STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Staten Islanders were among hundreds of thousands of supporters who came out on a bitter cold day to fight for the rights of unborn children as part of the annual March For Life in Washington D.C.
Some longtime Island attendees -- like Marietta Canning, founder and president of Island-based Pro-Life Elderly and Homebound Club -- said this year's crowds were the largest they've seen at the event, which marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Court decision that legalized abortion.
"There were more people than ever this year. It was very hard to take two steps at a time," she said. Visitors were deeply encouraged by the ever-growing numbers of youth. "There were a lot more young people than last year," she added. "Last year was terrific, but this year you saw them more and more," said Ms. Canning, who added to the mix with a number of Moore Catholic High Schools students, who were part of her contingent.
Rev. Joseph Karikunnel, parochial vicar at St. Clare R.C. Church, said the increased supporters are "the work of God" as many are moved to fight against values they believe are destroying families and destroying society.
"Whether children are born or unborn they are God's children and all life is from God and God is life and nobody has the right to destroy life," he said
Among the Island participants were: Holy Child R.C. Church, Eltingville; Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church, and Sacred Heart R.C. Church, West Brighton; St. John Villa and St. Joseph Hill Academy, Arrochar; Immaculate Conception R.C. Church, Stapleton; St. Charles R.C. Church, Oakwood; St. Roch, Port Richmond; St. Joseph/St. Thomas Parish, Pleasant Plains, St. Clare R.C. Church, Great Kills; and St. John Neumann R.C. Church, Greenridge.
This year, supporters were particularly heartened by large gains on the national and local level of conservative Republicans, who support the right-to-life agenda. More than three dozen lawmakers addressed crowds calling for the landmark court decision to be overturned and stating they would work to restrict tax dollars for abortion.
"We stand with you for life," Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking House Republican, told the marchers. "Thanks to your support last November, there's a new majority in town." Cantor said the new group of Republicans in Congress is the "biggest and the most pro-life freshman class in memory."
It was definitely encouraging to The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of the New Dorp-based Priests for Life. "In previous years, Congressional members would come to the opening rally at the March for Life one by one. This year they all came together, introduced themselves and vowed that they would fight for life," he said.
Last week, House Republicans introduced two bills to toughen restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortions. In addition, rally speakers also called for an end to funding of Planned Parenthood and booed when told that President Barack Obama made a statement over the weekend supporting the Roe decision.
"We have elected more pro-lifers on the federal and state level," said Jerry Conry, 56, of Eltingville, believing the move will allow for the passage of more pro-life legislation. Additionally, Conry visited with a representative for newly elected Rep. Michael Grimm.
Angela Leibold, 64 of Annadale, the Respect for Life Coordinator of Holy Child R.C. Church, Eltingville, said the message of the march is clear: "We are trying to save lives and help the unborn. We are fighting for all the babies."
Supporters could be seen carrying banners with sayings that included: "Defend Life", "Defund Planned Parenthood", "We All Love Babies", "We Are Pro-Life", and "We Believe in Justice for Human Life."
Afterwards, the Silent No More Awareness Campaign -- a joint project of Priests For Life and Anglicans For Life, was held on the steps of the Supreme Court. It included about 65 men and women who shared their stories on how abortions had changed their lives.