HARRISBURG – As he finished marching around the State Capitol, Thaddeus Zielinski, 67, a resident of Chinchilla, said he was “thrilled” by the size of the crowd at the second annual Pennsylvania March for Life.
“I was very impressed, especially for a state march or gathering,” Zielinski said. “I’ve been to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life numerous years and I was very impressed with the Harrisburg March – thrilled actually – and I hope we send a clear message into the Capitol to the governor and whoever the next governor may be.”
More than 5,000 anti-abortion advocates filled the Capitol steps on Sept. 19, 2022, sprawling out onto the complex lawn and even onto North 3rd Street. It was the first official state March in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Churches from across the Diocese of Scranton had a strong presence at the 2022 March for Life. Numerous buses traveled from nearly every corner of the diocese, including Towanda, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, Williamsport and Pocono Pines.
“Love life, choose life,” the Most Reverend Nelson J. Perez, Archbishop of Philadelphia, said as he welcomed the large crowd to an outdoor rally immediately before the march.
Other speakers included Ann McElhinney, producer and co-writer of the film “Gosnell – The Untold Story of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life, and former U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette.
Barnette told the crowd she is the byproduct of rape and her mother was just 11 at the time she was conceived.
“I am grateful that there were adults in the room, adults with a mind, with a heart,” Barnette said. “My grandmother couldn’t spell her name but she had enough sense to know that what was growing in my mother’s womb was not a broomstick and was not a clump of cells but a human. It was a life!”
Barnette’s story touched Mike Kilmer of Wyalusing, who arrived at the March for Life on a bus with 35 other people from the Towanda, Wyalusing and Dushore areas.
“Her story is like wow,” Kilmer exclaimed. “I know there were a lot of tears in the audience. What a powerful story. She wouldn’t be here if people subscribed to the theory, ‘Oh, you were raped, so you should abort your baby.’”
Many families and schoolchildren – including students from Holy Redeemer High School, The University of Scranton and Marywood University – attended the second annual Pennsylvania March for Life. They joined many Republican lawmakers who have proposed anti-abortion legislation in the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
“A lot of our representatives should be paying attention. We’ve noticed that several of the representatives won’t even acknowledge the fact that we’re out here and you can see that there are thousands of people. How can you ignore that?” Alex Piechocki, a resident of Towanda and parishioner at Saints Peter & Paul Parish, asked.
Carol Carroll organized a bus trip from Luzerne County’s Back Mountain with the assistance of a Social Justice Grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal. That meant dozens of parishioners from Gate of Heaven Parish and Our Lady of Victory Parish could attend the March for Life.
“This year’s March was definitely bigger than last year. There was a lot more excitement too. It was great,” Carroll said.
“We’ve now got to go home and spread the word, not only to be here in Harrisburg but be in our communities and in our churches,” her fellow parishioner, Nancy Restaino, added.
Pennsylvania remains a state where abortions are still legal through the end of the 23rd week of pregnancy and allowed after only in cases of life or health endangerment.
Meanwhile, other states are passing laws or implementing restrictions on abortion in the post-Roe era where the legality of abortion is left up to each state.
The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, attended this year’s March for Life in Harrisburg. He also concelebrated the 1:30 p.m. Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Harrisburg which was attended by hundreds of people, including many from the Scranton area.
“It is a great testimony and witness to the fact that at the heart of the belief of so many of our Catholics is this incredible respect for human life and it’s really consoling to me to see our people be willing to stand on what they believe and be willing to profess it so boldly,” the bishop said.