Pro-life faithful join for prayer service at World’s Fair Park, march to Fort Sanders abortion clinic
By Dan McWilliams
Hundreds of pro-life supporters, including many East Tennessee Catholics, turned out for a prayer service and the annual March for Life sponsored by the Knox County chapter of Tennessee Right to Life.
Nearly 500 people attended the event Jan. 24 at the Tennessee Amphitheater on the World’s Fair site, and more than 400 marched several blocks to a Clinch Avenue abortion facility, where they were greeted by a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.”
For Paul Simoneau, director of the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace, the day’s events were quite personal.
“My own mother had two abortions, and that was even before Roe v. Wade,” he said. “I always wonder what my life would have been like with two other siblings in my life to share growing up with. I pray for my mom and my dad in that respect—they both were remorseful later on in life.
“Personally speaking, for me, it’s about remembering my two siblings that have been lost in this horrible genocide against innocent life. They’re just among millions and millions — we can’t even count that number. They’re just two of the casualties of a genocide that has been raging across this world for five decades or more, so that personally is why I’m here.”
Bishop Richard F. Stika “very much promotes the sanctity of life,” Mr. Simoneau said, “and it’s from that principle of the sanctity of life that all other principles of the social teachings flow. If we get this wrong, then nothing else works, so the sanctity of life is by far the most important principle of the social teachings because it gives us a better understanding of how our social principles are to be lived out.”
Lisa Morris of Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish, a self-described “pro-life prayer warrior,” attended the prayer service and march.
“It’s just a real big blessing, to be able to be a witness for the sanctity of all life and just be a part of this march, which really speaks volumes to the work of Tennessee Right to Life and all involved, to really be a witness to the city and our community about the value of all life,” she said.
Debbie Donahoo of All Saints Parish in Knoxville called the march “such a visual, overt stand for life.”
“It’s just a way I can show my community, my family, the girls, the women who are pregnant, that people do care, and abortion’s wrong,” Mrs. Donahoo said.
Cynthia McMillan of St. John Neumann in Farragut said she has taken part in the annual march “many times” and that “it’s just important to take a stand.”
Esther Golightly of Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa is a sidewalk counselor at the Clinch Avenue abortion clinic where the march ended, the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health.
“It involves being here in prayerful witness to the men and women who come here and the workers,” she said. “We try to have conversation with the women and the men about the choices that they’re making.”
Do the counselors’ efforts change the minds of women considering an abortion?
“We pray that we do,” Mrs. Golightly said. “Some we know we have, and we’ve celebrated those victories, and some we pray happen once they’re inside and we’ve gone, and we’ll never know until heaven.”
Prayers at the event were led by the Rev. Dan Riley of Calvary Baptist Church and the Rev. Bryan Glass of Berean Bible Church.
Carol Zimmerman, president of the Knox County chapter of Tennessee Right to Life, was among the speakers. Several state representatives attended.
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett read a proclamation declaring the week of Jan. 24 Sanctity of Human Life Week in the county.
Stacy Dunn, executive director of the Knox County chapter of TRL and vice president of the state TRL, gave a closing talk with the theme “love always protects.” She referenced Jan. 22, 1973, the day of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in every state.
“Tennessee did not have legalized abortion [until Roe v. Wade],” she told those attending the event. “The people of Tennessee were and still are a pro-life people because we know that love always protects.
“Soon after the 1973 decision came down, three women here in Knoxville went to the newspaper to try to get an ad in to raise awareness of the truth about abortion, but they were denied, and that was the start of Tennessee Right to Life. Since then, dedicated pro-life people have made sure that Jan. 22, 1973, was not the end. Many of you have been in this work for a long time. Thank you for your tireless efforts to bring an end to the tragedy of abortion. You have inspired many of us to become involved.”
Mrs. Dunn, who is a member of Holy Ghost Parish with her family, thanked legislators for their efforts in passing a required 48-hour waiting period before an abortion and other measures.
“Because we know that if given the truth about her baby and time to consider, a confused and frightened young woman will often choose life for her baby,” she said.
Those on the side of abortion must be mystified at pro-life efforts more than four decades after Roe v. Wade, Mrs. Dunn said.
“Abortion supporters can’t understand why after 43 years we would still be working and praying for an end to abortion,” she said. “They find it hard to believe that abortion is still being talked about from the pulpits by faithful pastors who are teaching their congregations the truth about abortion and extending mercy and compassion to those hurting in their pews.
“It is shocking to them that after 43 years you still come out to memorialize the children, to pray for their mothers and fathers, and to say that this is not over because love always protects.”
The pro-life cause still has much work to do, Mrs. Dunn told the pro-life supporters.
“The laws passed in 2015 are already being challenged in the courts by three owners of abortion facilities in Tennessee. As you are probably aware, Planned Parenthood and their attorneys are still challenging the results of Amendment 1, which was passed by the people of Tennessee: you and me. Amendment 1 allowed we the people of Tennessee, through our elected representatives and senators, to have a say in how life is protected in our state. Tennessee is a pro-life state, so it was no surprise that we voted to have a say in how abortion was regulated.”
Mrs. Dunn said that “we did not come this far to give up.”
“With your help, Tennessee Right to Life will continue to fight Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry in the courts, in the legislature, and in the hearts and minds of the people of Tennessee because love always protects,” she said. “Since January 1973 more than 57 million children have been aborted in our country, and sadly it is legal, but we all know that it’s not right. It is overwhelming and really impossible to contemplate that kind of loss to our country. We have lost more people from abortion than from all the wars put together in our nation’s history.
“Blessed Mother Teresa said any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its children to love but to use violence to get what they want, and that is why abortion is the greatest destroyer of love.”
At the prayer service and march “we are here to stand for those 57 million children,” Mrs. Dunn said, “and we are here to stand for their mothers who may be grieving or hurting. We stand for those who might be considering abortion, to let them know that we want to help them so they can make a choice for life and love.”
Those in her audience and throughout the Tennessee pro-life movement “are making a difference,” according to Mrs. Dunn.
“The latest available statistics show that abortion numbers in 2014 were at the lowest point since 1973 here in Tennessee. Lives are being saved,” she said. ■