COLUMBIA—Damon Owens is a personal witness to what can happen when a mother chooses life for her unborn child.
Owens, a Catholic family values advocate from New Jersey, gave the keynote speech at the annual Stand Up for Life march and rally held in Columbia on Jan. 16. He is national spokesman for the Life Education and Resource Network, which links African-American pro-life organizations.
He told a moving story about how he and his wife, who already had six daughters of their own, were able to adopt their seventh daughter, Olivia, last year because a single mother in North Carolina chose not to abort her baby.
The woman already had four children, he said, and considered abortion.
“When she went to the clinic in that town, she said something told her she had to leave, had to get out of there,” Owens said. Owens said he later attended Mass at the town’s small church and met some people who prayed outside that same clinic regularly for an end to abortion.
“I have seven daughters now because of the choice that woman made,” he said. “I want to thank all of you here for your witness, the witness that can change this culture. Your true witness, however, starts tomorrow, as you bring the witness of life to your friends and to others.”
Catholics of all ages from the Diocese of Charleston joined several hundred other people of different faiths for the march.
Led by the Knights of Columbus, the marchers took their usual route from the Russell House on the University of South Carolina campus to the steps of the Statehouse facing on Gervais Street.
Marchers carried banners representing life guilds and Knights of Columbus units from parishes in all five deaneries around the diocese. The march also included several hundred Catholic youth who attended a rally and Mass held earlier in the morning at St. Joseph Church.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone offered the opening prayer. He thanked God for the large number of people who were willing to make a public commitment to stand up for life, and prayed that they would receive strength in the face of a culture that increasingly seems hostile to the sanctity of life.
Owens said people need to be aware that no matter how devoted they may think they are to the pro-life cause, that devotion will be challenged.
“My excitement being here today is mixed with the realization that everyone of us is abortion-minded,” he said. “No matter what shirts we wear, what placard we carry, because of the toxic nature of the culture, the moment we find ourselves in crisis we are all abortion-minded.
“That’s why young people need to realize that even if you screw up, God still loves you. Parents need to realize that our kids are going to screw up. You may be the pastor of a church or a community leader, and still find out your child is pregnant,” he said.
Owens urged men to “be a man, be a father,” and if faced with an unplanned pregnancy, to either raise the child or be willing to give the child up for adoption so that another family can be given the gift of parenthood.
He reminded the crowd that abortion is not simply a political issue, but a product of an overall culture that devalues life.
After the rally, many people said they felt inspired to spread the pro-life message.
“This rally taught me there needs to be someone to stand up for life, because the unborn and others can’t speak for themselves,” said Audri McGowan, 13, who attended with 28 other people from St. Theresa the Beloved Church in Summerville.
Susan Drinkwater, a member of Transfiguration Church in Blythewood, said she was happy that the rally had an overall positive message about adoption and spreading the Gospel message about life, without resorting to political posturing.
“I really liked the way the speaker put adoption out there as a very real option,” she said. “He was really able to help people relate to the reality of a crisis pregnancy situation.”
Rich Wilson, a member of St. Joseph Church in Anderson, was thrilled to see so many young people in the crowd.
“Those young people are the future of the pro-life movement,” he said.