40 years abortion deaths protested by an estimated 2,000 downtown
By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — Having seen just about every kind of inclement winter weather possible for decades at the annual Roe vs. Wade Memorial Rally, it was logical to expect the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion nationally would be marked locally by drizzle, rain, sleet, ice — or worse.
But despite the somber statistics — an estimated 55 million lives ended by abortion since 1973 — as well as a national political climate that seems very uninclined to change abortion laws — the Jan. 20 rally at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square took place in clear, sunny conditions.
That, coupled with scores of bright yellow balloons labeled with the single word “LIFE,” upbeat Christian praise music and the energy naturally generated by people working for the same cause, created a hopeful mood nevertheless in the city’s “living room.”
“Thank you for making it today, and thank God for giving you a reward,” quipped Gayle Atteberry, executive director of rally organizer Oregon Right to Life, referring to the sunshine. Atteberry afterward estimated that about 2,000 people turned out for the mid-afternoon gathering. Keynote speaker Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, praised those attending as “absolutely the best people in the world.” She said they have been steadfast in the decades following the Jan. 22, 1973 court ruling, which she described as “the saddest day in the history of our nation.”
She and Atteberry both cited a clear trend both statewide and nationally — fewer abortions. Tobias said there were 1.2 millon nationally this past year, compared to 1.6 million in 1990. Atteberry said abortion numbers and rates in Oregon are falling to record low levels.
Also, said Tobias, polls consistently show younger Americans leaning strongly against abortion
“We can be encouraged by signs of change,” she said.
Rally speakers often credited the compassionate work of crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-life outreaches.
“As pro-lifers, how do we respond to a culture that has gone astray?” asked Tobias. “I can answer that in one word — love.” Drawing inspiration from I Corinthians 13, she said, “We keep on keeping on, because love doesn’t give up, it doesn’t end.”
The efforts of pro-life groups have also kept abortion from being easily accepted by most individual Americans, said Tobias. “This country still knows it is wrong to kill unborn children,” she said.
Representing a younger generation, Rebekah Barnes of Students for Life of America, and Liberty Pike, Oregon Right to Life college liaison, reported that eight new pro-life clubs were established this past year on college campuses in Oregon.
“There are more pro-life young people now that there ever have been,” said Pike.
Among the other speakers were Rev. John Vlazny, Catholic archbishop of Portland; Lois Anderson, Oregon Right to Life political director; Dr. Joan Sage, Oregon Right to Life president; and Dr. Frank Rosenbloom, former president.
Smaller rallies and other pro-life events also took place during January at communities throughout the state.