Ending abortion will require “prayer, personal conversion and good works,” as well as a renewed emphasis on the freedom and sacrifice that this entails, say pro-life leaders in the region.

Some two hundred participants gathered on July 17 for the Greater Philadelphia Pro-Life Union “Freedom for the Preborn” rally, which began with mass at the SS Cathedral Basilica. Peter and Paul.

In his homily, the celebrant and rector of the cathedral, Father Dennis Gill, described abortion as “the greatest evil of our day and every day” because it represents “a total denial of who God is and of what he has done for us by creating us, and by giving us the responsibility that we have for life.

He urged those present to “pray in the face of (such) darkness and evil” and “stop pretending that what is out there is not dark and bad”.

Such prayer must be “more focused and directed to what is really in front of us”, he stressed, and should be accompanied by “daily personal conversion from sin”.

“We must live exemplary lives as Christians, and with the help of Mary, the first disciple, know that it is possible to live individually as Christ wants us to live,” he said. “This makes our prayer all the more fruitful and powerful.”

Equally essential is a readiness to do “spontaneous good works” for one another to “show that our conversion is real” and to demonstrate “what God wants for his people,” he said.

Abortion in figures

After mass, attendees (some sports T-shirts labeled “old fetus”) braved 90-degree heat and humidity to make their way to downtown Planned Parenthood, where rally speakers included members. from the Board of Directors of the Union Pro-Life Pat Stanton (son of the founding organization, John Stanton), Marlene Downing (director of the HOPE Pregnancy Center), Lianna Hollendonner (regional coordinator of the Students for Life in Pennsylvania and Delaware ), Obstetrician and Gynecologist Dr Monique Ruberu (Union Medical Advisor) and Richara Krajewski (Pastoral Associate for Discipleship and Youth Ministry at St. Raymond Parish in Penafort, Philadelphia).

Union supporter Pastor Curtis Saxton of Ekklesia of North Philadelphia Baptist Church also addressed the crowd, while Augustus DeSimone, seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, provided the music. Several other seminarians, as well as the director of the spiritual formation seminary, Father Herbert Sperger, were also present.

Five-month-old Jude Jozefowski rests on his mother Molly’s shoulder during a July 17 mass at the SS Cathedral Basilica. Peter and Paul. The liturgy preceded a prayer walk and a rally sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Pro-Life Union at a downtown abortion clinic. (Gina Christian)

“Thousands of babies are being killed in Philadelphia, and that’s why we’re here, to protest for true freedom,” Stanton said, citing data from Planned Parenthood’s 2019-2020 annual report, which said the agency performed nearly 355,000 abortions in total from 2018 to 2019.

A call from CatholicPhilly.com to the Southeastern Pennsylvania office of Planned Parenthood requesting local agency totals, as well as an update on recent health code violations at its West Chester and Warminster locations, has not been returned. CatholicPhilly.com’s on-site inquiries to escorts at the agency’s clinic sparked repeated profanity.

Stanton said taxpayers provided 38% of the agency’s $ 2 billion in assets, while its adoption credentials were down 38%. A Analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute of Planned Parenthood’s 2019-2020 Annual Report found that the agency reported $ 1.6 billion in revenue and over $ 2 billion in net assets, with taxpayer funding amounting to $ 618.1 million. dollars, or nearly $ 1.7 million per day, an annual increase of $ 1.3 million from the previous year, and an increase of almost 27% year-on-year since 2010.

Planned Parenthood also works with nearly 100 partner organizations in what it calls “nine target countries,” including countries in Africa and Latin America.

Globally, there are a total of some 73.3 million abortions each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute – at least five million more than the UK’s current population, and nearly 15 million more than the current population. United Nations crude death rate in 2019, which is the total number of deaths in the world in a given year.

“Terrible for women’s rights”

Stanton rejected Planned Parenthood’s claims to provide health care, a position supported by rally participant Kim Savage, a member of the Chester County Pro-Life Coalition, Generation Life and St. Norbert Parish in Paoli.

“What is happening in (Planned Parenthood) is terrible for women’s health care, and it’s terrible for women’s rights,” she said.

Andrew Santoleri of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Glen Mills chats with other attendees at a rally and prayer vigil on July 17 sponsored by the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia Center city ​​of Philadelphia. (Gina Christian)

Former Catholic school teacher and social worker Anthony Farnan, a Pro-Life Union volunteer who spends about 30 hours a week outside of area abortion clinics, said “a lot of people have been brainwashed “over the past five decades” into thinking abortion is “health care needed”.

In a recent effort to present a clinic client with crisis pregnancy alternatives, Farnan said the woman’s companion calmly told her that the developing baby was “just a bunch of cells.” .

Millennials in particular “are won over by the world’s arguments against life,” said Reggie Smith, a non-denominational Christian from Upper Darby, attending the rally.

“They kind of get caught up and stomped on, and they end up getting along to get along,” he said.

Even those who claim to be Christians are not immune, said fellow participant and Presbyterian Christian Hannah Roper of Norristown.

Roper admitted while chatting with two Christian girlfriends that she was “shocked” to realize that she was “the only pro-life person in the room.”

“If I have to talk to (other) Christians and try to convince them that a baby is a human being, no matter what size or stage I am, that worries me a lot,” she said. “When you’re not careful, it seeps into every denomination. “

Hollendonner called “(the) idea that women need an abortion to be happy and successful” a “lie”.

“It is humiliating for the dignity of women and it seriously underestimates what every woman is capable of,” she said. “Women are told that their fertility is a weakness and that abortion is the cure. And with these lies, we are robbed of our femininity. “

“Harriet Tubman’s State of Mind”

The “many different ideas in the world about what it means to be free… actually lead to the opposite,” Krajewski said.

“Freedom is the ability to do good for oneself and for others,” she said. “True freedom is not rooted in selfishness, it is not rooted in libertinism, it is not rooted in saying, ‘I do what I want, and I don’t care who it affects. “”

(Related: Listen to a Podcast with Oblate Father Thomas Dailey on The Definition of Freedom.)

Rather than an expression of freedom, abortion “is a response to a person who does not feel free”, said Krajewski, women in crisis of pregnancy “feeling captive to their situation, their past, their boyfriend and their ideas on what their future should be. “

Saxton called the experience “serfdom,” while Dowling urged rally attendees to embrace the mindset of abolitionist Harriet Tubman – who personally helped some 300 enslaved people escape to freedom. – and to “come back and free those who are still in slavery, even if they do not do so.” know they are in bondage.

Helping women in crisis pregnancies necessarily takes time, effort and even inconvenience, she said, adding “this is what we are here for, sacrificing our lives to be hands and feet ( of Christ), it doesn’t matter what it looks like “.

“This is why God created us,” Ruberu said. “Not to take care of ourselves, but to take care of others, to lend a hand. “

“Save”, science and spiritual battle

Over the years, Ruberu and his fellow speakers have contributed to a number of “backups,” where women considering abortions have changed their minds and brought their babies to term.

Stanton said the latest 40 Days for the Life campaign saved “over 12,000 babies.”

North Philadelphia’s Greater Exodus Baptist Church, the congregation to which Dowling belongs, held a baby shower two weeks earlier for a mother who “turned away” from family planning, he said.

“The baby was born yesterday,” Stanton announced as rally attendees applauded. “And we are by his side.”

Such awareness helps tackle major risk factors for abortion, according to Archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) staff, who regularly provide a wide range of prenatal and family supports (including food, education courses for children, community diapers and baby showers) to pregnant women. .

Specific assistance for prenatal misdiagnosis is available through the Lily’s gift ministry, a collaboration between the CSS, the Office for Disabled People and the Office for Life and Family.

Roper, she hopes such momentum continues in the years to come.

“It is becoming more and more evident at all levels – logical, medical, Christian, scientific – the argument (for life) wins. … The more we are able to advance medicine, we show that these children can live, no matter what their age… so I have only one hope that (as) this comes out, it will start to change things. spirits.

Ultimately, however, ending abortion is “a spiritual battle” for which defenders of life “need the help and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, said Saxton – and l ‘Mary’s intercession, Chris Lane of St. Isaac Jogues Parish told Wayne.

Along with Jim Schneller of St. Mary’s Quasi-Parish in Conshohocken, Lane carried a six-foot-high framed banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe during the march and rally “to show that we trust her.”

“She is the patroness of the Americas, our Blessed Mother, and she gave birth to Jesus,” he said. “She is definitely a leader in the pro-life movement.”

Participants walk along Locust Street in Philadelphia in a July 17 rally and prayer vigil sponsored by the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. (Gina Christian)