People pray during the 2017 Maryland March for Life. Photo by Sarah Yaklic
People pray during the 2017 Maryland March for Life. Photo by Sarah Yaklic

Despite being rescheduled due to snow, more than 600 people attended the annual Maryland March for Life on April 3.

The participants met in the parking lot of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Annapolis, and were led by members of the Knights of Columbus on motorcycles down Main Street to Lawyer’s Mall, where they gathered for a rally.

At the rally, David Bereit, founder and former CEO of the 40 Days for Life movement, said pro-life supporters in Maryland are “a light in the darkness” of a legislature that is frequently very pro-abortion. Maryland is one of the states with the fewest abortion restrictions in the United States, and there were 28,140 abortions performed in the state in 2014, Bereit noted.

Babies are not the only victims of abortion, he continued, because women also experience much physical, emotional and spiritual harm as a result of abortions.

Bereit told the story of how the 40 Days for Life movement started, when one of his friends from college pulled him aside to tell him how much the issue of abortion was weighing on him, and asked him “Why aren’t we there every day on our knees praying to end this injustice?”

Inspired by this question, Bereit began to organize the 40 Days for Life movement, where people would sign up for shifts to stand outside abortion clinics and pray, so there would be someone there 24 hours a day for 40 days. Since the movement’s beginning in 1998, 40 Days for Life has spread all over the country and the globe.

It wasn’t until several years later that Bereit learned why his friend was so passionate about the issue. Years ago, his friend had found out that his dad was dying, and he was the only one who could go visit him in the hospital. Every day when he went to his dad’s side, his dad would ask him to pray with him for an end to abortion. He complied for many days, until one day he protested and said he wanted to pray for his dad’s healing instead.

His dad mustered all his strength to sit up and say “No!” He recounted a story of how many years ago he had gotten a girl pregnant, convinced her to have an abortion, and pre-paid for it so she had no way to get out of it. But on the day the abortion was scheduled, she never showed up, and after people found out about the pregnancy, the two were forced to get married.

“That was your mother,” his dad told him. “Little did I know the person I wanted to abort would be the only person standing at my side” as he was dying.

People of all ages attended the march, with kids sitting on their parents’ shoulders, high school students walking in groups holding signs, and older couples holding each other’s hands to steady themselves.

“God blessed us with kids, so we want to help protect other kids,” said Jen Trovato, who was attending the march with her husband and two young children.

“I think it’s really important to stand up for this since [the babies] can’t,” said Faithe Rizbi, a senior at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney.

Tom Kolar, a theology teacher at Good Council, said he enjoys bringing the students to the March for Life so they can experience the larger pro-life movement and “see they are not alone in their belief.”

Ali Rak, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s Parish in Pomfret and a member of the steering committee for the event, described herself as a “pro-life convert.” She was pro-choice in college, but learning the biology behind the birth of her first child made her take another look at the issue.

“I think a lot of people are like me and really can be convinced with solid facts and arguments,” she said, later adding, “We really are not helpless in this.”

Sheila Thompson, who said she has been attending both the March for Life for years, drove herself all the way there from Fredrick County after her parish’s bus got cancelled.

“If we stop showing up, people will think we don’t care,” she said. While she stood to the side of the St. Mary’s parking lot, looking out on the crowd as people gathered to march, she said she was happy to see so many young people there who will continue marching after she no longer can.

“I’m encouraged because people are so dedicated,” she said.