By Margaret M. Russell
More than 350 people stood in front of the Planned Parenthood offices on Pleasant Street last Saturday as Worcester participated in the national day of protest against the nation’s largest abortion provider accused of illegally providing fetal tissue for research. Some 300 more people were outside the Planned Parenthood in Boston, 100 in Springfield and about 80 in Fitchburg.
Some in the Worcester crowd said they came to show that the city is pro-life and that staying home was not an option. Some had never been to a protest before. But others are very familiar with this section of Pleasant Street where throughout the year they do sidewalk counseling and pray 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.
“We have been silent too long,” Father Michael McNamara told the people praying and protesting on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
“We’ve been lied to,” continued Father McNamara of Servants of Christ Ministries in Scituate. “Enough is enough.”
A family physician who has been involved in pro-life efforts, Dr. Mark J. Rollo, spoke briefly in Fitchburg. “Planned Parenthood is a killing machine and we want the killing to stop,” he said.
The protests were in 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, StemExpress in California, that then sells the fetal tissue and organs to researchers. Since the protests, more videos have been released leaving the question of whether “intact cases” means that whole fetuses are being procured.
Planned Parenthood officials at the national level have denied illegal activity, saying that the employees were merely discussing the “reasonable payments” for the “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue” allowed by federal law. StemExpress, which unsuccessfully sought to prevent the videos from being released, has cut its ties to Planned Parenthood.
The videos stirred people in more than 330 cities across the country to gather to express outrage at the practices, 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.”
In a statement, Tricia Wajda, director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said, “These protests are designed to shame the patients who seek basic health care services from Planned Parenthood and to intimidate the health care professionals who work here.”
Catherine Adair, who once worked at the largest Planned Parenthood facility in Boston, said, “The shame is the lies they are going to tell women. … The shame is that that building exists on this street and is killing babies.”
Mrs. Adair implored the Planned Parenthood workers in Worcester 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 did.
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.”
People ask Roderick P. Murphy, director of Problem Pregnancy, a crisis pregnancy center located across the street from Planned Parenthood, “What can be done to stop this horror?”
“Many have called for defunding Planned Parenthood. A worthy cause, and I hope it happens. But that possibility will be the result of a long, legislative battle,” he said. “We need to change more pregnant and desperate mothers over to life for their babies right here in Worcester. … We need good pro-lifers to be trained as volunteer sidewalk counselors so there will always be someone offering frontline support to our own local pregnant mothers as they go in to abort their babies.”
A volunteer for Problem Pregnancy was among the protesters. Elaine David, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, said she has counseled many mothers and fathers and 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 two-hour 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.”
– Christine M. Williams contributed to this story from Boston.