By Margaret M. Russell
More than 350 people stood in front of the Planned Parenthood offices on Pleasant Street Saturday as Worcester participated in the national day of protest against Planned Parenthood.
Some in the crowd said they came to show that Worcester is pro-life and that staying home and watching is not enough. Some had never been to a protest before. But others are very familiar with this section of Pleasant Street where they spend time throughout the year doing sidewalk counseling and praying to end abortion.
“I think it’s the most important thing we can do at this point in American history. We have a moral obligation to stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves,” said Maria Maglitta, from St. Mary Parish in North Grafton.
The protest was a response to a series of undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress which showed the abortion provider delivering body parts for a fee to a private company that then sells the tissue and organs to researchers.
The videos stirred people in 332 cities across the country to gather for the common purpose of expressing outrage at the practice, said Sandra Kucharski of Worcester who single-handedly organized the protest here. “The people that work at Planned Parenthood are people just like you and me. … One thing separates us. … We don’t share their vision that people are only valuable if others find them useful. They don’t share our vision that every life is precious!”
Ms. Kucharski invited women and men, well-known in local pro-life efforts, to speak about their vision and to encourage people in the crowd to funnel their outrage into action.
“I think the danger we face now is that the outrage that has been awakened will stop there, said Lee Crowley, vigil coordinator for 40 Days for Life, Worcester.
“The real power in these videos is that they give us an opportunity to strike at the belly of the beast. … Now that the dialog has been started, you and I need to point people toward the whole truth. Abortion is not an intangible concept or idea, like ‘rights’ or ‘choice’ … it is an ugly physical reality.”
“We need to call it what it is,” Ms. Maglitta said, “evil.”
Catherine Adair, who once worked at the largest Planned Parenthood facility in Boston, implored the Planned Parenthood workers to walk out of the building: “You don’t have to do this anymore. There is help. Do not go home tonight and have another nightmare … You don’t have to count any more baby parts,” she said recalling a job she once had.
The street was lined with men, women and children of all ages. Signs read: “I Regret my Abortion,” “Dads for Life,” “Stop Selling Baby Body Parts.”
Mrs. Adair reminded the crowd that abortion is not just a women’s issue and that men are hurt by it too. “Men were born for greatness … a man that loves a woman does not bring her to an abortion clinic,” she said. “We’re not going to be silent anymore.”
A volunteer for Problem Pregnancy, a crisis pregnancy center located across the street from Planned Parenthood, said she has counseled many mothers and fathers. Elaine David, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, said those who change their minds about getting an abortion are always grateful.
Facing the building where abortions are performed each week, Bishop McManus asked that all pray in reparation for the sin of abortion and for the conversion of hearts of those who work at Planned Parenthood. He led the people on both sides of the street in praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
“We need to try to shine a light on the atrocities at Planned Parenthood and, in this peaceful and positive environment today, bring warmth to the souls of those workers who are committing the abortions,” said Melissa Baril-Lower of St. Mary’s in North Grafton.
Crystal Then of St. Paul Cathedral Parish said she had been timid about participating in a public protest, afraid of what the opposition would say or do. But she felt Saturday’s peaceful, prayerful gathering was a great opportunity for her as a young mother to stand up for life.
“It always breaks my heart to see” a woman chose abortion,” she said.
Sofia Castro, also from St. Paul’s, said she came to pray for the youth who must face these decisions.
Following the protest, about 75 people walked to Blessed Sacrament Church for Mass. In his homily Father Kenneth R. Cardinale, pastor of St. Mary’s in North Grafton, said, “We are fighting the good fight. We are at war for the nation’s and the world’s very soul. … We’ve got no choice but to persevere in the grace of Christ. He tells us the victory is already won.”