Abortion opponents gather for ‘remembrance’ service

Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Frank E. Lockwood)

In a park overlooking a former Little Rock abortion clinic, Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor and other opponents of legalized abortion will gather today to mark the 11th annual National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children.

The service will be held in the Arkansas Memorial Garden for the Unborn, which sits beside the headquarters of Arkansas Right to Life, just over the fence from the one-time location of the Women's Community Health Center.

The abortion provider, located on South University Avenue, closed its doors in 2004. Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing -- temporarily, it turns out -- a broad constitutional right to abortion, was struck down in 2022.

The memorial garden, a quiet spot with shade trees and stone benches, has a plaque stating that "over 60,000 souls were lost to abortion in Pulaski County" between 1973 and 2014.

"Each of these children is lost to the world but known to the Creator," it reads.

The garden was dedicated in September 2016.

"It's got a little reflecting pool out there and has a wire sculpture of Christ that's hanging from the trees, and it's just really a beautiful place," said Rose Mimms, Arkansas Right to Life's executive director.

Since it opened, vandals have spray-painted the plaque and defaced the sculpture. Other trespassers mangled the water pipes, unleashing $500 worth of water on two occasions, she said.

Activists say memorials to the unborn are also at churches in Atkins, Barling, Batesville, Bella Vista, Berryville, Cherokee Village, Conway, Dardanelle, Eureka Springs, Harrison, Heber Springs, Horseshoe Bend, Hot Springs Village, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, Marche, North Little Rock, Pocahontas, Russellville, Springdale, St. Vincent and West Memphis, as well as at a school in Morrilton and cemeteries in Hot Springs, Little Rock, Paragould and Pine Bluff.

In March, lawmakers passed legislation authorizing a privately funded "monument to the unborn" at the state Capitol to serve "as a constant reminder of our duty to protect the life of every innocent human person, no matter how young or old, or how helpless and vulnerable that person may be."

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the bill into law. Design proposals are being accepted by the secretary of state's office.

At today's service, Taylor, who has led the Diocese of Little Rock since 2008, will pray and give a reflection on Ezekiel 36:26-27: "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them." (Revised New American Bible).

Marvin Barham, pastor of Jubilee Church in Maumelle, and Donna Ezell, executive director of Caring Hearts Pregnancy Center, will also speak.

Similar remembrance services are being held in dozens of states across the country.

If you go: The National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children service is at 11:30 a.m. today at the Memorial Garden for the Unborn, 1515 S. University Ave.