By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — PLATTSBURGH — More than 150 people gathered on Smithfield Boulevard in Plattsburgh to stand up for the lives of unborn children Sunday afternoon.
The local portion of the National Life Chain was organized by Champlain Valley Right to Life, a non-denominational organization. Other Life Chain demonstrations were held Sunday around the country and in Canada, said Martin Mischenko, co-director of Champlain Valley Right to Life and pastor of Mountain Meadows Christian Center in Mineville.
Some demonstrators held rosaries as they silently prayed for an end to abortion.
And while opinions on the specifics differed within the group, their message was clear as they held signs visible to passing motorists that read “Abortion kills children” and “Abortion hurts women.”
Mischenko’s organization believes in the “right to life from conception to natural death,” he said.
These views were echoed by Nathaniel Hughey, 15, of Plattsburgh. “If the baby had a choice or it could say that it wanted to live, I think it would,” Hughey said as he faced Smithfield Boulevard holding an anti-abortion sign. Life Chain is the first anti-abortion event Hughey has participated in, he said. He described the experience as “exciting.”
Mischenko distributed papers from National Right to Life that outlined the stance of both presidential candidates.
“We’re not a political entity ... (but) we do advocate voting for a pro-life candidate,” Mischenko said.
As a Senate candidate in the mid ‘90s and as governor of Massachusetts, Romney supported pro-abortion rights in his political career. He has since changed his position and is now anti-abortion, as is his running mate, Paul Ryan.
“I’m here because abortion is the worst thing that’s going on in our country today,” said Ken Racette, 65, of Plattsburgh. Racette said he will vote for Mitt Romney in November.
A much disputed point in the ongoing abortion debate is whether women should have the right to choose abortion if they have fallen victim to rape or incest.
Mary-Ali Taft, 17, of Morrisonville disagrees, saying she thinks abortion will one day be illegal in the United States and that she hopes this happens within her lifetime.
“The legality of abortion is disturbing, it’s unsettling, and it needs to be abolished,” she said. Taft said women who are considering abortion are not alone in their struggles. “There’s help all around you. Don’t lose hope and there are people out there that want to help.”
Another topic of contention among anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights activists is the availability of birth control to women.
“I believe that birth control and abortion are different,” and birth control should be legal, Hughey said.
Racette took a different stance. “A lot of forms of birth control actually cause abortions,” he said. Racette said abstinence from sex is the best option.
Taft agreed and is also anti-birth control. “I know there are medicinal benefits of it, but I think it’s just another enabling factor for irresponsible decisions.”
“I believe that any organization that offers abortion services has an evil agenda,” Taft added.
Martha Stahl, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of North Country New York, said abortion represents just 3 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood of the North Country provides. The other 97 percent is preventative health care, annual exams, pap tests, birth control services, family planning and testing for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Anti-abortion advocates routinely picket outside Planned Parenthood’s Plattsburgh clinic, Stahl said.
“We know there are patients who won’t come to an appointment if there are picketers outside,” Stahl said. “It can be truly intimidating.”
Planned Parenthood supports a woman’s right to make her own decisions about the health care she receives, Stahl said.