Pro-lifers vow to keep working
Photo Caption: Rev. James McDonald, pastor of Providence Reformed Church in Groveland (left) joins pro-lifers of all ages in the annual Walk for Life through downtown Peoria Tuesday night.
By: By Jared Olar
As the memory of President Abraham Lincoln was recalled Tuesday by millions in Washington, D.C., during the historic inauguration of America’s first African-American president, Lincoln’s memory also was invoked in downtown Peoria by the pro-life community of central Illinois.
“For many in the pro-life movement, and especially for us in Illinois, Lincoln’s observations during the Civil War and the fight against slavery strike a profound resonance in our struggles to protect unborn children,” said Derrick Jones, keynote speaker at the annual Sanctity of Human Life Rally at Sacred Heart Church.
Jones, communications director for the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, D.C., joined more than 200 area pro-life activists who filled nearly every pew of Sacred Heart Church.
“As we gather here tonight, Washington is at the center of the country’s celebration of the inauguration of another Illinoisan as our 44th president,” Jones said. “There is no denying the historic nature of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency.”
“While we join with the rest of the country in the grateful celebration of our nation and the peaceful transfer of power from one president to another, we know it does not in any way lessen or diminish our determination to end the injustice of abortion,” he said.
On the contrary, Jones continued, because of President Obama’s strong support for legal abortion, the pro-life movement across the nation is already mobilizing to defend its gains of the past 36 years.
Prior to the rally, the crowd of right-to-lifers gathered at the Family Resources Center and then crossed the street to the Peoria County Courthouse, where the annual Walk for Life began at 6:30 p.m. with a prayer by Rev. Daniel Botkin, pastor of Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation in Peoria.
Asking the Father in heaven to forgive the nation’s shedding the blood of the innocent unborn, Rev. Botkin said, “We pray for our new president, that you would turn his heart toward your will.”
“You can change the course of rivers and streams, and you can change the course of history by changing the hearts of people, one individual at a time,” he said.
The problem of abortion won’t be solved by legislation alone, according to Rev. Botkin.
“We don’t just want to see the weeds cut off at the surface,” he said. “We want you to reach deep down to the root of the problem and change people’s hearts.”
After the prayer, the marchers made their way along Peoria’s streets to Sacred Heart Church while displaying signs with messages such as “Abortion Kills Children,” “Adoption, the Loving Option,” “Pray to End Abortion” and “Abortion Hurts Women.”
As the rally got under way, those who attended heard updates and received encouragement from local pro-life leaders Myfanwy Sanders, director of the Women’s Pregnancy Center in Peoria, and Sondra McEnroe, a longtime board member of the rally’s sponsor Central Illinois Right to Life.
Those who stand in defense of the right to life must not be daunted by the possibility that Congress could pass the Freedom of Choice Act, said Sanders.
“With a stroke of a pen, it would undo all that has been accomplished in the pro-life movement,” she said. “But if it is passed, does it change my mandate to return to my community the love that I have received?”
“We must not adopt a sense of defeat, because whatever happens legislatively, we must still share love with those who need it,” Sanders said.
McEnroe asked the rally crowd to remember to pray for Thursday’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., and invited them to think about making a last-minute decision to fill one of the empty seats on CIRTL’s charters bus.
“I know we’re all limited in what we can do, but when you hear that call, answer it,” McEnroe said. “If there is any year we need to be out there in D.C., this is the year.”
“For us, whose job it is to return justice to the littlest Americans, we do not have the luxury of being blinded by an appreciation that Obama’s election could happen ‘only in America,'” Jones told the rally attendees.
“If unchecked, Obama’s abortion agenda — as broad as it is lethal, as all encompassing as it is unjust — would inject discrimination against the unborn into every nook and cranny of our culture for decades to come,” he said.
While the country is right to celebrate the swearing-in of its first black president, Jones said, pro-lifers also were saddened that the new president “is in league with the worst enemies of life, the sort who would never think to give an ‘unplanned pregnancy’ a chance.”
“We now have a president poised to surpass Bill Clinton as ‘the Abortion President,'” Jones said, adding that President Obama has many pro-abortion allies in Congress and has the support of the abortion establishment and mainstream media to help him “push an agenda which directly targets unborn children and their mothers.”
Starting with the announcement of his presidential campaign and continuing up to his inauguration, President Obama has drawn on the memory, principles and values of Lincoln.
But Jones said that inspiring symbolism is not backed up by substance.
“Some argue his election is a vindication of what Lincoln worked for tirelessly; that somehow Barack Obama is the second coming of Lincoln. But, there is a profound disconnect in the values and views of both men,” Jones noted.
“Obama’s extreme pro-abortion stance, which the media helped him suppress, is anathema to what Lincoln worked for in his life and his presidency,” he said.
“As someone who grew up in the shadows of Lincoln in Springfield, I’d like to point out that anyone who can oppose legislation providing care and protection for babies who survive abortions can’t be the second coming of Lincoln,” Jones insisted.
“Anyone who supports a policy which denies unborn children the legal protections to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot be the second coming of Lincoln,” he said to a round of enthusiastic applause.
“Pro-abortion groups know they have a man in the White House who will do everything he can to support abortion on demand. Their wish list is lengthy and daunting. And it’s easy to feel discouraged,” Jones said.
But pro-lifers should be encouraged to continue the struggle for human rights, he told the group, recounting not only the movement’s numerous legislative, executive and judicial victories of the past three decades, but the substantial strides that have been made in changing public attitudes and opinions about abortion.
“The challenges have never been more daunting. The stakes have never been higher. Our resolve has never been stronger,” Jones said.
“And the work of the right to life movement here in Peoria, throughout Illinois, back in Washington, and across the country has never, ever been more important.”