boyfriend found an abortion clinic in New Jersey and
drove her there. Because Staargaard was a minor living in Pennsylvania, state
law required parental consent, and Staargaard wanted to avoid telling her
"A doctor even suggested that I use a fake name," she said. At the clinic,
she added, "I remember a nurse telling me that if I were her daughter, she would
have me do the same thing."
In the three years since the abortion, "I never stop thinking about it,"
Staargaard said. One source of solace after her abortion was joining the
Catholic Church. "I was pretty much an agnostic before," she said. "If I didn't
have Jesus in my life, I'd probably be dead. I know it sounds cliched and
dramatic, but it's absolutely true."
The March for Women's Lives drew, by an estimate of its leaders, 1.15 million
people to the National Mall.
U.S. Park Police arrested 16 members of the Christian Defense Coalition for
demonstrating without a permit when they left the area for which the group had
obtained permits and moved to an area reserved for the march.
Earlier, before marchers passed by, 60 members of the group had engaged in,
literally, street theater at a different location. Participants first knelt in a
blocked-off intersection, then lay down and curled into the fetal position in
the street as others drew chalk outlines around them in the style used for
homicides. The action moved Forney to tears.
Between counter demonstrations, Jenni Nelson, 23, of the Detroit suburb of
Ecorse, Mich., said she seriously considered aborting her daughter, Liberty, now
3. Her parents, Nelson said, were pro-life "but I didn't want to disappoint
them" by having them know about her out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
"I didn't know there were resources out there," she said. "I thought I was
going to have to give up on college. I almost went to Planned Parenthood for a
pregnancy test" But with support from her parents and Liberty's father, Nelson
was able to complete college. "I own a house," she said. "I'm doing better than
a lot of my friends who haven't had children - and better than my friends who've
As about 50 members of
Feminists for Life headed past the group, Nelson told them, "You guys
are so awesome, so brave, so courageous. I really idolize you guys."
On April 24, about 200 members of Catholics for a Free Choice took part in a
brief demonstration outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington to protest church
teaching on abortion. Kept at a distance were a group of pro-life counter
demonstrators less than half that size.
Also that day, Jeff White of Twin Peaks, Calif., was arrested by District of
Columbia Police for carrying a fetus in a jar during a protest in front of a
Planned Parenthood office in downtown Washington. He was charged with illegally
exhibiting a dead body, which is a misdemeanor carrying a possible penalty of 90
days in jail or a $200 fine.
Protest organizers said White got the fetus from a California doctor and that
it was from a miscarriage, not an abortion.