New pro-life laws, 'Unplanned' film galvanize pro-life movement in Metro Detroit

FERNDALE — With an audience of hundreds of cars passing by on Woodward Avenue as well as casual, neighborhood strollers, more than 75 people gathered outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Ferndale to call attention and pray for an end to abortion in the United States.

The April 14 evening prayer vigil was one of 13 simultaneous vigils taking place across Michigan as participants listened to readings, shared testimonies, sang hymns and solemnly prayed together for aborted children and their families as well as for legislators, pro-life activists and abortionists.

Sponsored by the group Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and organized by its founder, Monica Miller, Ph.D., the vigil took place as the movie “Unplanned” has been taking theaters by storm across the country. The film reveals explicit details about Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry through the story of Abby Johnson, the youngest clinic director in the company's history who later converted and embraced the pro-life movement.

Msgr. Robert McClory, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, leads a prayer vigil outside a Planned Parenthood facility on Woodward in Ferndale on April 13.

“There were quite a few people (at the vigil) who rarely come to activist, pro-life events,” Miller told Detroit Catholic. “And a good number of young people, in particular.”

“I think the movie ‘Unplanned’ played a part in motivating people to come out,” she added, “but … the movement is re-energized by the current state initiatives that are aimed at reducing the number of unborn who would otherwise be aborted,” referencing laws passed in states such as Ohio that have banned abortion in all but very rare cases.  

Miller added pro-lifers have been equally alarmed at “just how far the other side will go, even defending abortion to the point of birth.”

Susan Vance of Dearborn Heights and Carmen Allard of Ferndale, who attended the vigil, agreed.

“The movie and the legislation that was just passed in Ohio, the ‘heartbeat bill (banning abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat),’ are definite victories,” Vance said. “I’ve always prayed in front of abortion mills. Anytime something is happening against Planned Parenthood, I will be there.”

Mothers with children were among those demonstrating for life as Catholics prayed, sang hymns and begged God for an end to abortion.

“Though I’ve been Catholic all my life, when I was young and living in California, I was not always completely pro-life,” Allard said. “That’s why the movie and speakers help us understand the truth, and we can make the right decisions.”

Shirley Eckert, Judy Zabowski and Amy Perugi are friends who attended the vigil together.

“What I saw in ‘Unplanned’ gave me a good education of what Planned Parenthood does to — not for — women,” Eckert said.

“It’s been my privilege to be here,” Zabowski said. “We love the woman and the baby – much more than Planned Parenthood does.”

“I’m grateful for pregnancy crisis centers like Imago Dei,” Perugi shared. “I wouldn’t have been a godmother. But a young woman listened to me and got help there instead of an abortion.”

After a reading from the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus encourages his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and invite the stranger, Msgr. Robert McClory, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak offered a reflection for those gathered in the gentle, golden sunlight.

“Mother Teresa saw the face of Jesus in everyone,” Msgr. McClory said. “And, as we minister to those in need … we can see Christ, himself.”

Demonstrators hold signs as motorists pass on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale on April 13.

“'Inclusivity’ is a popular term,” Msgr. McClory added. “But Christ shows us the ultimate inclusivity: caring for the hungry and thirsty, strangers, the naked, the imprisoned, the ill (and unborn babies).”

Pointing out the injustices of laws that protect various animals and plants, but not unborn human life, Msgr. McClory said America has a long way to go to ensure protection for the dignity of the innocent.

“The bald eagle will continue to be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, even though it has been delisted under the Endangered Species Act,” Msgr. McClory said, yet unborn children lack even those basic rights. 

Sprinkling the ground in front of the clinic with holy water, Msgr. McClory urged those gathered to beg God for an end to the barbaric practice of abortion, and for strength for mothers who choose life.

“Let us plead for mercy for those who come here,” Msgr. McClory said. “Let us plead for mercy for those who work here. And let us plead for perseverance, peace and real fruit for the sacrifices being made on behalf of women and their unborn babies.”