Pro-lifers fill Boston’s Faneuil Hall for the Annual Assembly for Life Jan. 24. Pilot photo/ Jim Lockwood
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BOSTON -- Members of Massachusetts Citizens for Life seemed invigorated at this year’s Assembly for Life at Faneuil Hall.
The Jan. 24 gathering came fresh off news that this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. was the most well-attended in the 37-year history of the event and the election of a Republican senator from Massachusetts whose win could spell the end of controversial health care reform efforts currently being debated in Congress.
“I think we have honestly broken the back of Obama’s abortion agenda,” MCFL President Anne Fox told the crowd in her opening remarks, which was answered with applause.
Other speakers at the annual event included Rabbi Henry Morse of the Messianic Congregation Sha’ar Hashamayim, photographer Michael Clancy, and Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley. Though he did not attend, Bishop Thomas Tobin, of Providence, sent a message of greetings to the assembly.
Marilyn Birnie, executive director of the Quincy-based Friends of the Unborn, which staffs a shelter for pregnant and parenting homeless teenage women, received the Thomas J. Flatley Award.
Fox began the afternoon by lauding the recent election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by Democrats for the last 53 years. She said the election of Brown, who has favored parental notification and opposed partial-birth abortion and the current health care bill before Congress during the campaign, will prevent the bill from passing. Brown, however, has said he thinks abortion is a choice made between a woman and her doctor.
Fox also praised the efforts waged by pro-lifers to elect him.
“As time went on, it became more apparent he would be the 41st vote against health care, so everybody got involved,” Fox said.
Fox also complimented the size of the crowd that attended this year’s March for Life in Washington.
“It wasn’t a march, it was a standstill,” she said referring to the crush of people filling the street from the National Mall to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The numbers, the youth, the joy, and the intensity were so much more evident this year than in recent years,” said Henry Luthin, MCFL’s Chairman of the Board who has attended numerous marches over the years. “It was a bigger march. There were more people. The diversity of the crowd was so much greater this year.”
Marianne Quirk, a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Belmont, agreed.
“I thought last year’s was,” she said. “I am sure last year’s attendance was because of the election. This year’s was even bigger.”
“I think everyone was really concerned about the health care bill,” she added.
Clancy, in his keynote address, told the story of a 1999 photograph he took of a 21-week old unborn child undergoing surgery for spina bifida, and said that photograph caused him to move from favoring abortion to opposing it.
“Out of the corner of my eye, a little fist came flying out of the surgical opening,” he said. “I looked down at my camera. My knees almost buckled. I didn’t expect to shoot an action shot in an operating room.”
“This picture has really hurt the pro-abortion lobby,” he added.
He said the picture was published in September 1999 in the USA Today.
After refusing a potentially lucrative offer from Life Magazine, which Clancy claims wanted to acquire the photo only to suppress it, the photo was eventually printed by Newsweek which published it next to pictures of the child, Samuel Armas, who was then 3 years old.
The Newsweek article and photos were used in Congressional hearings to argue for a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Cardinal O’Malley said the United States is experiencing what he described as a “pro-life awakening.”
He told the gathering that there were satellite Masses at 12 locations because the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. could not accommodate the crowd seeking to attend the youth Mass that always precedes the March for Life.
Catholic News Service reported that the crowd inside the center was more than 17,000.
Cardinal O’Malley also made note of the 34 million postcards that were sent by citizens to Congress to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act.
“People are speaking up and being heard,” Cardinal O’Malley said.
“For all of us, the pro-life movement is something so central to our discipleship and our life as Americans,” he said. “We want our country to be a place of compassion -- a country that makes a place at the table for all our children.”
Yet, he said, 90-percent of unborn children with Down’s Syndrome are still being aborted.
Cardinal O’Malley said that pro-lifers must work to change laws and “change people’s hearts.”
“Life is the central value we must all defend. It’s the reason why we’re here,” the cardinal continued. “In our political documents, it talks about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life is the first thing.”