They came from all over the Valley, bearing signs, banners and sporting T-shirts declaring their commitment to the pro-life cause in spite of 40 years of legalized abortion.
About 500 people gathered at the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse in downtown Phoenix Jan. 22 to commemorate the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted gave the invocation. The anniversary of Roe, he said, called to mind “a day that shall live in infamy throughout future generations of America, a day that robbed the youngest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters of their right to life, a day of horrific injustice and national shame.”
Two of the women who addressed the crowd spoke of the sorrows they endured following abortion. Bishop Olmsted’s invocation acknowledged the “millions of mothers who like Rachel mourn for their children because they are no more.”
Karen Williams of Silent No More, a group that seeks to raise awareness about the harmful effects of abortion, spoke about her work with women, who like her, have lived to regret their abortions.
“Behind every [abortion] procedure is a person,” Williams said. “We eventually arrive at this conclusion: that our babies were a ‘who’ and not a ‘what.’ Our children were unique, beautiful, sacred gifts from God.”
Leslie Collins told the crowd that she too mourned a decision she made to end the life of her unborn child.
“They made it sound so easy,” Collins said. “What they didn’t tell me was that my baby, at 15 weeks, was the size of a large apple, was growing rapidly, developing bones and hair patterns.”
Collins is now director of a crisis pregnancy clinic in Mesa where she counsels women considering abortion. “I have come full circle and I have my God to thank,” she said.
Several members of the Arizona Legislature attended the rally and stood near the stage. Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the state’s three Roman Catholic dioceses as well as the Byzantine eparchy, lauded their success in passing pro-life legislation and introduced each lawmaker to the cheering crowd.
“Arizona is the most improved pro-life state in the country,” Johnson said. “That’s due to the wonderful pro-life legislators and their commitment to the cause of life.”
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery decried the millions of deaths of unborn babies since the 1973 court decision.
“For 40 years now since Roe v Wade, our nation has tolerated the killing of innocent children, with over 55 million having been slaughtered,” Montgomery said. “No one can reasonably say that we are a better nation because of legalized abortion…a life has ended and we are less of a society for it.”
Mary Ann Symancyk attended the rally with parishioners of St. Joan of Arc.
“I came because abortion has affected my family,” Symancyk said. “I lost a niece to a forced abortion 42 years ago before it was even legalized… as a family, that baby is still in my heart and I feel we have to be there for them — they don’t have a voice.”