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Janet Morana - Her name is Shirley B. and she had come to march in the "March for Women’s Lives." She was holding a sign that said: "Stand Up for Choice." She came up to Cheryl Forbes and myself. We were both holding the new sign that the SNM Awareness Campaign made for that day. It's a big yellow smiley face with the words, "I’m Pro-life."
Shirley B. said, "I can’t hold this sign and march with them anymore." She bent the Planned Parenthood sign on a stick and handed it to me. She then told me that she had lost a child to "Crib Death" and said with tears in her eyes, "I can’t march with them anymore."
I consoled her and she put her arms around me and sobbed. She left proudly holding the smiley face pro-life sign. Two ladies with the SNM Awareness Campaign escorted her out to the streets outside of the rally area.
The women and men with the SNM Awareness Campaign stood like soldiers of Christ holding their signs in prayerful silence. At one point the radical pro-abort faction came towards us and stood for about 20 minutes with the police standing in front of us to protect us. They were screaming and chanting vile comments and gestures.
We saw Whoopi Goldberg marching with hangers in her hand and Ted Turner sneering at our women. We saw some women with tears in their eyes when they looked at the "I Regret My Abortion" signs.
I'm glad we were there to witness to the truth that abortion hurts women and we want to make abortion and "unthinkable choice" for women.
Susan - On Sunday, April 25, 2004, I participated in a counterdemonstration at the so-called "March for Women’s Lives." In fact, this was a march of those who support abortion. This is an account of what I experienced. It is the face of the pro-abortion movement that you will never see in the newspapers or on television.
Judging by the article that appeared in the Washington Post the next day, with its photo of children peacefully sleeping on the shoulders of their pro-abortion parents, one would suppose that this march was a family affair, appropriate for even young children to attend. This is the other side of the story. As stated on the web site of Silent No More, the group who organized one aspect of the pro-life presence of 1,000 people at the march, it was not an event for the faint of heart.
At around 11:30 that day, I made my way via subway to the Holiday Inn near L’Enfant Plaza. The train continued to fill up with pro-abortion marchers and I could see that I would be completely outnumbered that day. In fact, partly out of fear, I did not wear anything to give away my pro-life views, except the miraculous medal that I always wear. I was truly inspired then, when a young lady got on the train with a t-shirt proclaiming that "Abortion is the Ultimate Exploitation of Women," a quote by one of the founders of the original feminist movement, all of whom were pro-life.
By noon, I had reached the Holiday Inn and found the group. Since I did not have my own sign they gave me a sign that said "Women Need Love—Not Abortion." This is my only regret of the day. I had wanted to make my own sign saying "What about the 44 million lives destroyed by abortion since 1972?," to counter the claim that the march was about saving lives. Other signs said "Women Deserve Better than Abortion." There were also a number of women with signs that said "I Regret My Abortion." One woman carried a sign with the names of women who have died from legal abortion and wore a button with a picture of her daughter, one of the victims.
We were reminded that our call was to be a peaceful, prayerful presence and not engage in arguments with the marchers. After a brief prayer, we quietly filed out of the Holiday Inn two-by two. There were about 40 of us, women and men. My partner was a teacher who is working to get the National Education Association to drop their pro-abortion stance and stick to education. She said she felt somewhat prepared for the day, since she had previously addressed an NEA convention of 10,000 people hostile to her viewpoint.
In order to reach the site at Constitution and 7th where we had permission to stand along the march route, we had to cross the mall, which was filled with thousands of pro-abortion marchers were attending their rally. Some people shook their heads at us; one woman called out "You’re out of place today ladies." Whether voiced or not, the disapproval was palpable and I had the feeling of being led through the lion’s den. It was a relief to reach the other side and then continue to our site. There we met up with quite a number of young people, who looked like punk rockers, but their pro-life t-shirts let us know we were in good company. Though not in our group, across the street was a group with posters of aborted babies.
We then proceeded to wait at our corner. Since the march had not yet begun, we had a chance to chat and get to know each other. I talked with an older woman who was carrying an "I Regret My Abortion" sign. Then to the left we heard drumbeats.
As if a portal to the netherworld had opened, we saw what looked like a whirlwind of young people-- their head shaved or dyed bright pink, covered with tattoos and body piercing and dressed (some barely) in black appeared. They had a sign painted on an old bedsheet that said, "We’re pro-choice and we riot." It was obvious that the police were concerned about this group, which they were trying to encircle with what seemed like a meager number of officers on bicycle.
The group gravitated toward us and then 3 of the men proceeded to simulate an orgy in front of us, kissing and touching each other. About six young women and men proceeded to do cheerleading-style chants which vulgarly proclaimed their pro-abortion views. The only thing separating our group from theirs was an officer who positioned his bicycle as a divider. Our group remained silent and after about 10 minutes the group moved on.
We waited for about another half hour and then the police lining the march route began to arrive and we took our positions to await the marchers. And come they did. First the VIPs including Kate Michelman of NARAL Pro-Choice, Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood, and Madelyn Albright, former Secretary of State, who may still be teaching at Georgetown University. And then came the legions.
As they came by, they chanted the old standards, "My Body, My Choice," "Not the Church, Not the State, Women will decide their fate," and "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries." They also borrowed one from the pro-life march (Pro-Choice is a lie, Babies do not choose to die) and twisted it to say "Pro-Life is a lie, you don’t care if women die." We heard this over and over. The worst one of all was "Keep your Messiah out of my vagina."
As they passed by us, people shouted out "You don’t belong here," "You should be ashamed of yourselves," and "If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one!" Others called us women haters and bigots. One man rode by on his bicycle giving us the finger and he was not the only one to give us this sign. Another man who seemed possessed by anger came up and demanded to know how many children the young woman to my right had adopted. When she answered that they were trying to adopt, he sneered "You’re lying" and walked off.
With her sign saying "I regret my abortion," the woman to my left, was a target. At least four women stopped to single her out and angrily told her "At least you had a choice," not realizing that she had had an abortion before they were legal. Perhaps 6 or seven other women called out "I don’t regret mine" and one even went so far as to say "I don’t, I thank God for mine everyday." Other responded with a sarcastic "Too bad" or "bad choice." At first, the woman to her left and I tried to console her. After a while, she said "I’m getting used to it."
There were many homosexuals and lesbians in attendance. Some carried signs identifying themselves as such or demanding the right to marry, two women came and french kissed over and over in front of us. Another group of about four women wore t-shirts proclaiming themselves to be "Sluts for Choice." A couple of women wore nothing but pasties on their breasts as they marched and one pregnant woman (she looked to be at least 7 or 8 months along) used her exposed swollen belly as a billboard with the words pro-choice painted on it.
I am sad to say that I saw at least 6 people with signs saying "Catholics for Choice." I also saw several signs proclaiming that "If men could get pregnant, Abortion would be a sacrament!" In another group, a grandmother had made a poster with all the pictures of her grandchildren, saying she was marching for their right to choose. One could only wonder how many grandchildren were missing from her poster.
While some signs only demonstrated ignorance, such as "Not every ejaculation deserves a name," others achieved a level of vulgarity that was only hinted at in Hank Stuever’s article "Body Politics," in the Style section of the April 25, 2004 Washington Post. A number of women carried signs saying "Keep Bush out of my Bush" and another one used the word c—t instead. The f-word was also in evidence that day. There were also a few signs saying "If you don’t like abortion, cut off your d—k."
The worst sign of all was one carried by one homosexual man walking with his partner that said "Babies taste good." When I saw it, I recoiled in horror behind my sign and another man misinterpreting my action shouted out "Go ahead hide behind your sign, you should be ashamed."
Because we were not too far from the end of the march, as people finished marching they began to return, walking on the sidewalk behind us. Thus, for quite a while we were surrounded on both side by pro-abortion supporters and several times people came up and stood right behind us with their pro-abortion signs yelling out encouragement to their fellow marchers.
After what seemed like an interminable length of time, with our feet aching from standing in place, the march and our counter protest were finally over. With the help of God, we had stood firm, but my heart ached for the innocent unborn who are victims of abortion and for the young children and pre-teens in attendance at the march who were exposed to all of the indecent and obscene things I witnessed. At the same time, this experience has only strengthened my resolve to pray and do whatever I can peacefully do to bring an end to the abortion holocaust.
Sr. Hanna Klaus, MMS, M.D. - I was with the group at 7th and Constitution also. Around 2:30 a slightly darker skinned woman joined us with a NARAL "Who decides?" sign. Rather than challenge her for being on "our" turf, I began to talk to her. It turns out she was from Lahore and now works for an agency in DC. I told her why I think abortion is totally wrong, and that the best way to prevent it is to prevent the crisis pregnancy. Also told her that fertility is not a disease, and about our educational programs. After a while she asked how long I had been standing in place, offered to hold my sign while I went to get some water... I complemented her on her "ecumenism"...I also spoke to some of the marchers as we all went to the Metro. Some were middle aged women who just came to support what they thought was a good cause, like Planned Parenthood... had no idea what they are into. Given the state of my feet after the 4 hour stand, I hope I had offered something to the Lord for the "cause."
Perhaps the reason the lady from Lahore and I were able to connect is that I worked in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, five years, and still knew a little Urdu. I also asked her if she did not accept the Muslim teaching that abortion is always a sin, a small sin if the baby has not begun to move, (i.e. if the mother has not felt movement) and a big sin if the mother has felt life. She knew about this, was a bit uncomfortable and finally said she was an agnostic. When we parted I said "God bless you even if you are an agnostic" which she enjoyed...
Sr. Hanna Klaus, MMS, M.D.
Natural Family Planning Center of Washington, D.C and Teen STAR Program
8514 Bradmoor Drive
Bethesda, MD 20817-3810
Tel. 301-897-9323, Fax 301-571-5267
Cheryl - Last Sunday I was quietly praying on the corner of Independence and 7th street while the March of Abortion rights and President Bush haters took place.
I have some amazing things to tell you being part of the Silent No More Awareness group of Fr. Pavone.
There is a conversion story, where an older woman came up to me as I was silently praying the rosary and asked if she could trade her sign for pro-abortion for my sign that said "I’m Pro-Life". She said "I don’t know why I came out to march today. All I know is my baby is dead and I am Pro-life." Her name is Shirley Butler, please pray for her.
There was Ted Turner mocking a young woman holding a sign saying "I regret my abortion"! Beside me was a mother wearing her dead daughter’s picture from a hospital abortion, the Navy doctor who refuses to write script for contraception, several women from Georgia, one who had an abortion over 20 years ago from a date rape, a husband and wife from California who had flown to Washington D.C. for the first time to try and heal from their decision to abort.
It was a small turnout. Probably less than 300 of us on several corners against several thousand angry and scary pro-abortion people holding signs.
They were shouting at us, gyrating obscenities, and holding giant signs that said things like: "get your rosaries out of our ovaries".
We had bottles thrown at us. Paint in a plastic egg and an actual raw egg too. The police had to physically barricade us.
The college men and women that turned out, some with Catholic University Pro-Life tshirts, singing Ave Maria songs in Latin were especially persecuted. It was an afternoon, I will never forget.
Michael Ciccocioppo-Our group of about 50 pro-lifers walked squarely through the middle of thousands of pro-abortion demonstrators gathered on the grassy mall that stretches from the National Capitol to the Washington Monument. We marched quietly, two-by-two, holding up our signs as a witness to life.
"Boo, boo, boo!" came the angry shouts of those who did not want to acknowledge the lives of the unborn. After all, this was to be their day, April 25, 2004. They traveled to Washington to draw the attention of the nation to, what the media consistently referred to as, "abortion rights".
We kept moving. The hatred was palpable on this warm but overcast Sunday afternoon in spring. Thank God the right of free speech. I was convinced that this was the only thing that kept the throngs at bay. They limited their attack to verbal slings and arrows, though some of what they said is not fit to repeat.
Ours was one of a number of pro-life counter demonstration groups that took up positions along the planned route of the pro-abortion march organized by Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), the National Organization of [some] Women (NOW) and others. Ours was the third wave of counter demonstrators who responded to the call for action send out in advance by the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (www.silentnomoreawareness.org). Two other waves, led by Georgette Forney, co-founder of Silent No More, had been dispatched earlier.
According to media reports, thousands of pro-lifers that were sponsored by various groups lined the march route down Pennsylvania Avenue to 7th Street and back to the mall. Our group was led by Janet Morana, the other co-founder. She directed us to an approved spot on the corner of Constitution Avenue and 7th Street. We would be the last pro-lifers the marchers would see before they were to assemble on the mall for a rally.
I reported in the April 1, 2004 issue of PA Pro-Life OnLine News, that the march organizers were welcoming just about anyone who wanted to protest against our pro-life President George Bush. Before the march began, our group was spotted by a group of anarchist, anti-Bush, anti-government, "anti-anything decent", radical cheerleaders. They put on a raucous and disgusting demonstration for us for about fifteen minutes in the middle of 7th Street.
Banging on empty plastic five-gallon buckets, blowing shrill whistles, chanting radical slogans, screaming in our faces, engaging in lewd homosexual kissing and other indecent gestures, they clearly meant to rattle our number. One young man had handwritten on the back of his T-shirt: "Bush: If my parents had aborted me I wouldn't be voting against you." Vulgar slogans were on other apparel, and on their angry lips.
As the air around us filled with the pungent scent of body odor wafting over our group from these tormentors in the street, we stood in quiet discipline holding our signs high hoping to touch the heart of even one of the revelers. Many of us, I learned later, were praying quietly for these misguided young people and their adult instigators.
At 1:20 p.m. the first pro-abortion marchers crossed Constitution Avenue and caught sight of us. We were like a magnet. They moved in close to us, first reading our signs, and then mocking and ridiculing us, chanting the pro-abortion slogans they were no-doubt taught by organizers at the beginning of the march. Some tried to get directly in our faces, but they could not get past the wall of bicycle policemen who stood in front of us along the curb behind their bikes.
Janet had explained during our pre-deployment briefing that we should not say anything to the marchers or to each other. "Your signs will speak for you," she said.
Post-abortive women and men holding up signs saying, "I regret my abortion", or "I regret lost fatherhood," drew curious stares and many nasty personal comments from marchers. "Women need love not abortion", and smiley faced "I'm pro-life" signs incited ridiculous responses from marchers like, "Pro-Choice is Pro-Life". We heard that chanted a lot. But we held our signs high and refused to be intimidated or hurt by their ridicule—even when someone threw a handful of condoms at us.
When the last marchers passed us at 3:50 p.m. we could relax a little. We moved to a grassy location in the shadow of the Capitol for a little time of sharing and prayer. We could hear in the background the shameless blaring of speakers on the nearby mall. But their words were indiscernible to us.
We were told that on woman marcher turned in her pro-abortion sign in exchange for a pro-life sign. She explained that her child had died of crib death, and after reflection during the march she decided she could no longer support abortion. No doubt the pro-life witnesses she observed along the way gave her pause to reflect and courage to step out.
After joining in prayer together, we disbanded and headed for home. I left even more convinced than ever that despite the fact that the majority of Americans are now reporting in the polls that they are pro-life, there are still a lot of people who need the truth. Let us all renew our commitment to expose everyone to the truth about the right to life of all human beings, and the truth that abortion hurts women, men, families, society and the nation.
Michael Ciccocioppo is the Executive Director of Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation http://www.paprolife.org/
LM - I had spent these three days processing the emotional experience I had this past Sunday. At first, I could not stop crying, the fact that we witness so much evil, and so many people mistaken, plus the media coverage that presented their side like the million people defending women’s rights, and our side like the anti-abortion activist that got arrested for crossing the other side’s boundaries, got me into a deep depression. But reflecting on the different people’s reaction to our presence at the march, I remember the woman who cried so much in front of Georgette, and when her husband finally got her back into the march, she kept her sign down. I also remember reading in a woman’s lips the words "I’m sorry", after she read my "I regret my abortion" sign while she made eye contact with me. I realized then, that we probably had changed someone’s heart. After all, GOD IS STRONGER THAN THEY ARE. That encouraged me to continue healing and looking for ways to help save lives and prevent scars in many women’s hearts.
Mary - I had an incredible emotional experience on Sunday at the March for Women’s Lives. I only decided to go to the March that morning since the previous night we had had our annual fundraiser with over 230 persons and I was dead tired. But our guest speaker had been Georgette Forney, and her story about the regret and pain caused by the abortion she had over thirty years ago energized me to go and lend my support. She was heading the group of "Silent No More" counter-demonstrators who were composed mostly of women who had had abortions. We were about 80 persons in all.
We were denied a permit, so we had banded with other groups and were told to stand at the corner of 15th and Constitution Ave. We had to walk there from L’Enfant Plaza around the actual mall as we were not allowed to cross into their space. After a briefing where we were told to prayerfully and silently witness and not to engage the opposition, we set out. Georgette asked me if I would wait for two post-abortive ladies, dressed in white, who were carrying a large framed reproduction of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I said ok.
These two women were carrying this 8 foot image on a two-handle dolly and it was rather hard to get it up and down the sidewalks to get to our post. They were both dressed in white. Nina, a Cuban, was carrying a Bible and a crucifix. The other woman wore a white cowboy hat and distributed many images of Our Lady in medals, pins, and picture card form. They had a mission and I was allowed to participate. It was embarrassing at first, but humbling after a while. Let me explain:
I offered to help carry the image as their shoulders were very tired. It made me think of having the cross on my shoulders although it was not heavy. Soon these three young men from our group also decided to help. Two of them took over the carrying of the picture. I called them our "Simons of Cyrene" - the third young man had a big smile on his face and greeted all the marchers with "have a nice day". With our Lady behind us and these three guardian angels, I felt totally protected. We were wearing blue tee-shirts that said: "Women deserve better than abortion." Blue and white versus pink, black, and purple. It was a fitting color war that captured the spiritual war going on around us. Our Lady’s blue and white army of five. (The loaves and the fishes came to mind.)
We finally got to our station and began to pray in earnest. The march was about to begin. Many persons as they passed us had laughed and made derogatory remarks. I felt that we were making our "Way of the Cross".
Because we were definitely the "religious fanatics" we were constantly being photographed filmed and interviewed. As the march began, we edged our Lady up to the barrier. Then the photos really began, and we realized that the message-"I regret my abortion" was being lost to the spectacle of the women in white with cross and bible outstretched. So we gently moved our Lady back and placed ourselves in front of the image with the black signs: "I regret my abortion" - I realized that at that moment, I had joined the ranks of the post-abortive.
But wait, I thought to myself, I haven’t had an abortion, I don’t deserve to carry this sign, but then I thought of my six miscarriages, and I can still see it as plain as day—one time I saw my medical chart - it said: "spontaneous abortion" - yes, I too had six spontaneous abortions that I deeply regret. The fact of twelve healthy children does not do negate the reality of my six children in heaven. Children whose sex I can only guess at, children who I was never able to hold and mourn their passing. Children whose names only I know, because I have been told to "get on with life" and not to burden others with this sorrow.
No public mourning, no funerals, no name plates. I have selected six stained glass angels in my Church windows who I have named after them: Elizabeth, Michael, Jane Francis, Thomas Joseph, Alice Gerard, and lastly Manela, whose name is a combination of my father and mother’s name. They had both recently died when I lost her. Two miscarriages in one year.
But back to the march,-- another thought that crossed my mind was that we had pushed Our Lady back to counter the religious fanatic image of pro-lifers. But I realized that in fact I am a religious fanatic, how else could I withstand all that evil and anger. I had people giving me the finger, using the "f" word over and over when they saw us. Or laughing. All of a sudden Mel’ Gibson’s depiction of the devil became extremely real. Signs that said "Abort Bush" abounded. Signs wishing that Mary had aborted Jesus. How sick it all was. The ones that hurt the most were the ones that said: "Women of Faith - support choice" Because they looked like me. But if our eyes met, they quickly looked away. I thought of the rich young man walking away sad when Christ asked him to give it all up and follow him.
I felt that we were the Women of Jerusalem-watching Christ be crucified in front of us. I did not feel hatred towards the mob, but only deep deep sorrow, and the tears flowed.
The surging crowd mocked and laughed at us. At first it was really hard for me. I found my solace in the sixty or so marchers for our side. Georgette was a beacon of light. Her beautiful face, breaking out into tears from time to time after the march started. Seeing Keith Fimian, who was at our dinner the night before, and Kathy and Austin Ruse, also helped a lot. Leaders who are truly for women.
At times I wanted to go over and put my arm around Georgette, but my post was in front of Our Lady and next to little "Star" (not her real name)- a little Latino woman with sad eyes who had recently experienced a coerced abortion. Her "gulag" experience is one that will always motivate me to go on with our work. She had shared with me earlier how she had lost her insurance and her husband had urged her to abort. She thought, and was repeatedly told, that she could withdraw at any time. She wanted to see a sonogram. They did one but would not let her see it. As the time neared for the procedure, she collapsed into the fetal position and screamed that she did not want to go through with it. They finally had to practically carry her into the room against her will and tie her down to the table. She said that as they gave her the anesthesia, she could see all these faces talking to her, that the nurses had smiled as they carried her into the room. The evil was so overwhelming that she started saying the Our Father as she went to sleep.
She now has been in treatment for severe depression. She has also had a miscarriage since then. Two dead babies. Two angels in heaven waiting for her. She wanted to come to the March, her first time going public with her story, to tell the world of the evil of abortion. Her story is yet to be told. Although she was interviewed three times, twice by obviously unsympathetic reporters.
Getting back to the March, it was like the crucifixion watching those hundreds of women and men march by, so lost, so angry. The worst ones were the ones that would break out of the march and come up to us and say (usually in an angry whisper) and shaking their fingers at us-"I don’t regret my abortion." And then the smile as they turned back to their friends. Misery certainly loves company. One black woman did start crying. And her husband/partner, gently brought her back into the march. I know we changed one heart that day.
Soon my little friend Star said she needed to go to the ladies room. I said I would accompany her. I did not want her alone for one minute. She was so frail. The little sister I never had. We walked to the Holocaust Museum to use the facility. How ironic we both thought. Here is a whole museum reminding us of what happens when a class of people is considered "non human" - and the people in this march don’t see the similarity. The place was packed with visitors.
I did not want to spend any time there and suggested we go to the Air and Space for lunch. It was two-thirty. Again, I was afraid she would pass out. On the way there we were talking in Spanish. At this point we were not carrying signs or anything else. A young reporter with a recorder came up and said, "you are the first Hispanics I have heard all day can I interview you". "Of course" I said as I handed him a newsletter about Centro Tepeyac (the pregnancy center I direct). I proceeded to tell him that I was there to help save the lives of women who have been duped into thinking abortion is the quick and easy solution. I told him how Latino women are now being targeted. The pro-choice movement has succeeded with the blacks, and now they want to come after us. With the promise of riches. Then I told him to ask my little friend what her experience was like.
Star told her story into the mike, all the while looking at the ground. She kept repeating that she wants the world to know that abortion is hell. That after her abortion she could not care for her other children. That she has not slept peacefully, that she keeps wanting to end her life. That she was lied to. Told she could stop the procedure at any time. Soon the reporter realized that he had stumbled on two women of the other side. He said thank you and walked away. I only hope that somewhere in Brooklyn, New York he is listening to that tape and being touched. I don’t see how he could not be.
After lunch, I knew it was time for me to go home. To go home and re-group and kiss my husband and kids, and take a nap and get back to the incredibly important task of raising a family. I came home and took a two hour nap and had a wonderful dinner, prepared by my husband, of soup and sandwiches. Took my little Carmen up for her bath, song and bedtime story. And went to bed thanking the Lord for his blessings.