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The ultrasound that changed my life - Abby Johnson’s pro-life conversion in her own words

Abby Johnson Abby Johnson Follow Abby
By Abby Johnson
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Note: The following is the first chapter of Abby Johnson’s forthcoming book. To find out more about the book, which will be released January 11, click here.

January 10, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - CHERYL POKED HER HEAD INTO MY OFFICE. “Abby, they need an extra person back in the exam room. Are you free?”

I looked up from my paperwork, surprised. “Sure.”

Though I’d been with Planned Parenthood for eight years, I had never been called into the exam room to help the medical team during an abortion, and I had no idea why I was needed now. Nurse-practitioners were the ones who assisted in abortions, not the other clinic staff. As director of this clinic in Bryan, Texas, I was able to fill in for any position in a pinch, except, of course, for doctors or nurses performing medical procedures. I had, on a few occasions, agreed at a patient’s request to stay with her and even hold her hand during the procedure, but only when I’d been the counselor who’d worked with her during intake and counseling. That was not the case today. So why did they need me?

Today’s visiting abortionist had been here at the Bryan clinic only two or three times before. He had a private abortion practice about 100 miles away. When I’d talked with him about the job several weeks before, he had explained that at his own facility he did only ultrasound-guided abortions — the abortion procedure with the least risk of complications for the woman. Because this method allows the doctor to see exactly what is going on inside the uterus, there is less chance of perforating the uterine wall, one of the risks of abortion. I respected that about him. The more that could be done to keep women safe and healthy, the better, as far as I was concerned. However, I’d explained to him that this practice wasn’t the protocol at our clinic. He understood and said he’d follow our typical procedures, though we agreed he’d be free to use ultrasound if he felt a particular situation warranted it.

To my knowledge, we’d never done ultrasound-guided abortions at our facility. We did abortions only every other Saturday, and the assigned goal from our Planned Parenthood affiliate was to perform 25 to 35 procedures on those days. We liked to wrap them up by around 2 p.m. Our typical procedure took about 10 minutes, but an ultrasound added about five minutes, and when you’re trying to schedule up to 35 abortions in a day, those extra minutes add up.

I felt a moment’s reluctance outside the exam room. I never liked entering this room during an abortion procedure — never welcomed what happened behind this door. But since we all had to be ready at any time to pitch in and get the job done, I pushed the door open and stepped in.

The patient was already sedated, still conscious but groggy, the doctor’s brilliant light beaming down on her. She was in position, the instruments were laid out neatly on the tray next to the doctor, and the nurse-practitioner was positioning the ultrasound machine next to the operating table.

“I’m going to perform an ultrasound-guided abortion on this patient. I need you to hold the ultrasound probe,” the doctor explained.

As I took the ultrasound probe in hand and adjusted the settings on the machine, I argued with myself, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to take part in an abortion. No, wrong attitude — I needed to psych myself up for this task. I took a deep breath and tried to tune in to the music from the radio playing softly in the background. It’s a good learning experience — I’ve never seen an ultrasound-guided abortion before, I told myself. Maybe this will help me when I counsel women. I’ll learn firsthand about this safer procedure. Besides, it will be over in just a few minutes.

I could not have imagined how the next 10 minutes would shake the foundation of my values and change the course of my life.

I had occasionally performed diagnostic ultrasounds for clients before. It was one of the services we offered to confirm pregnancies and estimate how far along they were. The familiarity of preparing for an ultrasound soothed my uneasiness at being in this room. I applied the lubricant to the patient’s belly, then maneuvered the ultrasound probe until her uterus was displayed on the screen and adjusted the probe’s position to capture the image of the fetus.

I was expecting to see what I had seen in past ultrasounds. Usually, depending on how far along the pregnancy was and how the fetus was turned, I’d first see a leg, or the head, or some partial image of the torso, and would need to maneuver a bit to get the best possible image. But this time, the image was complete. I could see the entire, perfect profile of a baby.

It looks just like Grace at 12 weeks, I thought, surprised, remembering my very first peek at my daughter, three years before, snuggled securely inside my womb. The image now before me looked the same, only clearer, sharper. The detail startled me. I could clearly see the profile of the head, both arms, legs, and even tiny fingers and toes. Perfect.

And just that quickly, the flutter of the warm memory of Grace was replaced with a surge of anxiety. What am I about to see? My stomach tightened. I don’t want to watch what is about to happen.

I suppose that sounds odd coming from a professional who’d been running a Planned Parenthood clinic for two years, counseling women in crisis, scheduling abortions, reviewing the clinic’s monthly budget reports, hiring and training staff. But odd or not, the simple fact is, I had never been interested in promoting abortion. I’d come to Planned Parenthood eight years before, believing that its purpose was primarily to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing the number of abortions. That had certainly been my goal. And I believed that Planned Parenthood saved lives — the lives of women who, without the services provided by this organization, might resort to some back-alley butcher. All of this sped through my mind as I carefully held the probe in place.

“Thirteen weeks,” I heard the nurse say after taking measurements to determine the fetus’s age.

“Okay,” the doctor said, looking at me, “just hold the probe in place during the procedure so I can see what I’m doing.”

The cool air of the exam room left me feeling chilled. My eyes still glued to the image of this perfectly formed baby, I watched as a new image entered the video screen. The cannula — a strawshaped instrument attached to the end of the suction tube — had been inserted into the uterus and was nearing the baby’s side. It looked like an invader on the screen, out of place. Wrong. It just looked wrong.

My heart sped up. Time slowed. I didn’t want to look, but I didn’t want to stop looking either. I couldn’t not watch. I was horrified, but fascinated at the same time, like a gawker slowing as he drives past some horrific automobile wreck — not wanting to see a mangled body, but looking all the same.

My eyes flew to the patient’s face; tears flowed from the corners of her eyes. I could see she was in pain. The nurse dabbed the woman’s face with a tissue.

“Just breathe,” the nurse gently coached her. “Breathe.”

“It’s almost over,” I whispered. I wanted to stay focused on her, but my eyes shot back to the image on the screen.

At first, the baby didn’t seem aware of the cannula. It gently probed the baby’s side, and for a quick second I felt relief. Of course, I thought. The fetus doesn’t feel pain. I had reassured countless women of this as I’d been taught by Planned Parenthood. The fetal tissue feels nothing as it is removed. Get a grip, Abby. This is a simple, quick medical procedure. My head was working hard to control my responses, but I couldn’t shake an inner disquiet that was quickly mounting to horror as I watched the screen.

The next movement was the sudden jerk of a tiny foot as the baby started kicking, as if it were trying to move away from the probing invader. As the cannula pressed its side, the baby began struggling to turn and twist away. It seemed clear to me that it could feel the cannula, and it did not like what it was feeling. And then the doctor’s voice broke through, startling me.

“Beam me up, Scotty,” he said lightheartedly to the nurse. He was telling her to turn on the suction — in an abortion the suction isn’t turned on until the doctor feels he has the cannula in exactly the right place.

I had a sudden urge to yell, “Stop!” To shake the woman and say, “Look at what is happening to your baby! Wake up! Hurry! Stop them!”

But even as I thought those words, I looked at my own hand holding the probe. I was one of “them” performing this act. My eyes shot back to the screen again. The cannula was already being rotated by the doctor, and now I could see the tiny body violently twisting with it. For the briefest moment the baby looked as if it were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then it crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then it was gone. And the uterus was empty. Totally empty.

I was frozen in disbelief. Without realizing it, I let go of the probe. It slipped off the patient’s tummy and slid onto her leg. I could feel my heart pounding — pounding so hard my neck throbbed. I tried to get a deep breath but couldn’t seem to breathe in or out. I still stared at the screen, even though it was black now because I’d lost the image. But nothing was registering to me. I felt too stunned and shaken to move. I was aware of the doctor and nurse casually chatting as they worked, but it sounded distant, like vague background noise, hard to hear over the pounding of my own blood in my ears.

The image of the tiny body, mangled and sucked away, was replaying in my mind, and with it the image of Grace’s first ultrasound — how she’d been about the same size. And I could hear in my memory one of the many arguments I’d had with my husband, Doug, about abortion.

“When you were pregnant with Grace, it wasn’t a fetus; it was a baby,” Doug had said. And now it hit me like a lightning bolt: He was right! What was in this woman’s womb just a moment ago was alive. It wasn’t just tissue, just cells. It was a human baby. And it was fighting for its life! A battle it lost in the blink of an eye. What I have told people for years, what I’ve believed and taught and defended, is a lie.

Suddenly I felt the eyes of the doctor and nurse on me. It shook me out of my thoughts. I noticed the probe lying on the woman’s leg and fumbled to get it back into place. But my hands were shaking now.

“Abby, are you OK?” the doctor asked. The nurse’s eyes searched my face with concern.

“Yeah, I’m OK.” I still didn’t have the probe correctly positioned, and now I was worried because the doctor couldn’t see inside the uterus. My right hand held the probe, and my left hand rested gingerly on the woman’s warm belly. I glanced at her face — more tears and a grimace of pain. I moved the probe until I’d recaptured the image of her now-empty uterus. My eyes traveled back to my hands. I looked at them as if they weren’t even my own.

How much damage have these hands done over the past eight years? How many lives have been taken because of them? Not just because of my hands, but because of my words. What if I’d known the truth, and what if I’d told all those women?

What if?

I had believed a lie! I had blindly promoted the “company line” for so long. Why? Why hadn’t I searched out the truth for myself? Why had I closed my ears to the arguments I’d heard? Oh, dear God, what had I done?

My hand was still on the patient’s belly, and I had the sense that I had just taken something away from her with that hand. I’d robbed her. And my hand started to hurt — I felt an actual physical pain. And right there, standing beside the table, my hand on the weeping woman’s belly, this thought came from deep within me:

Never again! Never again.

I went into autopilot. As the nurse cleaned up the woman, I put away the ultrasound machine, then gently roused the patient, who was limp and groggy. I helped her sit up, coaxed her into a wheelchair, and took her to the recovery room. I tucked a light blanket around her. Like so many patients I’d seen before, she continued to cry, in obvious emotional and physical pain. I did my best to make her more comfortable.

Ten minutes, maybe 15 at most, had passed since Cheryl had asked me to go help in the exam room. And in those few minutes, everything had changed. Drastically. The image of that tiny baby twisting and struggling kept replaying in my mind. And the patient. I felt so guilty. I’d taken something precious from her, and she didn’t even know it.

How had it come to this? How had I let this happen? I had invested myself, my heart, my career in Planned Parenthood because I cared about women in crisis. And now I faced a crisis of my own.

Looking back now on that late September day of 2009, I realize how wise God is for not revealing our future to us. Had I known then the firestorm I was about to endure, I might not have had the courage to move forward. As it was, since I didn’t know, I wasn’t yet looking for courage. I was, however, looking to understand how I found myself in this place — living a lie, spreading a lie, and hurting the very women I so wanted to help.

And I desperately needed to know what to do next.

This is my story.

To read the rest of the book, click here.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 6, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Bobby Jindal: I’ll fight for religious freedom against Hollywood and Wall Street

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Although other Republican governors have “quickly cowered” when large corporations place the homosexual agenda ahead of religious liberty, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal vowed today to defend freedom of conscience from anyone – whether the assault comes from Hollywood liberals, activist judges, homosexual pressure groups, or even a traditional Republican ally like Big Business.

In a New York Times op-ed that combined constitutional philosophy with political strategy, Jindal wrote those who believe in traditional values are under assault from a well-funded alliance of secular “progressive” elitists from L.A. to Wall Street.

“Hollywood and the media elite are hostile to our values and they tip the scales to our liberal opponents at every opportunity,” he wrote. “Liberals have decided that if they can’t win at the ballot box, they will win in the boardroom.”

The two-term governor had a simple message for anyone who would try to get him to change his position on marriage or religious protections: “Save your breath.”

Jindal said he had already received corporate pushback as he fought for his state's pending Marriage and Conscience Act (H.B. 707).

Contrary to media caricatures of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts – like the one Jindal signed in 2010 – RFRA bills do not create a blanket right for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals. However, a devout business owner would not have to violate his, or her, conscience by participating in a same-sex “marriage” ceremony, a ritual with clearly religious implications.

“As a nation we would not compel a priest, minister or rabbi to violate his conscience and perform a same-sex wedding ceremony,” Jindal wrote. “But a great many Americans who are not members of the clergy feel just as called to live their faith through their businesses.”

Jindal's proposed H.B. 707 would add an additional layer of legal protection by preventing the state from denying state funding, licenses, or taking any “adverse action” against business owners who refused to participate in or recognize same-sex “marriages.”

The bill does not forbid gay “marriage” statewide – another, popular law already does that. But David Badash wrote at The New Civil Rights Movement that under the bill's terms, for instance, “Your employer doesn't have to extend medical coverage to your spouse.”

That has not made corporate interests, which often favor left-leaning social policies, happy.

Jindal linked to a letter from James M. Driesse, the Senior State Executive of IBM, who clearly linked its economic participation in Louisiana with Jindal's revising the law.

“IBM has made significant investment” in the state, Driesse wrote, but allowing businesses to deny same-sex “marriages” for religious reasons “will create a hostile environment.”

“IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law,” the letter warned.

Jindal, who is a likely 2016 presidential hopeful, said he is “certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will” follow suit, “but they will not deter me.”

Instead, they should be joining what had once been a three-legged stool of social, economic, and national security conservatives fighting against the Left, he said.

“The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence,” he wrote. “The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly.”

He added that denying religious freedom would rend our fraying social fabric. “A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us,” he counseled. “That’s why religious freedom laws matter.”

His op-ed immediately generated angry remarks from the Left and sighs of recognition on the Right.

Travis Weber, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council told LifeSiteNews that Jindal is “correct that corporations have to do some soul-searching to see if they truly support religious freedom for all, or if they are prepared to tell some religious believers their claims aren’t worth as much as others.”

“Big Business needs to remember that the many Americans who support its services and buy its products will observe how it treats and talks about their deeply held beliefs. All they are asking is to be left alone by the government to freely live out these beliefs in their lives and businesses,” Weber told LifeSiteNews.

“Governor Jindal recognizes this,” he said. “Big Business should do the same.”

Voices on the Left pursued their well-worn line, accusing Jindal of aiding discrimination and giving sanction to bigotry. The feminist, and often vulgar, website Wonkette.com riffed, “This is an important, serious religion in the United States, the God Hates Fags religion, and it deserves to be protected!”

But Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said that Jindal walked the line between conscience and charity perfectly, acting as “both a defender of religious liberty and an opponent of unjust discrimination.”

The Catholic spokesman called the governor's “willingness to publicly chastise corporations, from Wal-Mart to Wall Street, that have jumped on board the gay-marriage bandwagon” as “perhaps the boldest and most refreshing part of Jindal's essay.”

Economic freedom alone is not enough to maintain liberty, he said. “A free society depends as much on the virtue of its citizens as it does any factor.”

Conservative writer Dan Calabrese seemed pleased that “if the radical gay lobby or terrified Chamber of Commerce weenies try to bully Jindal into changing” the law, “they're apparently not going to get very far.”

When corporations demanded RFRA bills be vetoed or gutted, other Reublican governors – Mike Pence of Indiana and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas – “folded like cheap suits,” he wrote.

Yet there was no great difference in the underlying principles of those state bills and the pending bill Jindal has so strongly championed, he said. “Jindal just explains it better.”

Calabrese “challenges conservatives to stop being such cowards in the face of liberal/media pressure on issues like this” and “counter their lies.”

“What Jindal understands is that you treat the radical gay mob the same way you treat a bully on the schoolyard,” he said. “You stand up to them. You refuse to be intimidated.”

Donohue agreed. “He gets it,” he said. “Hopefully he will inspire others to get it as well.”

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Patricia Jannuzzi
Fr. Peter West

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A priest’s response to the gay activist who tried to silence a Catholic teacher for opposing his agenda

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West

Editor’s note: On April 2, Father Peter West, a Catholic priest and pro-life leader, wrote an open letter at MyCentralJersey.com to Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon defending Catholic teacher Patricia Jannuzzi after she was suspended by her Catholic school for criticizing the homosexual agenda. The newspaper ran a response to Father West on the same day by Scott Lyons, Sarandon’s nephew and a former student at Jannuzzi’s school.

The following letter is Father West’s full response to Lyons, published with his permission. A shorter version ran at MyCentralJersey.com on April 17.

Dear Scott Lyons,

In your letter campaigning against Patricia Jannuzzi, you said you hoped to start a dialogue. Dialogue is good, but what you call “dialogue” is really more like pressure tactics which led to Patricia fearing the loss of her job. Her statements were bold and controversial and would have been interesting dialogue for a classroom discussion. However, your campaign stifled “dialogue” through intimidation.

You may think this statement, "We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity,” was offensive and violated modern standards of political correctness, but it is absolutely consistent with what Pope Francis and the Catholic Church teach. Pope Francis said, “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity,” and “the family is…a remedy against social fragmentation.” Societies that accept the homosexual agenda are in danger of extinction.

Patricia’s comment that "homosexual behavior is a choice ... sometimes violently taught" affirms Catholic teaching: homosexual orientation is not chosen, but behavior is. Choose to be chaste or choose to fulfill sexual desires in disordered ways. Her statements are correct and although they offend you, they are not reason enough for firing from a Catholic school. Patricia may have used some hyperbole using the term “violently taught,” but she was essentially correct about this too.

Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen co-authored a book called After the Ball; How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's. The strategy advocated was a technique called "jamming" -- public smearing of Christians or others who oppose the homosexual agenda. You applied this very tactic to Patricia Jannuzzi with your Aunt Susan’s support. Principal Jean Kline, Msgr. Seamus Brennan, and Bishop Bootkoski cooperated in your efforts by buckling to the pressure. They should have had Patricia’s back; instead they threw her under the proverbial bus. Had there not been a campaign by faithful Catholics and other people of good will, Patricia Jannuzzi would have lost her job.

When you compare beheadings and gay relationships, brutal violence is obviously a far greater evil. But both violence and the attack on the foundation of the family, through the attack on marriage as a union between one man and one woman, are evils. Pope Francis explained this as well: "The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life. These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself."

Scott, the big picture here is the message of love, repentance and salvation preached by Jesus Christ. Patricia Jannuzzi didn’t judge homosexuals, she judged lifestyle choices. Though we must treat persons who struggle with a homosexual orientation with compassion, we can never approve of disordered behaviors. Catholic leaders should not be afraid to boldly proclaim and defend the truth. When Patricia Jannuzzi did so, it was easy for your supporters to isolate and vilify her with hate speech calling her a "vile bigot who got what she deserved."

Though your tone is much more reasonable now, your campaign against Patricia Jannuzzi has successfully intimidated many Catholic teachers. Even though Patricia has been reinstated, Immaculata High School, Immaculate Conception Parish, and the Diocese of Metuchen still act as if she has done something terribly wrong. They owe her an apology for what they put her through.

They should question how Immaculata graduates end up becoming homosexual activists who fight against Church teaching and intimidate others into silence. Instead, they’re more worried about not offending anyone. Truth will cause division. (Mat. 10, 34-36) While it is true that Bishop Bootkoski did not say anything denying Church teaching, nor did he do anything to defend it. This situation is extremely disturbing: silence is complicity.

I believe those in charge of your formation failed you by failing to impart a proper understanding and love of the Catholic faith, especially her beautiful teaching about God’s plan for human sexuality, marriage, and the family. I wonder if you have even heard of Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I believe that God’s judgment on those who failed to impart the faith to you will be more severe than yours.

Scott, I believe Jesus loves you, but he loves you too much to leave you in your sins. Jesus praised John the Baptist as the greatest man of his times. (Mat. 11, 11) In the spirit of John the Baptist, who told Herod that it was not right for him to live with his brother’s wife (Mark 6,18), I say to you it is not right that you should live with another man as a husband.

Love, indeed, is the highest good, but following the moral law including on matters of sexual morality is part of requirements of love. Jesus said, "If you love me, obey my Commandments.” (John 14, 15) My hope is that you will eventually come to understand the emptiness of seeking satisfaction apart from God's will, repent of your sins, and begin to follow Christ's teachings, including those regarding chastity, and that you return to the practice of your Catholic faith.

Sincerely,

Fr. Peter West

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March-related events will begin at noon, with a rally from 12:00-1:00, and then the march itself at 1:00. Participants will gather at the mall in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
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Thousands to join March for Marriage in D.C. Sat. under shadow of Supreme Court hearing

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By Dustin Siggins

April 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - On Saturday, thousands of pro-family Americans are expected to flock to Washington, D.C. for the third annual March for Marriage.

Organized by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), March-related events will begin at noon, with a rally from 12:00-1:00, and then the march itself at 1:00. Participants will gather at the mall in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.  

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex "marriage," or if states should be allowed to make their own marriage policy.

The will take place in the shadow of what may be the most consequential marriage hearing in American history. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex "marriage," or if states should be allowed to make their own marriage policy.

A related rally, sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom, will take place before the March. The NOM rally will begin at noon Eastern Time, with the March starting at 1:00 Eastern. The rally and March will be live-streamed by LifeSiteNews, the March for Marriage’s official media partner.

"We expect thousands of people to attend,” Frank Shubert, National Political Director of NOM, told LifeSiteNews. “This is the third March for Marriage and will attract the largest group of marriage supporters yet. We have people coming from all over the country."

"Imagine if we could go back in time and rally the pro-life community in Washington before the infamous Roe v Wade case was heard by the justices of the Supreme Court. We have that opportunity now to preserve marriage.

“The March for Marriage is our last, best opportunity to show the justices of the Court, the media and opinion leaders in Washington that the American people continue to support marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and demand that their votes and values be respected and upheld."

The March has drawn dozens of sponsors and coalition partners, as well as national voices on marriage.

When: Saturady April 25, from noon-1:00
Where: The mall in front of the U.S. Capitol

 

Speakers include:

Brian Brown
Senator Ruben Diaz
Reverend Brandon B. Porter Prelate
Josh Duggar
Rev. Bill Owens
Rev. Jim Garlow
Tom Minnery
Mat Staver
Archbishop Kurtz
Jennifer Marshall
Carlos Luis Vargas Silva
Bishop Anne Gimenez (closing Prayer)
Cathy Ruse

Sponsors include:

ActRight
Alliance Defending Freedom
American Principles Project
Catholic Vote
Christian Union
Citizen Link
Crown Them With Glory
Manhattan Declaration
Tradition, Family, Property
USCCB

Coalition Partners:

2nd Vote
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Centro Biblico Internacional
Coalition of African-American Pastors
FRC
Focus on the Family
FRC Action
Heritage Foundation
Human Life International
Liberty Counsel
MRC
North Carolina Family Policy Council
NC Values Coalition
The Family Foundation (VA)
Wisconsin Family Action

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