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LIFE-MARCH (THIRD UPDATE) Jan-23-2008 (1,120 words) With photos posted Jan. 22 and 23. xxxn

Activists gather on the stage and on the streets at March for Life

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Amid the usual Knights of Columbus "Defend Life" signs and the throngs of school and parish groups at the 35th annual March for Life Jan. 22, Mark Hall's mobile ultrasound clinics parked on Sixth Street were an unusual new addition.

Hall and three other people drove up from Orlando, Fla., with a specially outfitted RV and a trailer that they more typically park outside abortion clinics, offering women a last chance to take a look through ultrasound at the fetal life they intend to end.

With a location in Washington right behind the stage for the rally that preceded the march, Hall and the "Messengers of Hope," as they call themselves, were attracting a lot of attention from some of the tens of thousands of people from around the country who gathered on the National Mall before marching up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court.

On the stage, March for Life organizer Nellie Gray introduced a long program of politicians, clergy and other activists who helped warm up a crowd shivering in freezing temperatures and light drizzle.

At the mobile clinics of the Pregnancy Outreach Missions, Hall's team worked at finding people willing to volunteer to support their plans for a series of 40-day stops in seven different cities. In the 12 years he has operated the mobile ultrasound service, Hall said the mission has persuaded more than 450 women not to go through with abortions they had been minutes away from having.

A boat salesman previously, Hall said he applies sales techniques -- "overcome their objections" -- to the job of persuading women to step up for ultrasound views. The offer he makes is hard to resist -- $100 cash if someone planning to have an abortion just has an ultrasound.

He said he's given away tens of thousands of dollars, but only seven of the women who have taken the money have gone ahead with an abortion.

"Of those that have the ultrasound, 95 percent change their minds," he said.

Hall explained the mobile ultrasound mission to passers-by, hoping to get "10 righteous people" to "be not afraid" and serve as captains for his tour, which he is naming in honor of Pope John Paul II.

"If we call it a pro-life project, they don't want us, but if I tell people it's a tribute to John Paul II, they welcome us," he explained.

Waiting not far from the stage as the speakers lined up, Father Chad Hatfield, an Orthodox priest who is chancellor of St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y., said he brought 25 seminarians and others to Washington for the first time.

He explained that the seminarians often participate in pro-life activities in Albany, N.Y., but they wanted to come to Washington this year to emphasize that "we're winning" the fight against abortion.

"Look at the youth here," he said, gesturing to the crowds of high school-age and younger people nearby. "The other side has abandoned their future (by having abortions). We're creating ours."

Among the speakers on the stage, Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., headed a long string of politicians who took to the microphone to make sure participants saw the fight against abortion in political terms. He warned that "America's liberal elites" were "empathy-deficient" when it comes to the unborn, turning around a phrase about Americans made by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in remarks on the presidential campaign trail a few days earlier.

A brief roar of agreement greeted a warning by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., that electing Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., or Obama as president would mean nominees for federal judgeships would be less pro-life than those nominated under President George W. Bush, so "we need to elect a pro-life president."

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, himself a candidate for president, downplayed those ambitions to emphasize his experience as an obstetrician, helping bring 4,000 babies into the world. Dozens of "Ron Paul for President" banners held high above the crowd made a point of his political ambitions for him.

In his remarks recorded at a White House breakfast earlier that morning and replayed at the rally, Bush lauded those who work for "a culture of life where a woman with an unplanned pregnancy knows there are caring people who will support her; where a pregnant teen can carry her child and complete her education; where the dignity of both the mother and child is honored and cherished."

March organizer Gray said the turnout for the annual event underscores the recognition that "it's not going to work trying to change this from the top down. It's not working that way. We're going to unite the grass roots."

Gray later was injured when she tripped and fell on the stage. She was treated for bruises and cuts requiring stitches at a local hospital and released, according to LifeSite News.

Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said the Knights, who help organize anti-abortion events around the country, do so because "abortion hurts everyone," from the unborn child and the parents to doctors and nurses who are compromised by their participation.

"It undermines respect for judges," he said. "It implicates the taxpayer who pays for it. It coarsens the society that tolerates it."

Also among the speakers onstage were bishops from around the country. Many came to Washington with groups from their dioceses, celebrating Masses at churches around the city or attending the Washington archdiocesan youth rally and Mass at the Verizon Center sports arena.

More than two dozen cardinals, archbishops and bishops stepped onto the stage; they included Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley; Archbishops Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., and Timothy P. Broglio, newly named to head the U.S. military archdiocese. Bishops participating in various events included Bishop Anthony Muheria of Embu, Kenya, and others from Florida, Maine, Kentucky, Alabama and nearby Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

As in most other years, march participants came from far and near. Busloads of people from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and New York were joined by others who flew in from across the country.

Larry Carnes, one of four people from Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Trinidad, Colo., said their trip was just one part of the parish's new pro-life outreach efforts. The far-flung parish in southeastern Colorado put together a stack of 250 signatures asking their congressman, Democrat John Salazar, to support pro-life concerns. The group delivered the petitions to the congressman's staff earlier that day.

"We were pleased," said Carnes.


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