NEW YORK — For several hours on Saturday, the island in the middle of Times Square between Broadway and Fashion Avenue was transformed into an open-air church for pro-life advocates who rallied against abortion, singing praises to God and sharing testimonies of survival.
“I came here to tell a story,” Mary Pendergraft began as the crowd sang “How Great Thou Art.”
The sun had come up after a wet, cold and overcast morning. It had warmed up enough for people who had braved raindrops to maintain their spot at the historic anti- abortion “Alive From New York” rally, hosted by Focus on the Family that attracted almost 20,000.
“We were thrilled with Saturday’s turnout, which far exceeded expectations. That close to 20,000 people would jam into New York City’s Times Square on a Saturday to celebrate life should encourage everyone who continues to champion and protect the most vulnerable and innocent among us. It was a triumph and the largest pro-life gathering in the history of New York City!” Paul Batura, vice president of Focus on the Family, said in a statement to The Christian Post.
Pendergraft had been listening quietly as other pro-life supporters like Manhattan resident Lee Mason talked about how refreshing and inspiring the event was for pro-life advocates like her in a city where abortion is now legal essentially up until the point of birth.
“Those of us who hold that life begins at conception in Manhattan are probably a pretty rare breed and to speak about it is almost to pick a fight because there are so many atheists and people who have no idea what’s going on in the universe and don’t care. So we just keep mum for the most part but this is an extremely wholesome development. I hope it happens every week from now on,” Mason said.
She had struck up a cordial conversation with Pendergraft while waiting for the speakers to take the stage for the formal “Alive From New York” program, but Mason had no idea of the journey Pendergraft traveled to declare abortion a horror on humanity.
“My story is I was raised Catholic but I walked away from the church and I got married and I had a wonderful first son. But my second son, his head was small and he was challenged physically,” Pendergraft said. “He could not walk or talk.”
So when she got pregnant a third time, Pendergraft became scared and started down a path she would later regret.
“I was worried about having another son like [that]. So I had an abortion. For a long time I did not think about it. My husband and I got separated and I started seeing a man and in the process I got pregnant again. And the second time I had an abortion,” she said.
Pendergraft eventually found salvation in a Baptist church and stayed quiet about her abortions for a long time until Jesus told her this year to begin sharing her story.
“This year the Lord has laid it on my heart that I need to go tell people about this. I need to tell them the son that I had who is challenged is 47 years old. He goes to an activity center. He still can’t walk or talk. He’s incontinent but he is the light of my life,” she said.
“My older son, he and his wife could not have children. And they adopted a child and she’s 13 years old. I just want to say there is life, there is joy, there is forgiveness. We need to tell the people that killing babies is not the way to make things better,” she said. “The parents, if they don’t want the child, they should allow for that child to be adopted by someone because there are many women and men out there who want children and cannot have them. And the people in America have destroyed generations of our children up to this point.”
Across from the island on the western bank of Fashion Avenue, abortion advocates worked hard to drown out the pro-life message. A relentless band trumpeted attention to banners declaring statements like “Thank God for Abortion” and “Focus on Your Own Family” as people danced and shouted at the Christians singing praises.
“At 16, years old, I aborted my baby and the grieving for 40 years never ended until the Lord showed me I have to speak about it and it was very hard,” Cindy Fiore of Suffolk County, New York, said. “I went kicking and screaming. And once you speak about it by your testimony and the blood of the Lamb, they will know.”
The Smith Town Gospel Tabernacle member said her church runs a counseling program from women who have had abortions called Beauty for Ashes.
“We have had over 40 women now who are now free to speak to others and it’s just been the Lord. Six years He spoke this into us and we’re standing strong,” Fiore said.
The ministry is now seeking to raise money for a home to house at-risk pregnant women who are vulnerable to abortion.
She “absolutely, 100 percent” supports overturning Roe v. Wade and praised President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their pro-life advocacy.
“We have a president that went from being a sinner saved by grace [to] speaking Scripture in the White House right now with an amazing vice president praying him in. So it could be done. That’s why the enemy is going crazy right now ‘cause he knows his time is short,” Fiore said.
She admitted that even though she supports overturning Roe v. Wade as a good thing, she believes changing the heart of the public on abortion is more important to her.
“It’s beyond overturning Roe v. Wade. It’s changing the heart of His people. Changing them. I mean, you had a sleeping giant that has now been awakened for such a time as this,” she said.
Leslie Dean, regional coordinator of Silent No More Awareness Campaign for Delaware and Maryland, wore a button that announced “I regret my abortion.”
“My abortions almost destroyed my life,” she said.
“I believed the doctors when they told me it wasn’t a real baby. It wasn’t alive. And then I got pregnant with a baby that I wanted and saw my sonogram, the same age of the babies that I lost. I knew I’d been lied to. And it almost destroyed me. I literally was suicidal,” she explained.
Dean wasn’t a Christian at the time she had her abortion but once she was convicted about her actions she was ultimately able to find forgiveness and peace in God.
“I was actually pro-choice prior to that and it was through God’s grace that He put me in touch with somebody that He was continually talking to about my life and she led me to Jesus and that’s when I finally found forgiveness. Up to that point, there was no hope,” she said. “[I’m here today] because they (Focus on the Family) are showing people the truth and setting them free.”
She argued that abortion advocates have been spending a lot of money to lobby legislators to normalize the practice but she believes that pro-abortion legislators will eventually see the error of their ways.
“I think that there are a lot of pockets lined with a lot of money to vote a certain way for certain things and abortion is one of them. And I don’t want to mention any names but in the movie ‘Unplanned,’ it says one of the biggest corporations in America, and Planned Parenthood lines a lot of pockets with a lot of money to vote for the way they want you to vote,” she said.
“New York is going to have to wake up one day and realize what they’ve been doing. And it’s going to be a sad day. I don’t know when it’s going to happen or how soon it’s going to happen but somebody is going to finally wake up and see what’s been going on. It happened with the Holocaust, it happened with slavery and at the times that those things were happening, it was accepted and then somebody went ‘oh my god, this is so wrong.’ And that’s going to happen in America. God’s not going to continue to let this happen. He can’t,” she said.
She agreed that overturning Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be the focus of the fight against the culture of abortion.
“I don’t think that’s the issue. I don’t think having Roe v. Wade overturned is the issue. The issue is people knowing the truth, people knowing these are babies, these are human beings that are being murdered, and they are being torn apart and it’s wrong. And that’s what has to happen. It’s not about politics. It’s about moral judgment and people just realizing what they are doing,” she said.
Andrea Coble of Stafford, Virginia, had been reeling. Had anyone heard the comments made by Democrat Alabama State Rep. John Rogers?
Rogers recently argued against an abortion ban in that state by saying apparently in reference to black children that “some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or kill them later.”
“You bring them into the world unwanted, unloved, then you send them to the electric chair. So you kill them now or you kill them later,” he said.
Andrea believes Christians must stand against the kind of hopelessness shared by leaders like Rogers.
“Here’s where Christians have to understand something. When you’ve got leadership that tells its people that hope is gone, it’s better to kill your children now than to be on the streets and get killed on the streets or be in prison — that is the devil in the flesh, period,” she said.
“That kind of thinking is like their final solution. And that means no hope. That means no faith in God and we are finished. We have to speak up against these kind of representatives because they are leading this country. That is seriously scary that we have arrived at this point. These people are here to make a stand for life and make a stand for hope.”
Amy Fling had traveled to New York City with her sister all the way from Columbia, South Carolina.
“We’re very pro-life. We believe that life begins at conception and up to natural death. I for one was never able to conceive so when I see women who have conceived and have abortion after abortion after abortion, it hurts my heart because we try to look into adoption and it’s so expensive. And there are families out there that would love to have these babies,” she said.
“I would love to see the money that’s going to Planned Parenthood, go to adoption agencies and pro-life legislation so that people like me could adopt more easily,” Fling, who suffers from cerebral palsy, explained.
The pro-life faction chanted J-E-S-U-S repeatedly as the pro-abortion group shouted under the watchful eyes of New York Police officers. Lee Mason thought about what the spectacle meant for the city and the conversation on abortion.
“The only silver cloud, historians say, is it doesn’t necessarily come to physical fighting. A little hard to see how that’s going to happen considering the mess we’re in but [it] amazes me,” she said.
“I am interested in trying to have more gatherings like this because I think it’s extremely healthy … it gives many of us [in the city] permission to speak up in a way in which many of us have felt afraid to do. My neighbors, they’re Columbia professors. As far as I can tell, they are completely insane on this matter. What am I going to do? Have them torch my apartment? No,” she quipped.