Janet A. Morana is the executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the world’s largest mobilization of women who have had abortions. A native New Yorker, she was a public school teacher before becoming involved in pro-life work. She co-hosts the Defending Life and Catholic View for Women series on EWTN, and is a frequent guest on other TV and radio programs. She is the recipient of Legatus’ Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-life Hall of Fame Award. Her first book, Recall Abortion, was published by Saint Benedict Press.
It was Jan. 22, 1974, the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when Virginia Evers opened the San Diego Union to find a full-page ad showing a photo of a man’s fingers grasping the tiny, perfectly formed feet of a baby aborted at 10 weeks.
“The picture haunted me,” Virginia Evers recalled later in explaining what led her to create the Precious Feet pin that became the international symbol of the pro-life movement.
Mrs. Evers — mother of six, grandmother of 28 and great-grandmother of 70 — died in Chandler, Arizona, July 17, just two months shy of her 100th birthday.
“She spread the pro-life message until her last breath,” said her daughter, Dinah Monahan.
Virginia Long was an only child raised in Michigan whose destiny found her one day at a slot machine. She had been playing nickel slots when she got up to get more change, and a young man took over the machine and won the jackpot.
Virginia was upset but the young man promised to make it right if she would go out on a date with him. Two months later they were married and Ellis Evers then shipped out to war with the U.S. Army. When he returned, the couple moved to San Diego and had six children, “one right after the other,” Monahan said.
Mr. Evers was a school principal and his wife painted pastels while raising her brood. They were devout Catholics who were fiercely patriotic.
“Every morning we raised the flag, read the Bible and prayed,” Monahan recalled. The couple opened Heritage House 76, a company that distributed patriotic jewelry and materials in advance of the country’s 200th bicentennial in 1976. But the couple also was involved in pro-life efforts long before Roe v. Wade; California legalized abortion in 1967.
Meanwhile in Oregon, where abortion became legal in 1969, a young physician was shown the remains of aborted babies by a colleague and decided to snap a picture of his fingers grasping the tiny feet of an abortion victim. Dr. Russell Sacco’s iconic 1970 photo proved the undeniable humanity of these children.
When Mrs. Evers saw the photo four years later, she was moved to create a lapel pin of those feet. Through Heritage House, tens of millions of Precious Feet have been distributed around the world.
I was a parishioner of St. Charles Church in Staten Island, New York, in the late 1980s when one of my parish priests, the newly ordained Father Frank Pavone, and I found a Heritage House brochure and saw the Precious Feet pins for the first time. Using our own money, we started ordering them for all our pro-life events.
When Father Pavone became the national director of Priests for Life in 1993, we became very good customers of Heritage House and met the Evers and the Monahans — Dinah and her husband, Mike. When Mike saw that I had added pink and blue ribbons to the pins, Heritage began distributing those as well.
Mike Monahan and I became “booth buddies” at pro-life conferences all over the country. He and his wife had taken over Heritage House by then and were using some of their proceeds to help fund Hope House, a maternity home they had opened in Arizona that still welcomes pregnant women in need. They also started a maternity home in Ethiopia and opened the first pregnancy resource center on Native American soil, the Whiteriver Indian Reservation in Arizona.
Mike Monahan died in 2016 and the couple’s son, Brandon, now runs Heritage House. The Precious Feet are still available but Monahan worries that younger generations of pro-lifers haven’t fully grasped the importance of this heartbreaking and tangible reminder of the humanity of abortion victims.
“The Precious Feet are due for a resurgence,” she said.
Dr. Sacco died in June 2019, but two years earlier he and Mrs. Evers had a chance to meet for the first time. “They sat and held hands,” Monahan said
Even after Mrs. Evers went to live in an assisted living facility in Arizona, she continued to touch people’s lives.
“She saw people in the superlative,” Monahan said. “She made everyone feel special. People who worked there would line up outside her door just to share a few minutes with her.”
While missing the woman whose stamp will be forever imprinted on the pro-life movement, Mrs. Evers’ family is choosing not to mourn her death but to celebrate her life and what’s to come.
“It gives me great joy,” Monahan said, “to think of God welcoming her himself.”
To order Precious Feet from Heritage House, click here.