EAST STROUDSBURG — Bundled up in jackets, hats and gloves, dozens of people took to the streets of Monroe County on Jan. 29 to call for an end to legalized abortion.

After youth groups from Saint Matthew Parish and Our Lady Queen of Peace determined they could not make their annual trip to Washington for the 2021 March for Life, they decided to co-organize a local “March for Life” throughout East Stroudsburg.

“I feel like it’s more powerful to do local things sometimes,” Kyli Ramsay, 17, a parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville, said.

Ramsay has made the trip to the March for Life in Washington five times. While she calls each of those experiences powerful, she admitted holding this year’s march locally would likely have a greater impact.

“It has been cool to see the different people that get involved across churches, the kids that I know from school,” Ramsay said. “Sometimes it’s not always people that you would expect.”

The local March for Life in East Stroudsburg lasted for more than an hour. Marchers started at Saint Matthew Parish and followed a pre-determined route that took them near the community’s hospital, university and other landmarks. Participants created signs and offered prayers along the way.

The March for Life in East Stroudsburg was the first big pro-life event for David Mierzwa, 16, a parishioner of Saint Matthew Parish. Even though temperatures for the walk were barely over 12 degrees, he marched in order to spread a pro-life message to his peers.

“God intended us to have new life and Jesus was a part of that. Mary was a virgin and God gave her the blessing to have Jesus. Jesus was a great example that all babies should have a chance,” Mierzwa said.

The cold weather also didn’t bother marcher Andrew Lafiura, 16, a parishioner from Our Lady of Queen of Peace Parish.

“It could be in the negatives (temperatures) and there would be the same amount of people,” the Effort teenager said. “I think it’s astonishing that people are doing this locally.”

Local marchers acknowledged that it has been 48 years since two Supreme Court decisions removed protections for the unborn.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a fetus was not a person but a “potential life” without constitutional rights of its own, and limited state regulation of abortions according to each trimester. That same day, the court’s Doe v. Bolton decision prohibited state regulation of abortion during all trimesters if the procedure was sought for reasons of maternal health, including “physical, emotional, psychological, familial” factors or the woman’s age.

For teenagers, the abortion debate can be a sensitive subject and difficult to talk about.

“It is really hard. My generation very much advocates for pro-choice, a lot of them do and I think a lot fail to understand what they really mean when they say that,” Ramsay explained.

Lafiura agreed that discussing abortion is not a “light-hearted” topic, he says seeing so many people take part in the local march will help facilitate those talks.

“To see so many people understanding each other for this huge topic is amazing,” he said.

In addition to people from the two parishes organizing the local March for Life taking part, parishioners and friends from many other parishes, including Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Pocono Pines, Our Lady of Victory Parish in Tannersville and Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top also participated.

Boiling his experience up in just a few words, Mierzwa said, “We want people to know that a life is a life and that