"Real racism," she said, "is co-opting the language of liberation to advocate for the destruction of the lives of the most vulnerable. Real racism is a so-called white ally telling black and brown women that they need to choose between their dreams and their babies."
Toni McFadden, founder of Relationships Matter, described her own experience as an African-American teenager who had turned to Planned Parenthood for an abortion induced through an abortifacient prescription. Through speaking engagements, McFadden now shares her insights on post-abortion healing and spiritual development "so that no more babies need to die because of convenience."
Abby Johnson, author of the book "Unplanned" and a nationally recognized pro-life advocate, met with an enthusiastic response as she announced she is now 37 weeks pregnant.
A former Planned Parenthood employee, Johnson took the organization to task for "covering up statutory rape of minors, not sterilizing instruments that are being used woman to woman" and repeatedly failing health inspections.
"That is the antithesis of health care and the antithesis of feminism," said Johnson.
Earlier in the week, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in a statement had encouraged people to attend the rally and "meet the hateful actions of Representative Sims with the love of Christ and let us fervently pray for respect for life from conception to natural death."
Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre delivered a final blessing at the gathering, which had been marked throughout by the prayers of the attendees. Many of them carried rosary beads, while a few held crucifixes aloft in the crowd.
Some 20 patient escorts from Planned Parenthood, wearing bright yellow and pink vests, lined the sidewalk during the rally; they declined to offer comment on the rally.
Margaret Kuhar, a Philadelphia resident who has just finished her freshman year at the University of Mary, said the event was remarkable for its "shoulder-to-shoulder turnout" and the rapid manner in which it had been organized.
She has attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. more than 15 times with her family, and said she has seen "a big turnaround" in the attitude of younger generations to abortion, with more young adults less willing to seek it out.
A tourist to Philadelphia from Cape Coral, Florida, attended the rally by chance. Stacey McMahon stood against the exterior wall of the Planned Parenthood facility throughout the event as she silently "prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus," she said, for both attendees and the abortion clinic's staff.
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"I prayed for a young lady who had been shielded by escorts to enter Planned Parenthood during the rally," said McMahon, a Catholic.
"I was being the hands and feet of Christ, not making myself known as any type of Christian. That's what Christ asks you to do, to stand silently for those who need him, the vulnerable."