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March for Life: ‘Renewed hope for change’

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Miranda Otwell (left) and her mother, Vallie, listen to speakers at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., preceding the annual March for Life on Jan. 27, 2017. (The Dialog/Gary Morton)

For The Dialog

Eastern Shore Catholics at March for Life in Washington see possibility of legal abortion being ended

Vallie Otwell returned to the Jan. 27 March for Life in Washington for the first time in three decades, prompted by “a renewed hope for change.”

She also brought her daughter, Miranda, a senior at Easton High School who went to Ss. Peter and Paul Elementary School. “I want my kids to realize that there is hope.”

That hope for an overturning of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that essentially legalized abortion in the United States was shared by 38 other people who came by bus from Kent, Queen Anne, and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Miranda Otwell (left) and her mother, Vallie, listen to speakers at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., preceding the annual March for Life on Jan. 27, 2017. (The Dialog/Gary Morton)
Miranda Otwell (left) and her mother, Vallie, listen to speakers at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., preceding the annual March for Life on Jan. 27, 2017. (The Dialog/Gary Morton)

In most years, the march is held on Jan. 22, the day in 1973 when the decision was announced. But Jan. 22 fell on a Sunday, two days after President Trump was inaugurated, so leaders pushed the march back to Jan. 27 this year.

Pro-life activists who oppose abortion were not upset at the delay. Vallie Otwell and others noted the new administration, combined with Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes them hopeful that restrictions will be placed on abortion in the short run and that Roe v. Wade, the abortion decision, will be overturned by a Supreme Court led by appointments made by Trump.

The Eastern Shore delegation included members representing Choices Pregnancy Center, a pro-life Easton agency that assists pregnant women. Knights of Columbus in the area last year purchased a sonogram machine for Choices; they also paid for the bus that stopped in Centreville, at Chesapeake College, and on Kent Island, collecting donations for Choices in lieu of a fee for the bus trip.

Bus co-organizer Craig Clagett of the Raskob Council Knights of Columbus at Mary, Mother of Sorrows Church in Centreville, and other march veterans said they noticed a sharp increase in the number of young people participating in this year’s march.

Vallie Otwell, mother of six children, said she had participated in several marches in the 1970s and ’80s. “I hadn’t participated in it in a long time,” she said, until she decided to bring her daughter.

The number of young people impressed Miranda Otwell. “I was kind of expecting to be surrounded by people who are middle-aged and older, not by young people,” Miranda Otwell said. The size of the crowd also pleasantly surprised her. “Just seeing the number of people that were supporting it, you know you are not the only one.”

First-time marchers Mark Schilling and his daughter, Natalie, of St. Christopher Parish on Kent Island, stood at the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument listening to rally speakers, often applauding and cheering what was being said on stage. They arrived within hearing range just after Vice President Pence addressed the crowd, saying that Trump would soon nominate a Supreme Court justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice opposed to the abortion ruling.

Other speakers said legislation is moving along to defund Planned Parenthood, which they described as the largest provider of abortions in the United States, and predicted an end to legalized abortion.

“For Natalie, it’s an opportunity to experience something she’ll remember the rest of her life,” being involved in a major national movement, Schilling said. “Next year I have another (high school) senior (daughter Grace) that I will bring.”

Natalie said that at first, she wasn’t sure she wanted to attend. “I didn’t want to miss school, but [the march] kind of grew on me.”

Now she is glad she participated. “It’s interesting how many young people like me are here,” she said. “I didn’t know that that many people from so many states would be coming,” referring to signs leading marchers from such points as Dallas, Texas; the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio; and the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., among others.

Clagett, who attended his fourth March for Life, noticed another major difference in this year’s march, in addition to increased numbers of young participants. With the change of administrations and the congressional shift in power, pro-life activists opposed to abortion are optimistic.

“There’s a lot more hope now,” Clagett said.