PLATTSBURGH — A crowd gathered at the Newman Center in Plattsburgh on Sunday, determined to spread a message that life is sacred at every stage.
“From cradle to grave, we want everybody to be here as long as they can, and that’s what life is all about,” said Deacon Jack Lukasiewicz of Plattsburgh’s Our Lady of Victory Church, as he and other men and women prepared to make the trek from the Newman Center to Saint John’s Church for the 40th-annual Plattsburgh March for Life.
As part of the event, which is sponsored by Champlain Valley Right to Life, participants marched down Broad Street, donning winter wear and carrying signs with various anti-abortion messages, including “Stop All Abortions,” “I Regret My Abortion” and “Face It — Abortion Kills.”
“The hope is to bring to light to people who also read the paper, in addition to people that are here, that there is a right to life ... there’s no choice … God commands that we allow people to live in the womb, as well as on Earth,” said Deacon Jack Cogan of the Newman Center and Saint John’s Church, who was among the event’s participants. “No one has a right to take that life away.”
Marchers were met with sunshine and temperatures near 40 degrees; however, they proceeded down Broad Street with caution, mindful of ice beneath their feet.
“We’ve been doing the marches since Roe v. Wade,” said event participant Dr. John Middleton, who founded Champlain Valley Right to Life with his wife, Claire, 42 years ago.
The landmark Supreme Court decision of 1973 made abortions legal in the United States.
“What we hope to have is that the Supreme Courts or somebody will reverse the ruling,” Middleton said.
Upon reaching Saint John’s, marchers filed into the church to pray and listen to the words of guest speaker Kathleen Gallagher, director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.
She spoke of anti-abortion advocates’ efforts to stop the passage of the Reproductive Health Act in New York state, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo began pushing for in January 2013 to protect women’s rights to abortion.
“We fought that from January through June with everything we had,” Gallagher said.
In June 2013, the State Senate defeated the bill. This victory was partly the result of the anti-abortion movement building partnerships, using social media effectively and using a softer, gentler tone than their opponents.
“We need to say the pro-life message with compassion and love for both mother and unborn child, and we need to proclaim the pro-life message with joy,” Gallagher said.
She also noted the importance and effectiveness of getting women’s groups and female elected officials vocally involved in anti-abortion efforts.
Along with discrediting the assumption that all women are pro-choice, Gallagher said, “making woman our spokespeople on this ... gives us credibility.”
She encouraged audience members to stay informed and inform others on the issues, recruit young people to the anti-abortion cause, develop relationships with elected officials and pray.
“I’ve seen it change lawmakers’ hearts,” Gallagher said of prayer.
In addition, she noted how far the anti-abortion movement has come since the Roe vs. Wade decision.
“Fewer and fewer doctors are willing to perform abortions, less and less abortion clinics are open ... greater and greater numbers of young people in their polls express pro-life beliefs and share their pro-life beliefs, (and) more pro-life laws were enacted across this country in the past three years than in the past decade,” Gallagher said.
She added that advances in modern medicine have also made it possible to do more to save the lives of unborn children.
“So there’s a lot to be grateful for; there’s a lot to be joyful about,” Gallagher said.
The Press-Republican was unable to reach a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the North Country for comment Sunday. However, in response to last year’s March for Life, Martha Stahl, vice president of external affairs for the organization, told the Press-Republican that more than 90 percent of the work Planned Parenthood does is basic, preventative health care.
On the local level, she noted, abortions usually account for 3 to 5 percent of the services provided by her organization, Stahl said. Planned Parenthood also works to prevent unintended pregnancies, she added.
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