Traffic halted and street-side operations reprieved as hundreds of picketers amassed in downtown Santa Fe. Their purpose: to fight abortion.
Shortly before 2 pm, Jan. 19, protesters from the Catholic and evangelical communities of Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Alamos and Las Cruces, among others, gathered in front of Santa Fe Community Convention Center and other sites around downtown. Many carried signs with anti-abortion slogans such as "Abortion kills children" and "Women do regret abortion."
The procession continued to the Plaza, where it joined groups from several other downtown sites. As the bells of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi—where the noon mass had recently ended—tolled tirelessly, the several hundred assembled protesters circled the Plaza several times before veering off to the Roundhouse.
The streets around downtown were unusually still. Bystanders watched sullenly or joined in with the huddles of marchers reciting "Hail Marys" with heads bowed. A few tourists took photographs.
All along the route, children and adults prayed or played, shouted or cheered. Congregations carried tiny pine-box coffins and roses, black balloons, or photographs of aborted fetuses.
The Sanctity of Life Unity Awareness and Unity Day, organized by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the 2011 New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, took place to mark the 38th anniversary of Roe v Wade on January 22, 1973.
The gathering at the Roundhouse was marked by speeches from New Mexico's three Catholic bishops—Michael J Sheehan, Santa Fe; Ricardo Ramirez, Las Cruces; and James S Wall, Gallup—as well as an address by Sen. William Sharer, R-San Juan.
Amid the outpouring of personal beliefs and political confusion, another tone permeated the proceedings.
"We are here with God because we choose life," Ramirez said. "God wants this." He called for support for the Las Cruces-based program The Gabriel Project, which works with pregnant women considering abortions.
"This year, in this Legislature, I think we have a great opportunity to pass some pro-life legislation," Sheehan said. "I believe our governor will sign these bills," he went on, echoing other sentiments from the assembly that Gov. Susana Martinez will support the anti-abortion activists. "We also stand for family. We also stand for the traditional marriage between a man and a woman."
Indeed, Sharer echoed this statement shortly thereafter, going on to say that he supports the traditional idea of marriage between a man and a woman. New Mexico's prisons and gangs, Sharer said, are full of people who didn't have fathers.
"There's all this talk of separation of church and state," Sharer said. "But the problem is, you can't separate me from my faith." He went on to say that he was planning to introduce a bill requiring parents to be informed when their underage daughters get abortions. The original parental consent bill, which has since been reintroduced several times to the Legislature but never passed, was first proposed in 1985 according to records from the New Mexico Legislative Council Service.