Abortion foes gather in Chattanooga to pray, rejoice a week after overturning of Roe vs. Wade

Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / The Rev. David Carter of Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church speaks Thursday during an interview at Calvary Chapel.
Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / The Rev. David Carter of Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church speaks Thursday during an interview at Calvary Chapel.

Families, young people and various Chattanooga religious leaders gathered at a Thursday service to pray and rejoice after the Supreme Court's decision last week overturning Roe v. Wade.

"For the past 50 years, it's been legal to terminate the life of the child in the womb of the mother, and so what I would say, more than a celebration, or better than calling it a celebration, would be to say, it's a righting of a wrong," the Rev. David Carter of the Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church on Eighth Street, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Attendees at the Calvary Chapel gathering heard messages from Pastor Lou Engle; Doug Daugherty, anti-abortion activist and president of the conservative policy advocacy group Hamilton Flourishing; and Charlie Wysong, president of American Rights Coalition, on abortion and the effects the procedure leaves on women.

"The reality of today means that we have to do the work of caring for mothers, women and children," Carter said. "'Our' in our calling just got more serious, so this is a day of serious, sober, joy."

Nonprofit organizations Choices, which according to its website provides services for unplanned pregnancies, and the Momentum Network, which provides housing and financial support for young women with unplanned pregnancies, had kiosks at the event.

"We know that when moms are supported, babies are supported. And we also know that whether you're a single mom or not, it takes a village to raise a child," Cara Hicks, founder and CEO of the Momentum Network, told the Times Free Press.

Hicks, who said she wasn't part of the planned evening services, showed up to inform participants of the services her organization offers to young pregnant mothers when she learned about the event.

"We come around to provide relational support in the form of mentors and a peer network, (so) that they build relationships with their weekly meetings," Hicks said. "In addition to our residential development program, where they can live, learn and lean on each other, and apartment housing, and it is affordable housing."

When asked what the Catholic church is going to do to support women and help them raise their children, Carter said the church will continue with what it has already been doing and expanding its services.

"Catholic Charities runs (a) pregnancy help center. There are places like Choices in town that assist people in crisis pregnancy," Carter said. "We would probably do a lot more, raising funds or awareness of the needs we always do the baby bottle drive every year to raise money for the pregnancy help center. We'll probably have diaper collections, baby formula collections, things like that. We'll definitely be doing a lot more."

Daugherty, who likened the overturning of Roe v. Wade to World War II's "D-Day" - the day Allied forces invaded Europe - during a recent news conference, said Thursday was a celebration for both life and constitutional law.

"This is both a celebration of the great victory for life and the Constitution and for law," Daugherty said, "which also kind of lands with the landing in Normandy Beach - there's much that has to be done. There's going to be like a civil war in this country at every level, including individual conscience.

"Innocent blood drenches the land," Daugherty said as he began reading a poem he wrote prior to the Supreme Court ruling. "Justice will prevail as innocent blood cried out, but deep deep and wide, the truth will resound."

Wysong, a father of 15, said abortion leaves mothers reeling with guilt and that he has wept for those who have gone through a termination of pregnancy, urging them to confess their sins.

"Abortion has two victims, one dead and one wounded," Wysong said. "If you're a woman who's had an abortion, confess it to God and accept him as your savior God says in our Scriptures that he forgets about our sins."

"Abraham Lincoln would call it a day of thanksgiving," Engle said when referring to last week's Supreme Court decision, as he asked parishioners to raise their hands in worship as he said a prayer of thanks. "We're like those who dream. Your mouth is filled with laughter we praise you for what you've done."

Almost 50 years after Roe v. Wade was decided, giving women the right to seek an abortion without being prosecuted, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling last week.

After the Supreme Court ruling, protesters rallied at Coolidge Park on June 24. Some of the protesters said the decision left them feeling disheartened and sad.

On Tuesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an injunction that blocked Tennessee's "heartbeat bill" from becoming law. The law bans abortions in almost all instances when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy - when most women may not realize they are pregnant.

The bill also makes it illegal to perform an abortion if the doctor knows that the woman is seeking an abortion based on the gender and race of the fetus or if the doctor knows the woman is seeking an abortion after the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Another Tennessee law comes into play as well, the state's 2019 "trigger" law, officially known as the Human Life Protection Act. Within 30 days of Friday's ruling becoming final, it automatically bans abortion in the first and second trimesters except when an abortion is necessary to prevent the death of the mother or if there is a serious health issue posing "serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

Physicians in those circumstances have to be prepared to provide proof of that as a defense to criminal prosecution. A woman's mental health is explicitly excluded as a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment.

Women seeking an abortion, however, would face no criminal penalties.

Although the only abortion clinic in the Chattanooga area has been closed for almost 30 years, candidates for the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office differ on whether they would prosecute medical providers once the trigger law goes into effect in late July.

Republican candidate Coty Wamp said she would enforce the law signed by the governor, while Democratic candidate John Allen Brooks said he thinks prosecuting those types of cases would not only be nearly impossible, but also a waste of resources.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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