Two young girls were among those taking part in a 2013 pro-life demonstration. More than 50 million abortions have been performed since the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)
Two young girls were among those taking part in a 2013 pro-life demonstration. More than 50 million abortions have been performed since the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)

A series of pro-life events in the coming days will mark the somber anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.

The court case was decided on Jan. 22, 1973. An estimated 56.9 million abortions have taken place in the United States in the 41 years since the landmark decision.

Local Catholics are organizing the first Arizona Catholics United Pro-Life Leadership Conference, set to take place Jan. 18 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix. Organizers say it’s an opportunity to network and to learn about the state of the pro-life movement.

Rita Diller, national director of American Life League’s Stop Planned Parenthood project, which led to the closing of 19 abortion facilities in 12 years, will be the keynote speaker. Local pro-life leaders will also speak.[quote_box_right]

Jan. 18

Pro-life Leadership Conference: 9:30 a.m., Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, 6351 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix, with Rita Dillard from American Life League’s Stop Planned Parenthood project. Space is limited. More:

Jan. 19

Mass for the Unborn Child: 9 a.m., Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will celebrate a Mass for the Unborn Child using the newly published “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb,” crafted to support parents awaiting the birth of their child.

Sanctity of Life Sunday Prayer Rally: 2 p.m. at Wesley Bolin Plaza, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix. Hosted by Arizona Right to Life, featuring Bishop Olmsted and leaders from around the Valley.

Jan. 24

Youth and Young Adult Pro-life Rally: 7 p.m. at All Saints Catholic Newman Center, 230 E. University Dr., Tempe, with Stephanie Gray, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, music, and a eucharistic procession up “A” Mountain.


Jose Calzadilla, a St. Andrew the Apostle parishioner who is helping coordinate the conference, sees it as a time to get a better sense of who is involved in local pro-life efforts.

Calzadilla said now is an especially important time to be unified in pro-life efforts, as Planned Parenthood is reportedly pushing its agenda into the public schools system.

Jason Walsh, executive director of Arizona Right to Life, agrees. While he ultimately envisions the staff and volunteer support to reach more schools across the state, Arizona Right to Life has seen success with “Frontline Fridays” at several Valley high schools and community colleges.

“It’s so essential to get out there and teach them about fetal development,” Walsh said.

He found many had no idea what abortion does to a baby or about services available to expectant mothers not yet ready for parenthood. Walsh remains confident in a student’s ability to make a decision when presented accurate information.

“We have the Truth. We have the beauty of life on our side. We have hope,” Walsh said.

A message of hope should prevail at traditional pro-life events in the diocese including the annual Mass for the Unborn on Jan. 19 with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares. The 9 a.m. Mass is broadcast live each Sunday from Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral on AZ-TV 7 / Cable 13 and over the Internet.

Mike Phelan, director of Marriage and Respect Life for the Diocese of Phoenix, said it would be a chance for thousands of people to hear one of the country’s foremost pro-life bishops. The liturgy also provides a chance for expectant women to receive the first official “Blessing of a Child in the Womb.”

A 2 p.m. prayer gathering will bring like-minded people to Wesley Bolin Plaza at the State Capitol. Bishop Olmsted and Fr. John Muir, pastor of St. Rose Duchesne Parish in Anthem, will join Senator Nancy Barto and two leaders from area Christian churches in leading prayer sessions. They will focus on state and national repentance, the unborn and their abortion-minded parents and the pro-choice community.

“There are indications, especially among young people, that the tide is turning on this issue,” Phelan said. “This is not a time to get weary or to give up. This is a time to rejuvenate and be present and lend your voice to the cause.”

Phelan said even “hard core” abortion advocates are abandoning the term “pro-choice” because people know that choice equates to the killing of a human being.

“There’s a tremendous amount of momentum for protecting women and children in our state,” Phelan said.

The keynote speaker at the Jan. 24 youth rally at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe will bring extra fervor. Stephanie Gray, who founded the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform at the age of 20, will talk about the responsibility to be people who speak publicly against abortion for the sake of the unborn and their parents.