NEWS STORY: Young Activists Energize Anti-Abortion March

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c. 2005 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON _ Young people were some of the most vocal participants in the 32nd annual March for Life on Monday (Jan. 24).

“A lot of teenagers have to face this choice later in life, so they decide now what they want to do,” said Cassie Feller, 15, of Parsippany, N.J. She carried a sign saying “Rock for Life,” with a logo of a fetus playing an electric guitar.

From the snow-covered Ellipse, the expanse of lawn across the street from the White House, to the multiple tiers of the MCI Center arena, teens and college-aged youth protested the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Older activists said they were encouraged by the youthful energy.

“If they live that way in their youth, truly they will do good for our country and our world,” said Metropolitan Herman, leader of the Orthodox Church in America, one of several religious leaders addressing the rally.

High school groups _ often carrying banners of their school or state _ figured prominently both at the march on the Ellipse and at a rally earlier in the day at the MCI Center.

Georgette Forney, co-founder of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign, said people born since the 1973 Supreme Court decision realize they could have been aborted.

“A lot of kids know they’ve lost a sibling,” she said in an interview, as she gathered at the rally with 45 other women who had abortions.

“My 15-year-old daughter wishes she had her sibling.”

President Bush, in what has become a tradition during his presidency, addressed the crowd members _ young and old _ in a message via telephone.

“I encourage you to take heart from our achievements, because a true culture of life cannot be sustained solely by changing laws,” he said. “We need, most of all, to change hearts. … I ask that God bless you for your dedication.”

From the stage, Nellie Gray, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said that all of the participants were there to send a message.

“We march today to tell all three branches of government the slaughter must stop,” she said. “Roe v. Wade must be overturned.”

With T-shirts, signs and even dolls, some of the more youthful members of the audience made their stance known.

Jess Wilson, 14, and Jill Francesco, 17, both from Churchville, Pa., carried plastic baby dolls.

“Any young person who gets pregnant can handle a baby,” said Wilson, speaking of young women like herself.

Francesco, agreed, saying: “All the women out there that get pregnant don’t have to have abortions. It’s not the only option.”

Members of Congress, including Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., reminded the crowd of recent anti-abortion legislation and elicited cheers.

Hoping to send a message to Congress, 18,000 Catholic youth gathered in the morning at the MCI Center, a local arena, for a rally and Mass.

“I don’t really know what kind of mother would kill her child,” said Leilani Cachola, 14, of Sunnyvale, Calif. “So that’s why I’m here to protest.”

One 20-year-old rallier, Mary Sanna of upstate New York, wore a hooded sweatshirt from the “Rock for Life” youth festival featuring Christian bands with an anti-abortion stance.

Sanna said she traveled to the day’s events because “I don’t want babies to die. They’re part of our generation.”

Other participants, including a group from Portland, Ore., wore the traditional plaid uniforms of their Catholic schools.

“The desire to have a pro-life nation in America is not fading out, because you have it _ a new generation,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, at the start of the Mass that featured more than 200 Catholic clergy.

Also impressed by the turnout was singer and youth leader Steve Angrisano of Denver, who told the crowd, “I wish the whole world could see the power of the young Catholic church today.”

Some parents attending the anti-abortion rallies brought younger children as well as teens to instill in them their beliefs against abortion.

David Remaniak, 46, of Talbot County, Md., said he brought four of his children, ranging in age from 6 to 14, “so that they would see it’s an important thing to stand up for the unborn.”

MO/RB RNS END

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