Marching to ‘change hearts and minds’

Parishioners and people from across the state joined the march on Feb. 1st. (PC Father Chris Hess)

Mike Martin, a parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Glen Allen, summed up Defending Life Day when he said it was an opportunity to try to “change hearts and minds.”

During the second annual Defending Life Day, also called Virginia Pro-Life Day, Feb. 1, in Richmond, participants had the opportunity to address their legislators and aides about pro-life issues, particularly about pending legislation that will affect life such as bills that would ban taxpayer funding of abortions or that would ensure doctors could not let aborted babies die if they were born alive. Participants also opposed the bill that would amend the Constitution to make reproductive freedom a fundamental right.

A rally after the legislative advocacy induced cheers from throngs of gatherers as a variety of speakers told their stories; some sad, some happy. For example, one woman spoke about how she regrets an abortion she had years ago and how it affects her “life every day.” After the rally, despite temperatures dipping into the thirties, thousands of of pro-life supporters, including Governor Glenn Youngkin, descended upon capital grounds and flooded several blocks of downtown Richmond during the fifth-annual Virginia March for Life.

Pro-life issues address human life from conception to death, and as Eileen Panasewicz, from St. Anne, Bristol, explained, the “founding documents” declare “everyone is entitled to life” and that if we don’t respect or “disregard the weakest,” it “lends itself to disregard every generation.”

Many were there to be a voice for the unborn.

“I’m here because every life is precious and a gift of God, and the unborn  cannot speak for him or herself so hopefully I can speak for them; the whole movement can speak for them,” said Regina Coates, also from St. Michael.

For some, the legislative advocacy was a highlight. For others, it was the rally or the march itself. For all, the sheer number of pro-life supporters from Northern Virginia to Bristol was both reassuring and inspiring.

“I love it,” proclaimed Nora Pickering, another St. Michael parishioner. She appreciated “everyone coming together, telling their stories, being supportive” as they “advocate for children and human rights.”

Connor Muha, a sophomore at Peninsula Catholic High School, Newport News, found strength in the number of people marching.

“It feels good that I’m not ostracized because of my beliefs. I’m not alone,” he said, adding that sometimes in his community he feels “alone” and “outnumbered” because of his pro-life stance.

Likewise, Audrey Litkowsk, a student at Catholic High School, Virginia Beach, said, “It’s nice to be a part of something this big with so many voices across the state.”

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