Pro-life supporters from all over the Valley gathered at Wesley Bolin Plaza Jan. 19 to protest the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
The crowd of about 200 prayed and listened to pep talks from local leaders, including Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix.
Praying in humility to defend life is “fundamental, primary and must always be accompanied by our actions,” Bishop Olmsted said.
He listed the efforts aimed at promoting a culture of life, including rallies, supporting pro-life pregnancy centers, post-abortive retreats and voting among others.
“Asking for justice is not enough,” Bishop Olmsted said. “If we’re to transform the culture of death, to address the most vexing problems of society, we must engage in prayer and fasting.”
Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Dist. 15, who has sponsored several pro-life bills, asked the crowd to pray that those in authority would be “renewed in their minds to desire what is good and what pleases God” and that they would “exercise their authority accordingly.”
Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the Catholic Church in Arizona, lauded the work of pro-life legislators.
In recent years, the Arizona Legislature has passed a number of bills that restrict abortion and curtail public funding of abortion providers. During the 2013 legislative session, bills that would have forced health care providers to violate their consciences or restricted the free speech of pro-life pregnancy centers were defeated.
“I am extremely grateful for the pro-life elected officials in Arizona who have passed laws that truly save lives,” Johnson said.
Fr. Kurt Perera, parochial vicar at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, told the crowd that enacting pro-life legislation was necessary, but that there was more involved than simply changing laws.
“Primarily, the battle we fight is one against the devil’s schemes, of fighting against evil spirits whose sole purpose is to lead and influence hearts down a road of perdition away from the presence of our loving God,” Fr. Perera said. He urged the crowd to embrace a deeper prayer life and the conviction that “the evil of abortion and the evil spirits who prowl about the world will be driven from our midst.”
David Everitt, president and founder of Crisis Pregnancy Centers of Phoenix, acknowledged the steep death toll — 53 million lives taken in the United States alone — achieved by 41 years of legalized abortion, but he sought to encourage those gathered by quoting Mother Teresa. The broadly admired nun, who was beatified in 2003, was once questioned about whether her work among the poor was discouraging.
“God hasn’t called me to be successful. He’s called me to be faithful,” Mother Teresa famously said.
“We don’t know when the end of abortion might occur or might happen,” Everitt said, “but we are to be faithful and work for that… If the church in our country could rise up in one generation, I believe we could see an end to abortion.”
The Arizona Life Coalition, an alliance of every pro-life organization in the state, including pregnancy resource centers, sponsored the rally.