AUGUSTA — The Maine Right to Life Committee held its annual Hands Around the Capitol in Augusta Saturday to “publicly recognize and mourn” the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

At the State House, the participants stood in the cold sunshine, some at arm’s length, on the grassy area around the building itself, and a bell tolled 44 times, the number of years since the 1973 decision was handed down.

They carried signs saying “STOP ABORTION NOW” and “We STAND for LIFE” and a large banner with the image of a child that said, “Take My Hand, Not My Life.”

Event organizers billed the rally as providing “Witness for the Unborn.” This year, the short, two-block march to the State House from St. Michael’s School gym on Western Avenue was led by a youth ministry group from the Sanford-based St. Therese of Lisieux Parish.

Prior to the march, those who attended Mass next door at St. Mary of the Assumption Church and those who attended services at other nearby churches gathered in the school gym prior to the march.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, asked about what he foresees regarding the anti-abortion movement considering the national political climate, said, “I would hope we would have better appreciation for life in the new administration.”

The National Right to Life Committee’s political action committee website notes that both president-elect Donald Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence have stated and/or voted their anti-abortion stance.

Deeley said he thought Trump and Pence won the election at least partially because of the opening on the U.S. Supreme Court as well as anticipated future openings. “I’d like to see some legal protection for life,” he said.

Addressing the several hundred people gathered in the gym, Deeley said, “To take one life is to make all life less valuable.”

Gov. Paul LePage attended Saturday’s rally, as he has done each year since his election in 2010. He was joined by Maine’s 2nd District Congressman Bruce Poliquin, introduced as the lone “pro-life” congressman in New England.

Poliquin, in a friendly aside, told the audience he failed to recognize the now visibly slimmer LePage last month.

LePage moved beyond the anti-abortion topic in his address and talked about how to keep young families with children and grandparents in Maine.

He also talked finances, saying the state has a positive cash flow of $45 million according to a fiscal 2016 report which he received Friday night, and talked about the opiate addiction crisis, saying three babies born each day in the state are affected.

He said education would help reduce welfare, but that administrative costs are robbing Maine’s public education system.

LePage focused on the elderly in Maine as well, citing the story of Richard and Leonette Sukeforth, a disabled couple of 80 who were forced from their Albion home for failing to pay taxes. LePage asked for support for his bills to help change that for elderly residents.

Maine Right to Life Committee’s executive director, Teresa McCann-Tumidajski, remarked on the presidential election as well, talking of “a righteous wind at our backs.”

She also noted the decline in abortion numbers, including Maine’s.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the state saw 1,746 induced abortions in 2015, down from 2,233 in 2010 and from 2,819 in 1995.

In the St. Michael’s gym, a number of booths all featured the anti-abortion theme.

At one near the door, David Alexander of Augusta sought orders for a specialty Maine license plate with the underline “Choose Life.” In the past five years, he’s gathered 620 orders, still short of the 2,000 threshold needed for specialty plates in Maine. “The first couple of years I did really well,” he said. “The last few years it’s been pulling teeth.”

The www.mechoose-life.org/ website says money from the plates will support Maine’s Pregnancy Support Centers.

Other groups represented included the Knights of Columbus; the Christian Civic League; Shepherd’s Godparent Home of Bangor, Maine; Open Arms Pregnancy Center of Augusta; The Presence Radio; Project Rachel and Concerned Women for America of Maine.

One of the members of the St. Therese of Lisieux Parish youth ministry, Joshua Guillemette, who created a “Memorial to All Unborn Children” as his Eagle Scout project, talked of youth being “the pro-life generation.”

While the rally took place last year, the march to the nearby State House was canceled because of a snowstorm.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams