By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
SALEM — Clearly buoyed by the first-ever presence of an American President at an annual pro-life rally the previous day in the nation’s capital, an estimated 2,000 people from throughout Oregon held a similarly enthusiastic event Jan. 25 outside the State Capitol.
Three times during the 2020 March for Life in Salem, the crowd cheered and applauded at the mention of President Trump’s appearance at the massive national March for Life in Washington, D.C.
But the mood also was temporarily somber early in the Oregon gathering as a video reminded attenders that an estimated 61 million unborn lives have been ended since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion on demand. The video sounded a loud chime for each million deaths tallied.
“When you hear those bells, don’t be discouraged, because their sound is, rather, a call to us,” Fr. Matt Libra of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Portland told the crowd. He said pro-lifers must continue their efforts to “bring healing to this wounded world.”
“When it comes to life, we cannot be idle, because all lives matter,” he said.
Elaborating on that point was the rally’s keynote speaker, Karen Gaffney of Portland, who has Down syndrome but who nevertheless is an accomplished human rights advocate. She is president of Karen Gaffney Foundation, championing full inclusion for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities. She received an honorary doctorate after earning a regular high school diploma from St. Mary’s Academy of Portland and an associate degree from Portland Community College. Gaffney is also a renowned long-distance swimmer, conquering the English Channel, Lake Tahoe and other large bodies of water.
Whereas people with Down syndrome once often were institutionalized and not thought capable of accomplishment, today they are succeeding in high schools, colleges and businesses and in a wide range of careers. That’s because their families recognized their potential and stood up strongly for their rights, Gaffney said.
“All are showing that Down syndrome is a life worth living,” she said.
But at the same time, advancements in prenatal screening have also led to increased abortions of babies who are detected in the womb to have Down syndrome. It is critical that future parents know of the great lives their children can lead even with that diagnosis, she said.
“When these parents learn the real story on Down syndrome, they see a journey of hope, and they choose life,” she said. “We are more than compatible with life; we are what life is all about.”
Other speakers were Oregon Right to Life President Melody Durrett and Executive Director Lois Anderson; Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis, State Sen. Denyc Boles, and Pastor Dwain Tissell of Eastridge Church in Clackamas. State Rep. Bill Post emceed.
Rally co-sponsors were Oregon Right to Life, now marking its 50th year; Christian News Northwest, which last June marked 25 years; and Mater Dei Radio (KBVM 88.3 FM in Portland and KMME 94.9/100.5 in Eugene).