Students from Chesterton Academy, a classical Catholic school in Mount Angel, hold a pro-life banner in front of the Oregon Capitol Jan. 25 during the annual March for Life. (Rick Keating/Catholic Sentinel)
Students from Chesterton Academy, a classical Catholic school in Mount Angel, hold a pro-life banner in front of the Oregon Capitol Jan. 25 during the annual March for Life. (Rick Keating/Catholic Sentinel)


SALEM —More than 2,000 marchers packed the square in front of the Oregon Capitol Jan. 25, reminding the state that unborn children also deserve rights.

As the rally started, protesters stood in silence listening to bells that tolled while a large digital map tallied the number of abortions in the United States since the procedure became legal in 1973 — about 62 million.

“There comes a cry from deep in the heart of the human family for something better than this — light and life and hope,” Father Matt Libra, the Archdiocese of Portland’s vicar for pro-life activities, then told the crowd.

As the sound of the bells still hung in the air, there was a palpable sense of what St. John Paul II named a “culture of death,” Father Libra later told the Sentinel.

Saying that discouragement, distrust and selfishness have gripped much of society, the priest told demonstrators that the world is looking for credible witnesses of goodness to overcome the gloom and death.  

“People who live in such a way as to lay down their life for the life of others, that is what gains traction, that is what turns people’s heads,” Father Libra said. “This is the type of witnesses we must be if we wish to gain a hearing for the unborn life today.”

Father Libra said that to be credible witnesses, pro-life advocates must  “love every life, born and unborn.” He suggested that listeners cherish and greet poor people on the streets, giving them a smile and a snack. He also urged pro-lifers to help single parents and immigrants.  

Oregon Right to Life, the organization that lobbies for the unborn, marked its 50th anniversary with the rally on the Capitol steps. Featured speaker was Karen Gaffney, a woman with Down syndrome who attended Catholic schools and became an athlete. She now advocates for those on the fringes of society, including people with disabilities and the unborn. More and more couples are choosing to abort unborn babies who appear to have Down syndrome.

The crowd held hundreds of blue signs that read “Humans begin in the womb, so do their rights.” Another popular sign declared an equation: “New Feminism = Pro Woman, Pro Child, Pro Life.”

Melody Durrett, president of the Oregon Right to Life, said that “to be pro-life we need be pro-woman.”

After the speeches, the crowd — which included many youths and families — marched through inner Salem, led by students from Chesterton Academy, a classical Catholic school in Mount Angel.

Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample was unable to attend the Salem event because he had been invited to preside at the large Mass and walk for life held Jan. 25 in San Francisco. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was in Rome for his region’s periodic round of meetings with Pope Francis.

“It is our witness of the gospel of life that will change the hearts of many,” Archbishop Sample said during his homily in San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. “But we must proclaim it and never grow weary and never lose heart.”

The archbishop, now a member of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ pro-life committee, urged prayer and aid for those who have an unplanned pregnancy and for those in need of healing after abortion.

Archbishop Sample said that for many in today’s wrongheaded culture, the value of a child seems to come from whether it is wanted.

“That is so wrong,” the archbishop said, explaining that dignity is God-given and intrinsic. Science, he explained, confirms this, showing that the unborn child is never just tissue, but is a unique human with his or her own genetic code.

“It is a horror to think one human being decides on the worth and value of another human being,” the archbishop told worshippers.

A busload of seminarians from Mount Angel joined thousands of other young people at the Mass and walk in San Francisco.

“You will rock the world and you will finally change this horror in our culture and society,” the archbishop said during his homily in a special message to young people. “We are counting on you.”

In an interview with EWTN television from San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, the archbishop said he thinks “the tide is turning,” because young people are seeing the truth about the unborn. He said he thinks the surge of pro-abortion lobbying may be a “last gasp” of a movement that is waning.

Before marchers set out onto the streets of San Francisco, the archbishop offered an invocation, saying, “We pray, Father, that the day would come soon that we would not need to gather in this way.”