RIVERSIDE — More than 50 million unborn children have been aborted since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 legalized the procedure nationally in Roe v. Wade.
One day a year, the national pro-life community organizes an event — the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children — to remind pro-life activists and others of the humanity of the millions of unborn baby boys and girls killed in the womb.
“We need to open our eyes to what is happening in our country. We’re losing babies to abortion, and many women and men come to us suffering, 10, 20 even 30 years later,” said Carol Owens, the Life and Family Ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Providence.
On Sept. 10, Owens led a local prayer service at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Riverside to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance. A group of about 25 people attended the service in front of an angel statue decorated with flowers and children’s toys. Nearby, dozens of gravesites for young children were also decorated with teddy bears and other children’s items.
“Thank you for all you do for your witness to life,” said Bishop Thomas Tobin, who attended the graveside service and prayed the rosary with the group of mostly middle-aged men and women.
Describing abortion as the “great moral challenge of our time,” Bishop Tobin told those in attendance that their pro-life witness and testimony on behalf of the dignity of human life was encouraging for him and many others.
“It makes a huge difference for our community, for our diocese and for our Church,” Bishop Tobin said.
The first National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children was held in September 2013 on the 25th anniversary of the solemn burial of 1,500 aborted children in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. More than 100 memorial services were held across the United States that year.
The event’s national organizers — Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Priests for Life and the Pro-Life Action League — decided to continue sponsoring the day of remembrance as an annual event on the second Saturday of September.
The national sponsors encourage pro-life leaders, activists and volunteers to visit burial places and memorial shrines dedicated to aborted babies as a regular part of their pro-life witness. Tens of thousands of aborted children have been retrieved across the country and buried at gravesites.
Pro-life leaders say that the stories of how those aborted children were killed, how they were found, how they were buried, along with pictures and videos that document those events, are effective tools to awaken consciences and help people see the issue from a different and important perspective.
The Diocese of Providence’s Office of Life & Family Ministry sponsored the local commemoration of the day of remembrance. Owens said this was the second year that the diocese has been involved with the event.
“It’s very important we remember our little angels,” Owens said.
The National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children can also help more people to realize that, despite what the culture says, abortion is not a victimless procedure. Women and men involved in the procedure have often carried feelings of remorse, shame and guilt for many years.
“They may go to confession, but they can’t forgive themselves,” Owens said. “They say, ‘I know Jesus forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself.’ Please be there for them. We need to let them know that Jesus loves them, and we love them too.”
Judy Costa, a local facilitator for Rachel’s Vineyard, a pro-life ministry that offers retreats where post-abortive women and men can find healing and hope, said most post-abortive people are able to “stuff it down” for a while.
“Then after several years go by, different things happen and the reality hits them in one way or another,” said Costa, who added that prayer can help people to open up their heart and understand that God loves them and forgives them.
“Days like this are beautiful,” Costa said after the graveside service, which also included hymns and prayer intentions for the unborn and their families, as well as doctors, nurses and clinical staff involved with the abortion industry.
Prayers and support were also offered for parents who have lost unborn children to miscarriage, stillbirth and illnesses in the womb.
“This is a nice opportunity for people to come out and to express their solidarity with those people who are suffering,” Costa said.
Owens added that there are several pro-life activities coming up soon across the diocese, including the annual Human Life Guild Day, which will be held Sept. 24 at Saints Rose & Clement Church in Warwick, Life Chain events on Oct. 2 and 40 Days for Life rallies on Oct. 3.
The Diocese of Providence also offers a myriad of resources, including counseling services, to help people involved in abortions to be reconciled to the Church. Though it can be a long process, Owens said there is hope and healing after abortion.
Said Owens, “We do what we can to raise awareness of abortion and to not have people suffer.”