On a dark day for the pro-life movement with the inauguration of the staunchly pro-abortion Barack Obama, Derrick Jones of National Right to Life and local speakers brought some much needed light to Peoria-area pro-lifers.
Jones, a Springfield native who is now communications director for the national organization, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Central Illinois Right to Life’s annual Sanctity of Human Life Rally at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Peoria.
The annual event marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
Now sporting graying temples, Jones opened his speech to the 300-400 people gathered by recalling that he started in the pro-life movement by stuffing envelopes as a 4-year-old in the Springfield Right to Life office.
Jones quickly pointed out that “while we join with the nation in celebrating a peaceful transition of power,” the injustice of abortion still needed to be recalled.
If unchecked, Obama’s policies toward the unborn could have an impact for decades to come.
“The man who admonished us to give hope a chance is in league with the worst enemy of life,” Jones said.
After mentioning Obama’s frequent citations of Abraham Lincoln, Jones said there is a “profound disconnect” between the two presidents. Lincoln’s worldview sought to protect the guarantees of the Constitution and the language of the Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In his first inaugural address, the 16th president talked about the “better angels of our nature.” But anyone who could vote against a bill protecting unborn children from partial-birth abortion “cannot be the second coming of Abraham Lincoln.” (Obama has since said he voted against the bill because a similar law was already on the books. He has consistently, however, as an Illinois legislator and U.S. senator, consistently voted against pro-life legislation.)
He could be known, potentially, as the “abortion president,” Jones said, an ironic situation considering the “growth market and target audience” of the abortion industry is young black women.
Jones also refuted claims by “moderates” in the abortion debate that they want to change the tone of the discussion. All that Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Rights Action League want are an executive order rescinding the Mexico City policy, which requires all nongovernmental organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortions; partial-birth abortion rights; elimination of conscience clauses; nomination of pro-abortion judges and justices; all-purpose improved access to abortion; and the “egregiously named Freedom of Choice Act.” (You can sign a petition against the act here.)
“How much more ‘moderate’ can you get than this?” Jones said. “All they want is everything.”
But the speaker then switched to encouragement mode.
“It’s easy at this time to feel discouraged,” he said, referring to decades of effort by pro-lifers. But now is exactly the time when pro-lifers need to stand firm.
“Fighting principalities and powers as we do every day will test anyone’s mettle,” Jones said.
True, the last election was a big disappointment, but it likely was lost because the economic concerns swamped social justice concerns.
But progress has been made.
“We’re a lot closer now than we were in 1973” to having a pro-life majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones said, estimating that the court is now a sometimes 5-4 pro-life majority rather than 7-2 pro-abortion, as it was when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973.
“As true pro-lifers, we know that we will not give up,” he said.
One key is to change women’s attitude toward abortion. “On this front, we’ve made great progress,” he said.
Progress also has been made through educational efforts surrounding debates over such issues as partial-birth abortion and the morning-after pill. Legislative successes include the Hyde amendment, which bars use of federal funds to pay for abortions and the partial-birth abortion ban, which survived court challenges.
The availability of sonograms at crisis pregnancy centers such as the Women’s Pregnancy Center in Peoria enables women to see that what is within them is “not a cluster of cells, they see a baby.”
“The challenges that we face have never been more daunting, the stakes have never been higher,” Jones said. “Thank you for being here, for showing that we will work for the next four years. We’re not going anywhere.”
Encouraging words also were spoken by Myfanwy Saunders, executive director of the Women’s Pregnancy Center, and Sondra McEnroe of the CIRTL board.
“We have no right to ask women to carry to term if we aren’t willing to walk alongside her,” Myfanwy said, calling that attitude “the height of hypocrisy.”
She said the WPC sees 80 to 100 new clients per month, about 300 monthly. The WPC gives them options and information about the life that’s inside of them so they can make an informed choice to carry their babies.
“Desperation can become a trap that produces decisions that only produce more pain and despair,” Myfanwy said.
But the pro-life movement can succeed if those involved in it obey the mandates to love the Lord their God with all their heart, souls and minds, and to love their neighbors as themselves.
Sondra McEnroe, the grandmother of 50, told those at the rally that what they do — walking on a cold night in the March for Life, standing outside the abortion clinic in prayer, bailing out a mom who needs to be with her kids — makes a difference.
Relationships also are important, she said. A nurse from the Peoria abortion clinic called her earlier that night to wish her a good trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life scheduled for Jan. 22.
“Next year, I’ll ask her to go with us,” Sondra said.
She also said a woman recently brought a baby to show her and told her how she had made the decision not to abort the child. A year previous, 11 women sitting inside the abortion clinic at 7501 N. University St., Peoria, had heard the loud prayers of a minister outside and had decided, one by one, not to abort their babies. Clinic personnel, however, would not let them leave until the pray-ers had left.
The rally was preceded by a March for Life from the Peoria County Courthouse to the church. Dan Botkin, pastor of Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation, also offered a heartfelt confession of prayer, asking that God spare the United States from His wrath over abortion.
While a photographer from WMBD-TV showed up to interview Derrick Jones and took shots of the march, it doesn’t appear that the story made it to the air. That was the only media representative. Perhaps coverage by dwindling news staffs was too much to hope for on the day an Illinois senator and first African-American was inaugurated as president.