By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published January 29, 2004
Along with some 5,000 others on the silent one-mile walk from the Capitol to mourn the 43 million babies aborted since Jan. 22, 1973, Terry Gibbs walked. She held a sign that read, “I chose adoption. Thank you God for giving me the strength. I will always love you Matthew.”
One of her four children stood beside her with the sign “Because my mother chose life, I have a big brother. We pray for you Matthew.”
Having become pregnant as a teenager, Gibbs, executive director of the Catholic Pregnancy Problem Center in Hapeville, had considered abortion out of fear, but a priest at her parish who had prayed with and supported her throughout the pregnancy changed her mind to adoption.
“A priest in my church had a major effect on my decision. He spoke the truth about abortion and supported me,” she recalled. “Even if I don’t ever get to see him, I have peace about it. My baby was born.”
Gibbs and other pro-life people from a variety of denominations and backgrounds gathered at the steps of the Capitol to make a public stand against abortion at the annual Together for Life Memorial Service and Silent Walk on Jan. 22, marking the 31st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. The Georgia Right to Life organization sponsored the event. Several legislators came outside for the event.
The first speaker was Georgia’s first lady Mary Perdue.
“All of us believe in the sanctity of life,” she said, as reported in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Every child has a place and purpose in this world, and every life is precious in his sight.”
She said that women must be informed on alternative programs that can help them avoid abortions. “Every child is wanted by someone,” said Perdue, who has taken in foster children.
Archbishop John F. Donoghue told the crowd that people of faith are to cherish all God gives them while for those supporting abortion, life has become expedient and they have turned into the masters of birth and death and slaves to their desires.
And they have persuaded the lawyers, legislators and judges that “every individual has the right of lordship over life.”
“Our legislatures and our courts have gone along with this tyranny, and today we live with the absurdity of being told, that the sacred Constitution of the United States, composed from the dreams of our founders, and gained by the blood of patriots—we hear that this noble and inspired instrument of man’s freedom also protects the right of men and women to murder their own children—to sacrifice their own offspring on the altar of convenience,” he said. “And conspiring with these law-makers are courts, are too many doctors and health-care professionals, who add to the absurdity of calling murder a constitutional right, the great absurdity of calling the annihilation of infants, ‘reproductive freedom.’ These doctors and health-care professionals live in contempt of their sworn duty—to save life, to heal the sick, to alleviate suffering.”
He called those gathered to pray for the conversion of pro-choice people, and to keep taking a public stand when the issue arises, working for even the smallest change to whittle away at the “spurious rights” of “abortionists.” “We will continue to be witnesses, in person, by letter, by phone, by whatever it takes, because we believe we can change things—we believe we can restore the moral order of this country, and the spiritual health of our nation’s soul.”
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, then took the podium, where he declared that the womb is “the most dangerous place that has ever existed in the United States of America,” as one third of all babies conceived since 1973—43 million—have been aborted. He noted how the Jews as God’s chosen people did not perform abortions as did many other civilizations of the Mediterranean Basin including the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. “The reason is that God’s law revealed to them in Scripture that he was involved when conception takes place.”
He said pro-lifers are “winning the struggle for hearts and minds,” citing a study by the National Organization for Women that found that 61 percent of women now believe there should be severe restrictions on abortion and that the most pro-life group is the 18-31 age group.
“We are not going to allow this atrocity to continue. We will stop it sooner rather than later, and we’re not going to stop until we win. We have the most pro-life Congress we have had since 1973. We have a pro-life president down to his bone marrow.”
He spoke of a call from a New York Times reporter who commented that the way pro-lifers talk it would almost seem like God’s a Republican. His response: “You can’t relegate God almighty to any human construction, especially a political party, but I will tell you that God is pro-life.”
Closing the service Doug Stroup sang, “Abortion is an issue no Christian can ignore. We need to be responsible and raise a mighty voice to take away the right to kill and make life the only choice.”
The crowd then grew silent, and a heartbeat and taps were played over loudspeakers to begin the walk. Members of St. Mary’s, Jackson, carried a banner announcing that Jeremiah’s Call, the archdiocesan project to raise money for GRTL’s television ad campaign, raised $120,658 in 2003. One person held up a quotation from Deuteronomy reading, “Now choose life so that you and your child may live.”
Father Andrew Moore, a priest with the Antiochian Orthodox Church, pushed his 12th grandchild in a stroller during the walk. “The Orthodox Church is the original church. It has always been for life. Even in the early apostolic days it has always been opposed to abortion and the taking of life in any form.”
Carrying a Byzantine image of Christ in Mary’s womb, his wife, Dannie, said, “Christ was formed in her and can be formed in us.”
Gibbs said the call level is up at the Pregnancy Problem Center in Hapeville, where they give pregnancy tests and ultrasounds as well as counseling on alternatives. Last year nearly 2,800 clients came through there and “over 550 babies were saved.” The biggest thing that saves lives there is the graphic five-minute video they show of abortions being performed.
“It amazes me because a girl can walk in and say ‘you’re not talking me out of this’, and within five minutes of sharing the truth the girl is in tears and the baby is saved,” she said. Her philosophy is that “if we’re telling them ‘it’s going to be OK, have your baby,’ you have to be there for them.”
She added her gratitude that some Catholic churches have begun supporting the center, as they hope to expand services and incorporate more Catholic teaching, such as classes on Natural Family Planning.
Cherlee Rohling, an eighth-grader at St. Joseph School, Marietta, also marched with her classmates, after having lunch at Underground Atlanta. “The march was amazing because we were able to be the voices of those who are never allowed to speak.”
Added her classmate John O’Reilly, “Seeing all the priests together at the Mass and marching with us made me feel proud to be a Catholic.”