WASHINGTON -- Religious and civic leaders alike demonstrated their continued opposition to abortion with rallies, Masses and other public events marking the anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
At a Jan. 24 rally in Trenton, N.J., organized by New Jersey Right to Life, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shared his own pro-life conversion story: when he first heard the heartbeat of his daughter while she was still in the womb 15 years ago.
"It was at that moment that it became clear to me that being on the sidelines on this issue was not something that I could live with, and that I needed to speak out in favor of the very simple idea that that child is a life which deserves protection," Christie said.
"What we need to do each and every day is to live our lives in a way that encourages everyone to understand why this cause is so important, to show that we respect the life of every human being and that every human being is one of God's creatures and deserves the love and respect that God gives to all of us," he added.
Christie drew cheers for his veto of a bill that would have given state funding to Planned Parenthood.
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the archdiocesan Office for Marriage, Family and Life organized, for the first time, a group of teens to go to Washington to participate in the annual march for Life. Demand was so great that six buses were necessary.
"We booked two buses for the trip, which would hold between 90 and 100 altogether," said Bill Dill, trip organizer. "We didn't know what to expect, but we were quite happily surprised when we found that we had 274 registrations and a waiting list."
One of those who went was 14-year-old Aly May of St. Jude of the Lake Parish in Mahtomedi, Minn. May is confined to a wheelchair because of a condition called spinal muscular atrophy, a nerve disease with symptoms similar to muscular dystrophy.
May went to Washington a year ago with her eighth-grade class at St. Jude of the Lake School. An experience on that trip was a foreshadowing of her decision to go back this year for the march.
"We went to the White House," she said. "There were a bunch of protesters there. We and a bunch of my friends made a sign that said, 'St. Jude is pro-life.'"
In New York, Archbishop Timothy J. Dolan used the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to announce the formation of an archdiocesan pro-life commission to assist him in promoting a respect for the sanctity of all human life.
In Atlanta, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated a Mass for the unborn Jan. 21, preceded by a rosary. After the Mass, Catholics walked to the state capitol to participate in the "Together for Life Memorial Service" and "Silent Walk" in memory of the loss of the unborn lives.
"The Mass for the unborn is an opportunity for Catholics to come together as one community to pray for the protection of human life," said a Jan. 19 statement by Mary Boyert, Respect Life director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Arizona Catholics marked the anniversary over three days of events: a youth and young adult rally at Arizona State University in Tempe Jan. 21 with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, with prayer, music and testimonials; a Jan. 22 march in Tucson to Holy Hope Catholic Cemetery, where a memorial service was held at the "Statue of Rachel" monument to the unborn; and the 38th annual march and rally for life in Phoenix March 23, from Xavier College Preparatory School to Steele Indian School Park.
In preparation for the Roe v. Wade anniversary, Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., posted a blog, later reprinted in The Catholic Key, diocesan newspaper, on life issues.
"Man-made law does not, of itself, establish right and wrong. God grants his graces, including the inestimable gift of human life," Bishop Finn wrote. "Law must work to safeguard and protect this life, and to establish norms for the good order of society.
"If law does not honor the primacy of human life, we as citizens must work to change and improve these structures in a manner than secures man's most basic protections," he added.
Florida's bishops recognized the Roe v. Wade anniversary with a Jan. 19 statement.
"The current infatuation with sex as a recreational activity with little thought about the person that could be created through the sexual union only perpetuates abortion as a bad solution for what is referred to as a 'problem pregnancy,'" they wrote.
"There are people who suffer from guilt and separation from the church because of participation in an abortion at some point in their life," they added. "Healing and God's love, mercy and compassion are there for those who seek confession for what one may feel is an 'unforgiveable sin.' Project Rachel and Rachel's Vineyard, nationally recognized post-abortion programs approved by the Catholic Church, offer a confidential process for healing and reconciliation."
At Massachusetts Citizens for Life's annual assembly Jan. 16, the Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center of Burlington received the Thomas J. Flatley Trophy, named for the late Boston real estate magnate and ardent pro-lifer. Making the presentation was Marta Martins-Ribeiro, who survived a botched abortion in Brazil.