D.C., Knox Marches for Life attract big numbers

Pro-life supporters turn out en masse to voice their positions on the sanctity of life, backing for life legislation

By Bill Brewer

Marches for Life in Washington, D.C., and Knoxville attracted near-record numbers of supporters this year as pro-life advocates make their voices heard in an important election year.

As the historic national March for Life concluded, with Donald Trump becoming the first sitting U.S. president to attend and address pro-life supporters, estimated to number more than 100,000, the Knoxville March for Life also attracted a large number of pro-life advocates.

Stacy Dunn, director of the Knox County chapter of Tennessee Right to Life, which organizes Knoxville’s March for Life, said the Jan. 26 march from the Knoxville Convention Center on Henley Street to the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health Clinic on Clinch Avenue in Fort Sanders drew about 1,000 supporters.

Pedro and Brittany Garcia, Veronica Rubio, and Selena Ledesma join 1,000 other marchers in supporting the sanctity of life Jan. 26.

A line of marchers stretched from the Convention Center six blocks to the west, where Knoxville’s only clinic that performs surgical abortions is located.

Before the march began, Mrs. Dunn addressed marchers, who filled a Convention Center ballroom and lined its walls. The marchers also prayed, listened to an inspirational singer, and learned about pro-life efforts at the state level.

“I would like to thank you for being here today. It is important that you are here. It does matter that you took time out of your day, out of your life, to take a public stand, to pray for an end to abortion, and to March for Life,” Mrs. Dunn said. “Tennessee Right to Life has sponsored this march for several years, but it’s you who make the march. We can plan, promote, and organize, but if you don’t show up, there is no march. So thank you.”

Mrs. Dunn and Will Brewer, director of government relations for Tennessee Right to Life, recognized ministers from a number of area faith communities who were taking part, including Father Tim Sullivan, CSP, associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, Father Michael Hendershott, associate pastor of Holy Ghost Parish and associate vocations director for the Diocese of Knoxville, Father Martin Gladysz, associate pastor of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Father Bob O’Donnell, CSP, associate pastor of St. John XXIII University Parish.

A number of elected officials taking part in the march were recognized, including Congressman Tim Burchett, state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, state Rep. Bill Dunn, state Rep. Jeremy Faison, Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, and Knox County school board member Patty Bounds.

Also taking part were Paul Simoneau, vice chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, who also directs the diocese’s Office of Justice and Peace and is a coordinator of the 40 Days for Life campaign in Knoxville, and Lisa Morris, president of the Sacred Heart Apostolate and a coordinator of the 40 Days for Life campaign. Mr. Simoneau and Mrs. Morris are members of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Marchers, from youth to seniors, enthusiastically demonstrated their positions on abortion and the sanctity of life as they walked through the Fort Sanders community adjacent to the University of Tennessee campus to the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health.

Mrs. Dunn said the theme of the 2020 Knoxville March for Life was “This Could Change Everything,” which was inspired by the song that plays at the beginning of the pro-life film “Unplanned.” The movie is a powerful testament to the sanctity of life, of conversion, and the truth behind Planned Parenthood and how it operates its abortion clinics.

The power of prayer

Tennessee Right to Life-Knox County chapter director Stacy Dunn speaks to pro-life supporters in the Knoxville Convention Center.

“Every year, leading up to the march, I pray. Pray for good weather, pray for good attendance, pray that God would call people out and that you would heed His call,” Mrs. Dunn said. “This year, the focus of my prayer has been that God would be glorified. It is the point of the march, to glorify the Creator, the God of life.”

“We come together to stand for His precious little ones and their mothers and fathers. We come through His spirit and in His fellowship. We come to testify to His truth about the sanctity of life. We come to tell of His mercy to those who are grieving their own lost children,” Mrs. Dunn added. “We march in hope; in the hope that only He can give that one day, and Lord may it be soon, abortion will be a thing of the past. We do it all to the glory of His name.”

Mrs. Dunn, a member of Holy Ghost Parish, commended President Trump for leading the national March for Life in Washington and said pro-life supporters everywhere are grateful for his words about protecting life.

She also applauded Tennessee lawmakers for passing in 2019 the most important pro-life law in the state, the Human Life Protection Act, which states that if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade statute in whole or in part, Tennessee state law on abortion will be restored to what it was before 1973: abortion will be prohibited except to save the life of the mother.

“In Tennessee, we have re-routed over a million dollars every year away from Planned Parenthood’s abortion business and to comprehensive health centers and health departments,” she said. “All these changes have led to the best change of all. Abortion rates are declining and the abortion rate in Tennessee is the lowest it has been since the 1970s. Lives are being saved!”

She noted that Tennessee’s Choose Life license plate is one of the top specialty plates and is sending much-needed funds to pro-life pregnancy centers and life-affirming agencies.

Mr. Brewer, who represents TRL at the state capital and lobbies for prolife issues, updated attendees on TRL legislative efforts to promote life.

“What a great crowd we have. If you go through your prayer life praying about this issue, and you think ‘I am in the minority.’ Look around this room and see all the wonderful family and friends you have around you,” he said.

The Jan. 26 March for Life in Knoxville went from the Knoxville Convention Center to an abortion clinic near the UT campus.

“We have a very important year in the legislature ahead of us. The pro-life message is very strong. It is on everybody’s tongues, thank the good Lord,” Mr. Brewer added. “At Tennessee Right to Life, we are running a bill this year that is new, interesting, and unique.”

He explained that advancements in science and medicine are yielding breakthroughs to protect life, such as ultrasounds that definitively show how life begins at conception.

“We can see it very physically and vibrantly in these 4D ultrasounds, so now we have pictures and gender-reveal parties. Everybody is finally recognizing that the science is on our side. In the medical community there are revolutionary doctors across this country who have found a method to reverse medical abortions.

“When a woman goes into an abortion facility and gets the abortion pill, there are two pills: one you take right there in the facility, the other one you take 48 hours later at home. If a woman takes that first abortion pill and immediately regrets her decision, she can contact pro-life doctors across the country and they now have a method that will reverse the effects of the first abortion pill,” Mr. Brewer pointed out, which drew loud applause.

“You should hear about these lives that are being saved, and these rare but important instances where women have regret and now they can do something to save the life of their own child.”

He relayed an instance where a pregnant woman took the first abortion pill but had almost immediate regret and reversed her decision. She came to find out that she was pregnant with twins, who were saved and healthy when they were delivered.

“Our priority legislation this year is to pass a bill that requires abortionists across the state to inform women that this procedure is a possibility, that you can get it, and how you can get it. Abortion clinics will have posters in their lobbies, and they will be required to tell women verbally during the course of the informed consent information how they can go about getting this abortion-pill reversal procedure,” noted Mr. Brewer, who attends St. John XXIII University Parish.

He said efforts will get underway to educate women on this advancement in pro-life medicine. And he thanked the marchers for all the work they do and prayers they say in their homes, churches, and throughout their communities. He said those efforts are felt across the state, in Nashville, and in Washington, D.C.

‘The truth can change everything’

Mrs. Dunn said TRL will continue a media campaign to promote life and dispel abortion as being in the best interests of women.

“The truth can change everything. The truth is powerful. That’s why we want to continue proclaiming the truth about life in our community, and in our region, and in our state,” she said. “People can change everything. That is why TRL will work to start 20 new county chapters in 2020. With more chapters, we can educate more people and help elect more pro-life people to office.”

She also talked about how elections can change everything, at the local, state, and national level. She urged the marchers to vote for candidates with strong pro-life positions.

And she concluded by saying prayer is the most important thing the marchers can do for the sanctity of life.

“Scripture says knock and the door shall be opened. Let’s beat down the door. Pray that God will show you, your church, or your family what He wants you to do in this most important struggle of our times. Lives depend on it,” Mrs. Dunn said.

Pedro Mora Garcia and his wife, Brittany Garcia, were among the 1,000 marching for life in Knoxville. Like most of the other pro-life supporters, they were marching with a purpose.

The Diocese of Knoxville parishioners felt part of a larger community as they joined people from other faiths in demonstrating for a common goal, one that is pleasing to God.

Mr. Garcia believes marching makes an important difference in the world because it gives a voice to the innocent who are yet to have a voice.

Knoxville-area pro-life supporters show their spirit at the March for Life on Jan. 26.

“I march because I support the dignity of every human being from the moment of conception until natural death. One of the things that was very moving was seeing entire families there marching together, and also seeing a lot of people from different faith communities and religions coming together for the same cause of life,” Mr. Garcia said.

The Garcias joined many other Catholics on the march, but they also were surrounded by Protestant pro-life supporters who share the same dream.

“Marching makes people aware of a problem we have in our society that not a lot of people are even conscious of. Marching builds community. I’ll be so happy if we don’t have to march again next year, but we are still in the process of making people aware of how every life should be respected (even the most vulnerable among us),” Mr. Garcia said.

Mrs. Garcia agreed with Mr. Brewer that pro-life supporters often feel in the minority because their voices can be drowned out by the national pro-choice cacophony. But that feeling is a misnomer.

“There were over 1,000 people that came out to march at the Knoxville March for Life. There were over 100,000 who marched for life in D.C. that same week. And then there are countless numbers of others who marched in their local towns across the nation. Sometimes we are made to feel that the pro-life community is a minority, but the sheer number of those who participate in these local and national marches is quite encouraging and tells a different story. There is power in numbers,” Mrs. Garcia said.

Like her husband, Mrs. Garcia believes marching for life makes a difference in the communities where they take place.

“It reminds our town of the ‘silent holocaust’ we cannot ignore. We march in Knoxville in the hopes of closing abortion clinics everywhere, but also specifically in Knoxville. We march in Knoxville because this is our town and those babies in utero are our community’s babies,” she said. “Those mothers and fathers walking into that abortion clinic are our community’s mothers and fathers. We all know that one person’s life has a ripple effect on the world. When abortion takes the life of even just one person, we all miss out on getting to know that brother, student, wife, classmate, friend, teacher, father, daughter, neighbor, or even just fellow human being with the right to life in our community.”

And marching gives one loud voice to the issue and to the unborn.

“I march because I believe life is beautiful, each tiny life is a gift to the world, and every life is worth living. Being pro-life means I am pro-life in every way, not just regarding the topic of abortion but in any topic that deals with the dignity of the human person. But I march, most specifically, in January for an end to abortion as 60 million babies have been aborted in the last 47 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in our country. Those numbers are terrifying and haunting. I march because in our Constitution the first right is the right to life, and I believe that right to life applies to everyone. I march with the hope for a change in our country that leads to an end to abortion and gives way to a culture of respecting life,” Mrs. Garcia said.

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