AUGUSTA — Hundreds of anti-abortion rights activists from around Maine turned out on Saturday to encircle the State House and mark the upcoming anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The activists stood in the snow at the Hands Around the Capitol event while the Liberty Bell replica on the north lawn tolled 39 times and 39 roses were laid at its base, one for each year since Roe v. Wade was decided on Jan. 22, 1973.

Roe v. Wade is the Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Before marching to the State House, the activists gathered at St. Michael School for a prayer service and rally.

“Thank you for coming out on this cold January morning,” said Teresa McCann-Tumidajski, executive director of Maine Right to Life. “We know that pro-lifers are dedicated, but pro-life Mainers are really dedicated.”

McCann-Tumidjaski and other speakers at the rally said Saturday’s event should serve as a catalyst for more activism throughout the year.

She enouraged people to attend National Right to Life’s march in Washington next weekend and her organization’s Pro-Life University in Auburn in August.

“And we know in November what we’re going to do,” she said.

“Vote,” someone in the audience said.

“And how are we going to vote?” McCann-Tumidjaski

“Pro-life!” the audience responded.

“How are we going to vote?”

“Pro-life!”

“How are we going to vote?”

“Pro-life!”

No one at the rally endorsed specific candidates and Maine Jeremiah Project Director Bob Emrich said political party doesn’t matter when voting for anti-abortion rights candidates.

When activists marched to the State House, however, they carried signs printed by National Right to Life that said, “Stop the Obama abortion agenda.”

Speaker Jean Barry, who attended the Pro-Life University event last year, emphasized the importance of education and said people opposed to abortion rights need to act on their beliefs.

“To be pro-life is to be actively engaged in the lives of those around you,” she said.

That is not limited to immediate friends and family, Barry said.

“It is to bring the pro-life message into the workplace in oh-so-subtle ways,” she said. “It is to bring the pro-life message into the public sector: to the streets, to newsprint, to social media, to the Internet.”

Emrich said opponents of abortion rights need to work hard to be successful, but some of their work is already paying off.

The election of Gov. Paul LePage, who shares their views and attended the rally at St. Michael on Saturday, is one sign of their success, Emrich said.

Several legislators also attended the event.

Speakers also pointed to statistics they said were provided by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention showing that there were 210 fewer abortions in Maine in 2009 than the previous year.

According to the Maine CDC’s 2011 Maine Women’s Health Report, 15.3 percent of reported pregnancies — which does not include miscarriages before 20 weeks — ended in pregnancy from 2006 to 2009.

Carl Maddaleni, director of Maine Vitae Society, suggested the declining number of abortions may be related to his organization’s work as Maine Right to Life’s advertising arm.

Maine Vitae Society runs TV commercials aimed at adults and buys ads on Google to reach people under 25, Maddaleni said.

“We know this is effective, so we’re pouring more money into Google,” he said.

Milo resident Rebecca Allen, 57, said the event left her even more motivated to participate in activisim. She said she sometimes prays outside a women’s clinic in Bangor that includes abortion among its services.

Allen said that both her daughter and granddaugher are pregnant right now, “and neither one’s really thrilled about it.”

She said that she understands that pregnancy can happen at “inopportune times” and used to think that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, but she has changed her mind.

“I think bad things happen to bring us to God,” she said.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]


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