LOWER MANHATTAN — With their two children and a stroller in tow, Ingrid and Elder Castro celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in an unusual way on March 25 — marching in a pro-life demonstration through the canyons of Lower Manhattan.
The family traveled from Westchester to join more than 100 demonstrators for the sixth annual International Gift of Life Walk, a march and rally that brought together pro-life activists and groups from across the tri-state area.
For the Castros, it was a symbolic gesture of their union, as well as being part of their commitment as missionaries with Bonds of Marian Love, an international Catholic community that started in Colombia and has satellite groups in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“We’ve been pro-life ever since we can remember,” said Ingrid, “and we try to live it with our lives. This is a cause very dear to our heart and our community.”
Rally participants heard from a variety of pro-life leaders including Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International, and Theresa Bonopartis with the post-abortion ministry Entering Canaan.
While the mood of the participants was energetic, on the minds of many was a looming decision being deliberated in a courthouse not close to Manhattan.
Speaker Rev. Clenard Childress from New Calvary Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, spoke about the U.S. Supreme Court’s most significant abortion ruling in decades — Roe vs. Wade — in a way that envisioned Roe being overturned.
“This is necessary for us as a people of God … to be in the public square crying out against the unlawful, heinous, barbaric treatment that we have towards our unborn,” Childress said. “It is insidious.”
Rev. Childress has been an outspoken pro-life advocate dating back to his years leading his church’s youth ministry in the late 1970s.
All eyes are on the high court for its decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which involves a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks.
If the court’s ruling in Dobbs, expected in June or early July, overturns the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, it will leave the abortion question up to individual states.
Already, lawmakers in several states are working to codify Roe in their laws. In Colorado, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which was passed last week and set to become law, would permit on-demand abortion for the full 40 weeks of pregnancy, as well as entrench into law that a “fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws” of that state. Other states have passed bills similar to the Mississippi law.
In a March 21 statement, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and chairmen of eight USCCB committees, joined together to say they are recommitting its resources and ministries to various initiatives and agencies that support pregnant women in need, their children, and their families.
“The Catholic Church has a long history of service to those who are most vulnerable and remains the largest private provider of social services in the United States,” they said.
Cathy Donohoe, president of the Queens-based organization The Bridge to Life, attended the rally with several members of her pro-life group. Donohoe said at the rally that if there is to be a post-Roe society, it needs to “get activated and get educated.”
“We need to get more women support centers,” Donohoe said. “We need to let young women know that Planned Parenthood isn’t the place to go when you want to make life-affirming decisions.”
“Women deserve better. Mothers deserve better,” she added. “Their babies deserve to be protected.”
Praying before a statue of Our Lady of Fatima at noon, Father Boquet led the Act of Consecration in unison with Pope Francis and clergy around the world, consecrating Ukraine, Russia, and humanity to the Blessed Mother.
Four men then carried the statue on a platform and processed with her throughout the streets.
As the groups proceeded, Dawn Eskew, leader of Personhood Education NY, moved among the groups speaking with other leaders and then jumped into the back of the sound truck to address the rally.
Eskew, whose organization was a key sponsor of the event, stressed that even in an abortion-friendly state such as New York, “This is a spiritual battle and we need prayer. That’s the only way we can move ahead.
“If Roe v. Wade is still there, our work doesn’t change. We continue,” Eskew added. “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, still our work doesn’t change because we still have that extreme abortion bill that’s in place.
“For the rest of the country, it’s very positive. For New York, our work doesn’t change.”