‘Why are you pro-life?’: Speaker challenges 200 at Peoria rally

Participants in the Walk for Life take part in a prayer march around the Federal Courthouse in downtown Peoria on Jan. 19. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“Why are you pro-life?”

Keynote speaker Rev. Walter B. Hoye II emphasized the “you” repeatedly in a challenge to nearly 200 at the annual Sanctity of Human Life Rally in Peoria on Jan. 19.

Rev. Walter B. Hoye II speaks at the Sanctity of Human Life Rally in Peoria on Jan. 19. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Rev. Walter B. Hoye II speaks at the Sanctity of Human Life Rally in Peoria on Jan. 19. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“Ask yourself, inside your heart. Be honest. Why are you?” asked Hoye, founder and president of the Issues4Life Foundation and a member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition.

The California Baptist minister, who is a sidewalk counselor at an Oakland abortion facility, spoke following the annual Walk for Life through downtown Peoria.

During a gripping presentation from the stage of Riverside Community Church, Hoye provided his personal answer by describing a moment in 1984 when he held his prematurely born son, then weighing less than two pounds, in the palm of his hand. Following a night of prayer after being told by doctors there was no hope for his son’s survival, Hoye said he looked beyond the medical devices in the hospital unit and “beheld the humanity of my son.”

As the tiny baby squirmed in his hand, “God spoke to me,” said Hoye. “God said, ‘Walter, this is what’s supposed to be on the inside of a woman.’ A live, living, human being, made in the image of God.

“I knew then, clearly, what abortion is and what abortion does. And it was absolutely clear to me that my life would never be the same,” he told the group.

 

BLACK COMMUNITY TARGETED?

His first-born son is “alive and well today,” said Hoye.

So is Hoye’s passion for defending all human life, especially against what he calls “the number one cause of death” in the African-American community: abortion.

“There’s no question in my mind it’s a genocide,” said Hoye, claiming blacks are targeted by the abortion industry. In an otherwise deeply personal presentation, he shared but three statistics:

  • for every two live births in black America there is one abortion.
  • Seventy-nine percent of all Planned Parenthood surgical abortion centers are located in or within walking distance of predominantly black neighborhoods.
  • While blacks are about 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than 30 percent of all abortions.

A brief video shown before Hoye’s presentation described how he spent 30 days in an Oakland prison for harassment. His crime? Approaching women seeking abortions while holding a sign reading, “God luvs U and UR baby, let us help.”

“There is a cost to being pro-life,” said Hoye, who wore sunglasses and a baseball cap with the words “Got Jesus?”

Jody Pitcher, director, applauds as Christine Dennis, president, shares the news that the abortion rate in Peoria has dropped more than 25 percent in the two and a half years since the Women's Care Center opened at 7319 N. University in Peoria, right next to the abortion facility. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Jody Pitcher, director, applauds as Christine Dennis, president, shares the news that the abortion rate in Peoria has dropped more than 25 percent in the two and a half years since the Women’s Care Center opened at 7319 N. University in Peoria, right next to the abortion facility. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“There is a cost to being a Christian,” he continued. “There is a cost to standing up for what you believe in. But I also want to say this: it’s worth it.” He said that to end abortion all races and faiths must work together and love one another.

LOCAL PRO-LIFE SUCCESSES

The theme of this year’s rally was “Hope for Peoria!” and representatives of two local outreaches — the Women’s Pregnancy Center and the Women’s Care Center — shared good news from the front lines, including that the abortion rate in Peoria has dropped more than 25 percent in the last three years.

Showing women in crisis pregnancies ultrasounds of their unborn child has a dramatic effect, they said.

“Once they see the baby on the screen and hear the heartbeat, the thing that gets them is seeing the baby moving,” said Julie Philyaw, director of the Women’s Pregnancy Center, 1825 N. Knoxville.

“Of the ultrasounds we were able to track last year, at least 75 percent chose life,” said Christine Dennis, president of the Women’s Care Center, 7319 N. University, next to Peoria’s abortion facility. Joining Dennis on stage was Jody Pitcher, the center’s director and nurse, who said “it is the Holy Spirit that works in that room,” touching and changing women’s hearts.

In thanking the area pro-life community for support, all speakers urged greater focus on meeting the needs of women in crisis pregnancies.

“We can’t have enough pregnancy centers in Peoria,” said John Creath of Central Illinois Right to Life, which sponsored the rally.

The evening began with an open house at the Family Resources Center and concluded with a prayer by John King, pastor of Riverside Community Church, who thanked Hoye for his message and, looking at those in attendance, said “I’m challenged by the fact that we are too white here tonight.”

Pro-life activities continue this week, culminated in the Diocese of Peoria with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22 — the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion. The Mass at St. Joseph Church, 103 Richard Pryor Place in Peoria, will be followed by a holy hour of healing and reparation.

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