By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — Even though Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa’s Bettendorf clinic officially closed on Dec. 29, it is not time to stop the vigils, prayers and support for life, pro-life advocates say.
On Jan. 22, about 100 people prayed the rosary and participated in a candlelight vigil at the Women’s Choice Center to mark the 45th anniversary of Roe v Wade. That Supreme Court decision affirmed a woman’s legal right to have an abortion.
“We have had triple the calls and visits since Planned Parenthood closed,” said Vicki Tyler, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center, a pro-life center. “We need to keep abortion out of this community. We need to help and provide resources for the women who come here.”
Tyler pointed out that about 200 women have visited the center’s mobile unit since it hit the road in 2016 “and not one baby” has been aborted. “God is good — is he not,” she asked?
She told the crowd that she was disgusted to hear that a professor at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., brought “Shout Your Abortion” group to the campus. “It’s a grassroots effort to get another abortion clinic in our area. We can’t sit back. We have to stay vigilant,” Tyler said. Prayers are still needed. “People cannot stop praying because Planned Parenthood closed here.”
Father Jeremy Freehill, chaplain at Alleman High School and Augustana College, both in Rock Island, led the rosary, focusing on the joyful mysteries and offering reflections.
Mary Jones, president of the Life & Family Educational Trust board of directors, welcomed the crowd to the candlelight vigil following the rosary. “We are here to lift up our hearts and minds together and appreciate your continued prayers and support for our ministry.”
Various pastors of Christian or non-denominational churches offered prayers, thoughts and music throughout the evening. The video “My Generation Will End Abortion” was shown. It featured women and young girls who have been born since Roe v. Wade and highlighted victories and defeats in the anti-abortion fight over the decades.
Another video featured men who have been affected by abortion. The men expressed regret for their girlfriends’ abortions and for not standing up to fight for their children. The video also emphasized the need for forgiveness and healing for those affected by abortion.
Fr. Freehill said, “God has spoken to us in many ways tonight through prayer and music. We are building up God’s will and call to action for us to extend his kingdom and to reconcile and unite all people.”
He encouraged those in attendance to pray for men and women in need of post-abortion healing. He noted that some have hardened hearts, some are wrestling with the truth and some are seeking peace.
Regarding the Shout Your Abortion talk, he too stressed the need to pray. “Part of the battle has been won, but we cannot stop being vigilant. Keep praying and have dialogue and be part of the conversation in the pro-life movement. We still have a lot of work to do.”
To close the evening, Tyler asked participants to walk to the pro-life clinic’s lower level, pick up a candle and walk across the street to the former Planned Parenthood clinic. “Today you can walk up to the center — go farther than we have before. Pray for the 59 million lives lost across the U.S. since abortion became legal.”
Following the event, Jeanne Wonio, local organizer for Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, said the group is not disbanding. Some of its members are driving to Iowa City to pray outside the Emma Goldman Clinic and Planned Parenthood there. They will continue to offer a peaceful and prayerful presence and to pray for the end to abortion.