PROVIDENCE — More than 150 people gathered at the State House last Wednesday in support of legislation protecting the unborn, greater oversight and public defunding of abortion centers and general recognition of the rights of humans in all stages of development during the annual statewide pro-life rally organized by Rhode Island Right to Life.
“What a great witness. It was a great crowd of committed pro-lifers speaking out, committed to the cause,” said Father Bernard Healey, director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, who offered the opening prayer on the occasion.
For some Rhode Islanders, the statewide rally offered an opportunity to make their voices heard on behalf of the unborn after severe weather prevented many groups from travelling to the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., earlier in the week. The rally also took place only two days after a Houston grand jury indicted David Daleiden, the leader behind the undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s role in offering fetal tissue for compensation, on charges related to the making of the videos. For many, the indictment, without a corresponding indictment of Planned Parenthood officials, caused a resurgence of anger and unresolved questions directed toward the abortion industry.
“We pray that we will see the end to the killing of innocents in our nation,” said keynote speaker Wendy Wright, adding that the lawsuit against Daleiden may bring further evidence of Planned Parenthood’s actions to light.
Wright, vice president of the Center for Family and Human Rights and former president of Concerned Women for America, has spoken on the national stage in support of the pro-life movement. She told Rhode Island Catholic she was impressed with the participation of pro-life individuals in the small state.
“I’m so encouraged to see such a large turnout on a weekday,” she said. “In order to pass the bills, you’ve got to have enough support among the people.”
Other speakers for the day included Dr. Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president of the Center for Family and Human Rights and education chairperson for Rhode Island Right to Life, and members of Silent No More, who gave witness about their own past experiences with abortion.
Mike Krzywonos spoke about the 40 Days for Life campaign, inviting those in attendance to participate in a Lenten vigil at one of the two Rhode Island locations that offer abortion services. A Lenten tradition locally sponsored by the diocesan Office of Life and Family Ministry, 40 Days for Life gathers pro-life advocates together in prayer and peaceful vigil outside abortion centers during their business hours. Krzywonos invited those who wish to continue their pro-life involvement to take part in this year’s campaign between February 10 and March 20 outside Planned Parenthood, Providence, and the Cranston Women’s Medical Center.
Barth E. Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, was pleased with the large turnout at the rally and said that public participation at pro-life events is essential to furthering the cause in the state.
“I think the importance is twofold,” he explained. “Firstly, a lot of the legislators look at our rally and the number of attendees as indicative of the strength of the pro-life movement in Rhode Island. And secondly, when we have these gatherings, the young people realize they’re not alone in being pro-life. It’s important for our movement to gather together with others of like mind and realize we’re not alone.”
Young people took the opportunity to gather together in support of the unborn on Wednesday, making up a significant portion of the rally’s participants. Large groups of students attended from St. Patrick Academy, Brown University Students for Life and Masters Regional Academy, a non-denominational Christian high school located in Smithfield, while others attended with parents and family. Charlotte McInnis, an eighth-grader and parishioner of Holy Apostles Church, Cranston, attended the rally with her mother and siblings to show her support of the pro-life movement.
“I feel like it’s important, especially my generation, to support what I think is right,” she said.
Nelly Durand, an 11th-grader at St. Patrick Academy, was among the guest speakers for the event. She drew parallels between the civil rights movement and the fight for the unborn, pointing out the common distortion of rights to protect only a portion of the population.
“It is not the first time that a whole class of citizens has been deemed inhuman by the Supreme Court,” said Durand. “In both cases, the word ‘citizen’ used in the Constitution were not intended to include African Americans or the unborn.”
Lauren Galvan, president of Brown University Students for Life, also spoke about her experience as a young pro-life advocate. The Brown University group, she reported, has grown to more than 100 members since its founding in 2014, and was recently recognized as an exceptional new student group by the university administration.
“It’s just so great that year after year we’re seeing more and more students coming not only to the March for Life in D.C., but also in Rhode Island,” said Bracy. “All the surveys indicate young people are becoming more and more pro-life.”
The rally concluded with a prayer by Pastor Ron Termale of the non-denominational New Life Worship Center, East Greenwich. The Cuellar family, parishioners at St. Patrick Church, Providence, led the assembled in singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as the afternoon drew to a close.