DALLAS, TX – The Catholic Diocese of Dallas continued its 13-year tradition of offering prayers outside newly closed abortion clinics in the city Saturday.
The diocese held its fourth Mass and memorial service in that period outside the former site of Northpark Medical Group, which closed earlier this year due to the abortion regulations passed in Texas last year. The service drew approximately 170 people.
Northpark’s closure left Dallas, one of the nation's largest cities, with four abortion facilities. According to Karen Garnett, executive director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, the Respect Life Ministry of the Diocese of Dallas, the city had 13 abortion facilities in 1990.
Fr. Paul McCormick, O.Cist., led the memorial service. According to Garnett, “The powerful service included special prayers, readings, hymns, testimonials, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the laying of flowers at the site as Taps was played on the trumpet.”
The service is part of the continuous efforts by the Diocese of Dallas to end abortion in the city. From his installment as Bishop until 1997, Bishop Charles Grahmann had a tradition of praying in front of the city's abortion clinics on the second Saturday of each month. While he stopped this tradition in 1997, the diocese organized committed prayer actions at abortion clinics across the Diocese that same year.
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Bishop Kevin Farrell, who replaced Grahmann in 2007, has offered quarterly Masses and Rosary processions. Each abortion clinic in Dallas that has closed has seen a special Memorial Service since 2001.
Garnett says that 10,000 people participated in Dallas' March for Life, and the diocese has held a regular sidewalk counseling and prayer ministry since 1997. She estimates 7,500 mothers have chosen life as a result of that effort.
Several Dallas clinics closed in the 1990s, says Garnett. However, closures slowed after that. In 2001, Dallas went from seven clinics to six, and then to five in 2008. A 2009 closure took place shortly before a clinic opened elsewhere in the city.
While the 2013 Texas law has been given primary credit for the most recent pro-life victory, Garnett says that activist Paul Robertson “helped more than 100 mothers per year choose life outside Northpark,” and “also dialogued with more than 35 staff workers who quit working at the facility during the time he was there.” Robertson, who acted as a full-time volunteer sidewalk counselor from 1999 until he moved from the state in 2004, was present during Saturday's events.
In 2011, 41 abortion clinics existed in the state of Texas. That year's sonogram law and defunding of Planned Parenthood, and 2013's HB 2, have left the state's clinics diminished to 24. Northpark is the first Dallas clinic to close since HB 2 became law, though the clinic had committed no abortions since November 2013.
Garnett says that it is possible that the number of clinics in Texas could go down to six, if abortion clinics that don't meet current standards do not upgrade.