COLUMBIA — Subfreezing temperatures didn’t keep Catholics from around the Diocese of Charleston away from the 35th annual Stand Up For Life march and rally on Jan. 17.
Hundreds of people marched from the Russell House on the University of South Carolina campus to the State House to show their opposition to abortion.
They carried banners and signs representing parishes and Knights of Columbus councils from the Upstate, Grand Strand, Pee Dee, Charleston and Hilton Head areas. Participants were led by members of the Knights of Columbus.
Marchers from the Russell House met on the State House grounds with several hundred youth who attended a special pro-life rally earlier in the morning. (See Youth Rally, page 9)
The rally opened with a prayer led by Father James LeBlanc, pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, and director of the diocesan Office of Family Life.
Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, estimated the crowd at about 1,000. She congratulated those who braved the weather to show their commitment to the fight against abortion.
“The forecasters said you would be icicles and popsicles if you showed up here, but you came out,” Gatling said, referring to morning temperatures which dipped as low as 12 degrees only a few hours before the march started at 11 a.m. “We’re here both to grieve those lost to abortion and to celebrate the birthdays you all have made possible.”
The rally featured three speakers who limited their remarks to only a few minutes because of the frigid conditions.
One of the most dramatic was Beatrice Fedor, a member of Silent No More, an organization of women who regret having abortions and travel to pro-life events telling their stories.
Fedor said she had two abortions, one while she was in college and another after she had left school and was dating a man who had a serious substance abuse problem. She said the abortions left her feeling depressed and worthless. Fedor said she discovered new meaning after her husband led her to accept Jesus Christ, and she learned about God’s forgiveness during Bible study.
“I was eight months pregnant with my son, and felt unworthy to be a mother,” she said. “I have since learned to say the words ‘God loves me and I love myself.’ Abortion not only kills our children, but it kills our ability to love and live normal lives. The worst thing about abortion is … you feel isolated from man and from God. But in Jesus there is hope.”
Former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley talked about his work to pass pro-life legislation and encouraged the crowd to support future legislative efforts to promote life.
He said many problems in the country today, ranging from the troubled economy to the continued legality of abortion, can be blamed on an overall attitude of selfishness. He encouraged pro-life activists to have a positive, charitable attitude.
“Sometimes we in the movement appear in bitterness and hatred, when we’re more effective showing God’s love,” Beasley said.
Rev. Bill Monroe, pastor of the Florence Baptist Temple, discussed the scriptural basis for protecting unborn children from the moment of conception. He also mentioned the extensive role Catholics have played in the South Carolina pro-life movement since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
He said priests and several nuns were the only other people at the first pro-life meeting he attended in the early 1970s.
“I remember thinking I wasn’t going to be welcomed because here I was a Baptist minister among Catholics,” he said. “But they welcomed me.”
Monroe also praised members of the Catholic laity who were active in the fight against abortion from the very beginning.
During the rally, Carrie Wright, 18, of Goose Creek, stood on the State House steps holding a banner with other members of her youth group from Immaculate Conception Church. They missed the youth rally earlier in the morning but participated in the march to the State House.
“”I believe everybody has a right to life no matter what,” Wright said. “This rally just shows me how important it is for people to take the initiative when it comes to the issue of promoting life.”
“The event was very good and well-attended,” said Stephen Boyle, a member of the Rev. John J. Egan Council of the Knights of Columbus, based at St. Joseph Church in Charleston.
“I was especially impressed at the amount of young folks that were here standing up on those steps,” he said. “That was outstanding. This event helps us realize the Lord is leading all of us, and we just need to follow him and do our duty to support life.”