On April 25, 2004, thousands of pro-abortion men and women gathered in Washington D.C. to march on the capital in support of their so-called right to choose an abortion. This event, dubiously entitled “The March for Women’s Lives,” was also attended by many veteran pro-lifers filled with courage to speak and bear witness to the truth about the devastating effects of abortion. Annie Banno, a member of the Silent No More post-abortion awareness campaign, was one of those people, and has consented to print a portion of her story in Celebrate Life.
The march, in three words: viciously, mercilessly abusive. The amount of verbal aggression and abuse hurled at me personally by women and men of all ages for carrying the “I Regret My Abortion” sign, well, I thought that I was ready for it. I wasn’t. Not even close.
I consider myself fairly far along on the “healing” and “public-appearances” scales. We stood, all 500 of us in the Silent No More awareness groups, in total silence as planned for over five hours. We did not reply or say one word to anything that was said or done to us, and I do mean anything.
The whole point of our witness was to let our signs do all the talking. Again, we were not to respond to anything, and this was hard to do. At each location, we stood single file along the sidewalk, as the marchers streamed past us.
Our silence had an incredible impact on the marchers. They seemed to expect a full barrage of insults and condemnation. Some actually crossed the street to avoid us, but most did not. For a time, the scene was eerily calm and quiet while a couple thousand or so people walked by.
I silently made eye contact with as many people as possible. The older, middle-aged ones, mostly had their eyes glued straight ahead. But almost all the young women, even of high school age, looked at my sign as they walked by on the sidewalk, laughing among themselves and their boyfriends or girlfriends. After my sign caught their eye, they reflexively looked to see who was holding it. Most of them stared at me in shock, their brows furrowed, walking onward and no longer laughing. They’d never even thought it was possible, I suppose, that a woman would think twice about her abortion, could really regret having had one.
The riot police, perhaps fifty in our area, in full battle gear, lined up about 10-15 feet apart on the march-side of the barricades. They were facing us.
But soon they all were moved up the street. For the next two hours, there were no riot police within 35 feet of where I stood. The marchers were able to walk right up to me from the opposite side of the barricade.
I held my sign high so those in the middle of the street’s packed throng could see it. Many people in the distance, in the center of the crowd, craned their necks to read our signs. One 30-year-old woman started screaming at me at the top of her lungs: “I chose!! And I’m proud!” over and over and over again. The others around her took up the chant. The veins were popping out of the woman’s forehead and neck, and she was hunched over at the waist as she shrieked out the words at high volume. If ever there was a definition of “frothing at the mouth,” it was this woman at that time.
Later, after reading my sign, another woman started a different chant, which about a hundred marchers began screaming at me: “That was your ‘choice!’” All one hundred people stopped marching to stand directly in front of me, some not more than two to three feet away and jabbing fingers at me in the air. I looked from face to face, amazed at what I saw—facial expressions twisted and contorted with contempt. The situation started to become frightening, and not just for my personal safety. The marchers’ hatred was reaching a fever pitch and beginning to feel toxic, but soon the surge of the crowd compelled them to move on.
After about two hours of the marchers being so close to us, a woman from our group, who I hadn’t met, came over and put her arm around me. She said, “I just couldn’t listen to and watch you take more of that abuse. I’m here to hold you up in prayer and stand by you.” She rubbed my shoulder in sympathy and comfort, and I hugged her back, thanking her.
During this time, the police returned and put some men in front of me, forming an invisible, protective line.
The woman in pink
A woman dressed in pink caught my eye from the crowd as I was crying. She gazed at me, and called out, “I regret my abortion too!” and yet she was part of the march. I didn’t understand what she really was trying to say. She locked eyes with mine, and as the crowd moved her along, I continued to look at her, not knowing how to reply. I thought she’d moved on, when suddenly she broke free and ran past the riot cop. She threw her arms around my neck to hug me, to console me! I was stunned, but I hugged her back and whispered to her, “Why are you out here in this? How can you still believe it’s ok?” My words were not a condemnation, but an invitation, an honest incredulous bewilderment on my part and a sincere wish that she, too, would find comfort for her pain forever, not only for this moment.
She didn’t say anything. I could hear her crying, too. She hugged me tight for what seemed like very long minutes. The whole crowd stopped and stared. No one spoke or made a sound, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath while time stood still and we cried on each other’s shoulders. I still didn’t know quite what to think, but when she finally pulled back, I thanked her. We looked at each other for a moment, feeling one another’s pain, and then she ran back into the crowd and disappeared.
Shortly thereafter, I realized that every time I met the marchers’ gazes, they could see the truth of their own pain. Just as one woman who looked at me was about to pass, I saw her mouth silently the words, “I’m sorry…” I smiled sadly in thanks and nodded. “Is she saying she’s sorry for my pain?” I wondered. “Or is she sorry for the abuse that others were giving me? Or is she sorry for both of us?”
By the day’s end, one woman from the march came over to our friends and said, “What am I doing here?” and asked to exchange her NARAL sign for one of ours.
This is one conversion to the truth of which we know. Please pray for the rest.
This story first appeared on afterabortion.blogspot.com. Stories and photos—Copyright © 2004 Annie Banno. All Rights Reserved. Excerpt reprinted with permission of the author.