Marchers at Maryland March for Life call for defeat of constitutional amendment

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (OSV News) — Many of the pro-life supporters who attended the 45th annual Maryland March for Life held recently in Annapolis know they are in for a difficult fight come November.

That’s when Maryland voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to enshrine the right to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason – a move pro-life advocates call “extreme” and “dangerous,” with advocates for legal abortion insisting it’s about “reproductive freedom.”

Erin Younkins, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace at the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Institute for Evangelization, said the proposed amendment allows minors to have access to abortion without parental consent, while undermining parental consent for other medical issues.

“Enshrining this in the Constitution would also mean that the safeguards for women receiving abortions would no longer be in place,” she told the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

More than 1,000 march for life in Maryland

On March 11, the parishioner of St. Peter the Apostle in Libertytown was among a crowd of marchers estimated at more than 1,100 by Maryland Right to Life. Their goal was to raise awareness among lawmakers and the general public about the sanctity of all life and the ways the right to life is under assault in Maryland.

“We are absolutely trying to affect legislation,” Younkins said, “but I know that almost everyone (here) is also really hoping to convert hearts — that’s really what we want to do. We want everyone to know that they’re valuable.”

A standing-room only gathering attend Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis, Md., March 11, 2024, prior to the Maryland March for Life rally in front of the State House. (OSV News photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

The Maryland March for Life began with a youth rally at St. Mary in Annapolis, along with a Mass celebrated by Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker. Washington Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjivar concelebrated. An ecumenical, nondenominational prayer service was offered concurrently in the hall.

Bishop Parker calls for an end to worshipping autonomy

In his homily, Bishop Parker said many people today are worshipping at the “side altar” of the “so-called god of personal autonomy,” a false god that has “so distorted the concept of freedom that countless people have become convinced that nothing matters more than their own personal freedom.”

“For those who believe that personal autonomy is the greatest value, many different actions can be rationalized,” Bishop Parker said. “Think about it. If I believe that my personal freedom is more important than anything else, then of course I should have the right to end my own life. Then of course I should have the right to kill the child growing within me.”

The bishop called both “grave evils” that are rightly considered sinful.

“But the core sin, the fundamental trap that so many have fallen into, is that we live for ourselves alone,” he said.

Bishop Parker said the pro-life movement will never be fully successful in its legislative advocacy on issues such as physician-assisted suicide and abortion “unless we can convince ourselves and our fellow citizens to stop worshipping at the altar of personal autonomy.”

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Moving testimonies touch hearts

Following the Mass and prayer service, marchers made a 10-minute walk through downtown Annapolis, carrying signs with messages such as “Let their hearts beat” and “Stop abortion now.” Students from several Catholic schools were among them, including a 25-member delegation from Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville.

Ryan Bomberger, founder of the pro-life group Radiance Foundation, speaks at the Maryland March for Life rally in Annapolis March 11, 2024. (OSV News photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

In his keynote address, Ryan Bomberger noted that although he was conceived in rape, his birth mother chose life. He grew up in a diverse family of 15, 10 of whom were adopted. Bomberger now has four children of his own, two of them adopted.

“The circumstances of a conception never change the condition of our worth, and that’s what we’re fighting for today,” said Bomberger, chief creative officer of RadianceFoundation.org, a life-affirming organization whose mission is to create a culture that believes every human life has purpose.

While supporters of legal abortion once advocated for abortions that were “safe, legal and rare,” Bomberger said they today celebrate abortions that are “unsafe, unregulated and unlimited.”

“Our lives begin at the moment of conception,” he said, “and that’s when we should be treated equally.”

Participants share why they march

Kelly Guest, a parishioner of St. Bartholomew in Manchester and a mother of nine, attended the march with her three youngest children.

“They want to support the cause of unborn babies,” Guest said, “and help them the best they can to be able to see the light of day.”

Barbara Guest, 16, said she was inspired by attending the march with her family.

“As soon as you get to the march, you get to talk with everyone and you start to understand why you’re fighting for it,” she said. “It’s very eye-opening and it’s also a lot of fun.”

Joseph Ryan, a seminarian from St. Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park who serves as the Grand Knight of his seminary’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus, said the march was a “wonderful opportunity” to gather Knights together to show how priests and future priests can be involved in respecting life from conception to natural death.

Seminarians James Kimmel, Peter Henkels, Brennen McCoy and Joe Ryan from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore show their support at the March 11, 2024, Maryland March for Life rally in Annapolis. (OSV News photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

Seminarians discuss ways they can support women and families struggling with issues related to abortion, he said.

“Stay close to Christ, stay close to the church and really know that the Lord has a great plan for your life and the life of your child,” said Ryan, who is studying for the Diocese of Syracuse, New York. “Know that as difficult as it is now, there’s always hope and there’s always love with Christ and his church.”

Catholic dioceses help in the fight for life

The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Archdiocese of Washington were among the sponsors of the Maryland March for Life. Father Michael DeAscanis, pastor of St. Louis in Clarksville and St. Francis of Assisi in Fulton, gave the opening prayer.

In February, the annual Virginia Pro-Life Day took place in downtown Richmond’s Capitol Square.

The annual event brings people from every district in Virginia together to defend life from conception to natural death. This year was no exception as participants gathered Feb. 21 for advocacy in the morning and the March for Life in the afternoon. The day is a collaborative effort by the Virginia Catholic Conference, The Family Foundation, Virginia Society for Human Life, March for Life, and the dioceses of Arlington and Richmond.

Other March for Life statewide events taking place this year in their respective capital cities include Denver, April 12; Sacramento, California, April 22; Salem, Oregon, May 18; Harrisburg, Pa., Sept. 23; and Trenton, New Jersey, Sept. 26. March for Life state events that already took place include Topeka, Kansas, Jan. 24; Atlanta, Feb. 22; Phoenix, March 1; and Hartford, Connecticut, March 20.

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