After 45 years of legalized abortion following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade, parisioners and citizens throughout the Diocese of Gallup gathered for peaceful demonstrations and marches.
“This is a multi-denominational march,” said Katelyn Cardenas, who for the last five years has organized the annual Walk for Life in Farmington, NM. Both local Catholic parishes participate, with marchers starting at St. Mary Parish and walking the three miles to Sacred Heart Parish. Along the way, the demonstration stops at World Harvest Church to share testimonies and inter-denominational prayer.
The Walk for Life hosts a unique pro-life speaker each year. In 2018, James Strickler, the New Mexico State Representative for District 2 and Farmington, spoke to demonstrators about political efforts to combat abortion. Strickler noted that New Mexico is a state that allows abortions at any stage of a pregnancy.
“It’s more dangerous than having the baby. They bring in out-of-state doctors. It’s just tragic. It’s absolutely tragic,” he said, referring to late-term abortions in New Mexico. “We’re high in poverty, we’re low in income, high in unemployment. I think our state suffers because of these terrible, terrible policies and our surrounding states are booming.”
For Strickler and other frustrated anti-abortion representatives, the fight to enact pro-life legislation is a steep uphill battle. Anti-abortion bills are usually referred to committee and then defeated without reaching the floor for a vote.
“If these bills ever made it to the house floor, we have the votes to pass it. So that’s the games that are played. It’s just the way it is.”
Strickler also attended the annual Sanctity of Life Awareness and Unity Day, during which pro-life demonstrators attended a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe and then marched to the Roundhouse. Activists listened to talks by local religious and political leaders and had the opportunity to stop by the offices of district representatives. The event is traditionally attended by all three New Mexico bishops, who host a morning breakfast for the Governor and State politicians.
In Arizona, abortion laws are stricter. Teresa Trujillo, organizer of the White Mountain Walk for Life in St. Johns Arizona, says the local demonstration is focused on nationwide change.
“One young woman said ‘why do you do this in the middle of January?’ I said ‘I didn’t pick the date – the Supreme Court did.’ A lot of people don’t understand the significance of why we march in January.”
Like its New Mexico counterpart, the White Mountain Walk for life also includes local Christian churches, with the demonstration beginning at New Covenant Christian Church and concluding a mile away at St. John the Baptist Church. Marchers are then treated to a hot meal, speakers and a film about how to lovingly engage others in the abortion debate.
“We had a lot of young people. It’s nice to see young people embracing the idea that abortion is not a go-to birth control option,” Trujillo said. “I know a lot of women who used abortion as one of their forms of birth control. I remember as a young woman, one of my coworkers was 23 years old, I was 18 or 19, and she’d had five abortions. That was a prevalent attitude.”
For Trujillo, the greatest reward is spreading the word to women and families about options during a difficult pregnancy. In her own family, a niece gave up a son for adoption, but years later built rewarding relationship with him and his adoptive family. Two other family members had abortions and now struggle with post-abortive issues.
“They both felt like they were forced, like they didn’t have options.”
Both Trujillo and Cardenas noted that support of local pro-life pregnancy centers is key to helping women who struggle with familial or financial issues related to pregnancies. In Farmington, two such centers are Birthright and Grace Place.
As the national and statewide debates about abortion continue, Strickler recommends several ways for pro-life citizens to push for change, including joining or starting a local right-to-life group, voting for pro-life representative and policies, and keeping aware of current issues related to abortion.
“It’s just a grass-roots, common-sense citizen participation. It works,” he says, noting also the impact of spiritual activism.
“We need their prayers. Please include us in their prayer intentions. It’s a spiritual battle.”