Coast to coast, here in the desert, a little farther north in the mountains or in cyberspace, local Catholics continue to stand up for life issues.

They gathered in Flagstaff, Glendale, Mesa, Tempe and Tucson Feb. 11 representing some of 200 sites across 44 states nationwide participating in the #ProtestPP movement.

The Catholic Sun went to press prior to the protest, but the first one in August 2015 drew roughly 1,600 people for the Phoenix protest. The latest rally once again called on Congress and the president to defund Planned Parenthood and redirect monies to health centers that will truly help disadvantaged women.

Later that same night, the Respect Life Ministry at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Chandler held a “Sweet Talk on Life” that featured dessert and informative talks by staff from Aid to Women Center in Tempe. Executive director Joe Kendra and nurse manager Kristina Danovich reviewed the life cycle of a baby starting at conception, advice for how to talk to women who are thinking about abortion and how to lovingly share Catholic teaching regarding the issue.

Laura, a Valley mom, knows what pregnant women want to hear as they head into an abortion clinic. She entered a Planned Parenthood more than three years ago for an abortion appointment. The child’s father at first denied paternity but gave Laura money for an abortion she truly didn’t want.

Still, a third child for a mom already on government assistance was too overwhelming. She cried so much at Planned Parenthood that the appointment got rescheduled.

On her second visit, a sidewalk counselor with a connection to Life Choices Women’s Clinic successfully intervened. Its staff and volunteers have journeyed with Laura ever since — through pregnancy, birth, nursing school and the first three years of her youngest child’s life.

Stand up for life

Participate in 40 Days for Life
March 1-April 9

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Feb. 25

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“Like they said they would, they’ve always been there for us — always,” Laura said during this year’s “Babies Go to Congress” event in Washington, D.C. The annual Capitol Hill function takes place around the time of the March for Life and Life Choices staff was there too. Laura, who called herself “the happiest mommy in the whole wide world,” was among seven moms Heartbeat International chose to testify before Congress about the vital work of pregnancy resource centers compared to abortion clinics.

“I knew in my heart it wasn’t what I wanted to do, however I was scared to raise another baby by myself on that income,” she said, reflecting on the pending abortion. God told her in a dream, she said, that everything would be okay.

Across the country at the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco Jan. 21, a post-abortive woman from Silent No More in Arizona shared her story with rallygoers prior to the two-and-a-half-mile walk. She was among 30-40 post-abortive men and women to do so.

Small crowds of pilgrims from St. Mary’s High School, University of Mary in Tempe, St. Timothy in Mesa, St. Joan of Arc, teens from St. John the Baptist in Laveen and surrounding missions plus a mixed young adult group from across the diocese and a couple of ecumenical friends were at the rally and walk.

Some also joined 5,500 other pilgrims for Mass at San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption and 500 others for a post-walk Students for Life Conference. Speakers at the conference taught students how to talk about abortion as a human rights, science and equality issue.

The whole experience left local pilgrims more firmly resolved to be active in the pro-life movement. Some pilgrims took turns reflecting on their journey on the bus ride back.

“There was great enthusiasm. I want to say people had tremendous hope,” said Angela Gaetano, director of parish leadership support for the diocese.

This marked her first Walk for Life West Coast experience, but the East coast native spent many years at the March for Life.

“For the last eight years, we’ve been fighting so doctors and nurses who didn’t want to violate their beliefs weren’t forced to perform abortions. For the last eight years, we’ve been fighting so Catholic organizations didn’t have to pay for abortions in their health plans…” Gaetano said as the list went on.

“You could feel the difference,” she said, referring to the pending political landscape following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Pro-life advocates celebrate the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was a surprise speaker at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. His address on the National Mall Jan. 27 came three days after the House passed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and four days after the president’s executive action reinstated the “Mexico City Policy,” banning tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortions in other countries.

The vice president encouraged pro-life Americans to press on in love and compassion.

“When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness,” Pence said. “I believe we will continue to win the minds and hearts of the rising generation if our hearts first break for mothers and their unborn children and meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment.”

That’s exactly what Jana Zuniga said fellow Mission Corps staff members at Maggie’s Place homes try to do. The mothers’ situations are often anything but “ready” for a new baby, Zuniga said. Still, she shows each mom the love and mercy of God and prays that it helps them rediscover their dignity as daughters of God and worthy of authentic love.

Related Maggie’s Place blogposts

The fight that counts

The dawn of new life

Zuniga has already seen four babies born in her first six months at the Hannah House of Maggie’s Place. A domino effect of Zuniga’s involvement in her third March for Life in 2013 brought her to Maggie’s Place. She has seen women’s lives transformed “and unexpectedly blessed by their unplanned pregnancy,” Zuniga wrote in a Maggie’s Place blogpost. “Each of their stories reminds me that life is always worth fighting for,” not just when it’s convenient or thrilling.

Angela Shellenberger, one of three coordinators of the inaugural Night of Worship for Life event addresses a small crowd at St. Mary’s Ministries Jan. 28. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

An estimated 300 people didn’t let mid-50-degree evening temperatures deter them from supporting the first Night of Worship for Life in south Phoenix Jan. 28. Voces Unidas por la Vida and St. Mary’s Ministries co-sponsored the event, which also included a candlelit procession.

Organizers put it together to allow pro-lifers a chance to gather locally near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Idalis Morones, a senior at St. Mary’s High School, was fortunate enough to have participated in Phoenix-area life rallies in the past, the Walk for Life in San Francisco last year and the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on her 18th birthday this year.

“I thought it was so great I got to celebrate another year of life as well as fight for someone else’s and probably give them a chance,” Morones said.

She was part of a 50-person mix of fellow students and St. Mary Magdalene parishioners who attended the March for Life. They were hopeful that the country appears to be on track to change abortion legislation for the better.

Other ‘life’ news

People have changed their mind on abortion after watching this short film

Sidewalk counselor says ‘heart goes out’ to women in crisis pregnancies

Jubilant crowd gathers in Washington for annual March for Life

Cardinal Dolan: If sanctuary of the womb is violated, no one is safe