Catholic Sentinel photos by Gerry Lewin
Fathers Gary Chamberland and John Kerns greet Jennifer and Roy Friend during the Right to Life Rally Sunday in Pioneer Courthouse Square. It was a day that accented youth in the movement.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Gerry Lewin
Fathers Gary Chamberland and John Kerns greet Jennifer and Roy Friend during the Right to Life Rally Sunday in Pioneer Courthouse Square. It was a day that accented youth in the movement.
If Sunday's pro-life rally in Portland is any indication, the pro-life movement is getting younger.

"We believe every human being, no matter how small, should be allowed the right to live," said Roy Friend, a 24-year-old metal industry worker who attended the rally, held on a crisp, clear afternoon in Pioneer Courthouse Square. More than half of the 1,200 on hand appeared to be in their 20s or 30s.

It was 40 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe vs. Wade. There have been more than 55 million abortions in the country since then.

"We are the generation that has lost millions," said Jennifer Friend, a 26-year-old teacher who is married to Roy.

For this couple, who say almost everyone they know favors curbing abortion rights, being pro-life is both an article of belief and a matter of logic.

"It's science, not just faith," said Roy. "Science tells us the child in the womb is a unique human being. If we can kill someone in the womb, who's to say we can't kill someone outside the womb?"

Americans in their late teens and 20s are more likely to want abortion limits than older citizens, according to Pew Forum polls. That's a statistic speakers mentioned often during the day.

"This is no longer a woman's issue. It's a civil and human rights issue," said Liberty Pike, a recent graduate of Eastern Oregon University. Pike told the crowd her peers are turning away from support for abortion rights. She now helps college groups on behalf of Oregon Right to Life. Eight new clubs have formed on campuses in the past year.   

"This generation is the pro-life generation," Pike said, causing the rally to erupt.  

Rebekah Barnes, who formed a pro-life group at the University of Oregon, said she and many other young Oregonians will be in Washington, D.C. for the large March for Life on Jan. 25.

"We survived Roe vs. Wade," Barnes said. "Roe vs. Wade will not survive us."

Teens from a group of Catholic parishes covered their mouths with red tape inscribed with the word "Life." The act symbolizes that the unborn have no voice in the abortion debate.

"The post-Roe generation is rejecting abortion on demand," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. "The generation has lost 55 million peers. They are joining the movement to save the next generation from the same fate."

A recorded church bell tolled loudly over the city, once for each million abortions since 1973. Seven counter-protestors across the street began chanting as the bell resounded.  

"More than one million children lost per year is an unimaginable loss," said Archbishop John G. Vlazny, who gave an opening reflection and prayer. He told the crowd that society has surrendered to pressure, with many now considering the killing of unborn children a choice.

Seeing the young people in the square, he recognized "a movement in society in favor of the beauty of life."

Archbishop Vlazny, while praying for an end to abortion, says the movement is practical and seeks incremental changes. He urged pro-lifers always to provide generous options for women frightened by unplanned and surprise pregnancy.

Scores of rally goers held long strings with simple yellow balloons that read "Life." Women held signs saying, "I regret my abortion" and others held placards saying "Peace in the Womb." One man carried a child in a baby-backpack decorated with a dairy-industry-style sign that read, "Got Life?"

Dr. Joan Sage, a Portland pediatrician who is president of Oregon Right to Life, told the crowd that President Obama responded to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary by saying that the children killed will miss the lovely moments their futures held. Dr. Sage said the president should be consistent and stand up for children in the womb, who suffer the same fate.

There are still about 1.2 million abortions in the U.S. each year. But that's down from a peak of 1.6 million in 1990. In Oregon, there were 14,000 abortions per year at the height. Now, there are about 9,000 annually.

"But you can't stop now," said Gayle Atteberry, president of Oregon Right to Life. The organization handed out kits to help attendees contact federal and state lawmakers. A bill pending in the Oregon Legislature could curtail pro-life pregnancy centers, a key in the movement's effort to provide care. Pro-choice groups say the centers can mislead women.  

The rally was organized by Oregon Right to Life, the Oregon Family Council and the Christian News Northwest newspaper. It ended with a march to the Willamette River and back to the square.  

Georgia Perry of St. Matthew Parish in Hillsboro held a tall sign bearing her church's name. Gathering in central civic places both energizes the movement and makes a strong statement, Perry said.

Many priests and religious were on hand, including Father John Kerns, Holy Cross Father Gary Chamberland, Father Theodore Lange, Reparation Mother Mary of the Angels Bunty and Deacon Chuck Amsberry. About 15 Benedictines from Mount Angel Abbey attended, including Brother Robert Maekawa, who held a crucifix aloft through much of the rally.

"I wanted to make a stand," Brother Robert said. "I am pro-life and we need to protect the unborn. We come out so people can know the truth."