Their voices were heard loud and clear among the more than 100,000 people who attended this year's 31st annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
From all across the United States - and even from Canada - they came, the latest vanguard in a growing movement that seeks to end an almost conspiratorial silence about the myths of "safe and legal" abortion. There were dozens of them, carrying placards and offering harrowing testimonies about the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual devastation abortion had wreaked upon their lives.
In the midst of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign demonstration in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, there was a sense among the participants that those who turned out were only a tiny fraction of the numbers that would have materialized, if it weren't for the stigma that still surrounds a procedure deemed by that same court as being perfectly in line with the Constitution of Canada's neighbour to the south.
But great legal minds notwithstanding, no one could fool the women who had "been there."
There was actress Jennifer O'Neill, who shared how her abortion experience ripped her marriage apart. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, said her uncle would have attended the event if he was still alive. She also told how her grandfather fortunately intervened in her life to stop her from undergoing a second abortion episode.
Another woman, who had had her breasts removed, came forward as a living verification of the women mobilize and come out to speak about what's happened in their lives. It takes an incredible amount of courage."
The National Silent No More Awareness Campaign was founded by two women who had their own abortion experiences and who went on to assist others with post-abortion recovery: Georgette Forney, executive director of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life,* and Janet Morana, associate director of Priests for Life. [Janet's abortion experience was through birth control pills which cause early abortions.]
The campaign as a whole seeks to make the public aware of the devastation abortion brings to women, men and their families. It also seeks to expose and heal the wounds of abortion upon them, and to break the shroud of secrecy and silence that has surrounded the issue for decades.
The campaign is a corollary to Operation Outcry, an effort that works in the legal sphere by collecting and compiling legal documents that can be used in a court of law.
The campaign itself, however, has no legal or political agenda. It functions under the premise that abortion must be addressed on many fronts, and that one of the most effective is by making the option of abortion unthinkable to a pregnant woman.
(More information on the U.S. National Silent No More Awareness Campaign can be found at the movement's website: http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/. See the February Interim for details on a Canadian Silent No More campaign to obtain legal affidavits from women who feel they've been harmed in some way by their abortion experiences.)
"It's gaining momentum," said Steenstra of the Washington event, which she first learned of last year in the pages of The Interim. "I went for the purpose of participating. This was my first experience joining with women to tell the truth about what abortion did to our lives in three minutes or less. I've never been together with that many people. The stories were incredible."
The demonstration began with a gathering at a "safe haven" shortly before the end of the main march through the streets of the city. Participants then walked two-by-two toward the Supreme Court building, holding vigil lights and signs reading, "I regret my abortion."
At the court, the testimonies began - or, as Steenstra put, "the lies" about abortion were exposed.
In listening to Alveda King, Steenstra was reminded of the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King in his "I Have a Dream" speech.
"That was very profound for me, because several years ago, I was prompted to read that speech before I spoke at the Canadian March for Life in Ottawa. His words, `I have a dream,' stood out for me. I remember saying publicly that I have a dream that one day, from coast to coast, men and women will standup and tell the truth (about abortion)."
Steenstra recalled a 19year-old girl who stood up in Washington and told how devastated she was after being administered the RU-486 "abortion pill." The girl said she was told nothing about what RU486 would do to her.
But there were not only young women, speaking of recent abortion experiences, making their voices heard in Washington. Others were telling of what happened to them in the early 1970s.
The rally was an official part of the March for Life and was endorsed by it. Many who took part in the Silent No More event also participated in the main march, carrying their " I regret my abortion" signs.
A contingent of them plans to be present in Washington again in April, when the pro-abortion faction rallies for what it sees as women's rights.
The need to work at the local level to assist men and women damaged by abortion experiences is greater than ever. Organizations such as Steenstra's Second Chance Ministries are a vital resource for the legions of women - now numbering in the millions in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands in Canada - who have undergone abortions.
As this issue went to press, a receptionist at the Campaign Life Coalition national office in Toronto told The Interim of a recent call she took from a woman in her 30s, who described how devastated she still is by an abortion she underwent as a college student at 17: "She was crying on the phone," said the receptionist. "She felt sad and guilty. She said it almost destroyed her life."
*NOEL was renamed Anglicans for Life in March 2007