AUGUSTA — With the departure of former Gov. Paul LePage, who during his eight years in office often joined Hands Around the Capitol anti-abortion marchers, and the convening of a newly Democratic-controlled Legislature, anti-abortion advocates at the annual march Saturday said they see an uphill battle ahead of them in Maine even as abortion rates are on the decline, and urged their fellow activists to speak up for the unborn.

Anti-abortion rally participants walk from the St. Michael School gymnasium toward the Maine State House on Saturday in Augusta.

“What are you doing, individually, to get more pro-life candidates elected so we can have a pro-life majority that will protect the pre-born babies?” Sen. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, asked attendees at a rally before marching to the Maine State House. “The pro-abortion people out-worked us and out-spent us in November; that’s the sad truth. And if you are sitting here today, or standing here today, and you didn’t work for a pro-life candidate, didn’t donate to a pro-life candidate, then you are part of the problem.”

She urged people to run for office themselves, adding, “Believe me, God uses regular people like us to do amazing things.”

Hundreds of anti-abortion advocates rallied Saturday morning in the gymnasium of St. Michael School before marching, in single-digit temperature, to the Capitol to mark, and mourn, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that lifted bans on abortion nationwide. They joined hands and spread out around the State House as organizers rang a bell 46 times, though they appeared to fall short of having enough participants to completely encircle the State House hand-in-hand.

Dennis Guay, of Sanford, came to the rally, as he has other years, and marched with several other members of the Knights of Columbus who marched with a banner that stated, “Respect Life.”

He said he didn’t care about the cold weather because taking a stand against abortion was too important.

He said the Democrats gaining majorities in both chambers of the Legislature “is going to hurt” the anti-abortion cause, and also make it more likely assisted-suicide legislation could be reintroduced and pass.

Forty-six red roses — one for each year since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision overturning abortion bans nationwide — lie under the Liberty Bell replica Saturday at the Maine State House in Augusta. Protesters taking part in the annual Hands Around the Capitol anti-abortion rally placed the flowers there.

Teresa McCann-Tumidajski, executive director of Maine Right to Life, urged attendees to speak out against L.D. 20, “An Act To Provide Coverage for Abortion Services for MaineCare Members,” which would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to provide coverage to MaineCare members for legal abortion services.

“We can never allow this to happen,” she said. “Contact your legislators and tell them, no taxpayer-funded abortions, ever.”

Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, whom McCann-Tumidajski called “the only pro-life congressman in all of New England,” and who received a standing ovation from the crowd, said a tragedy in his life decades ago, the death of his wife and his father-in-law, who both drowned in a riptide, left him alone to raise his son, Sam, and illustrated how precious life is. He said he couldn’t imagine his life without Sam.

He said statistics show only 25 percent of Catholics vote, and he urged attendees to speak out against abortion and write letters to elected officials who, he said, will hear from their opponents, too.

“It’s critically important to speak up. The good Lord wants warriors,” he said. “You’re a warrior. I’m a warrior. If you don’t participate in this process, we know who will.”

Anti-abortion protesters hold hands and signs Saturday on the front steps of the Maine State House in Augusta.

Angel Murchison, who came to the rally from Presque Isle, said she’s hopeful Democratic control of the Legislature will not mean anti-abortion advocates will go unheard in the State House.

“I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican; God is God of both,” she said before the rally. “We need to come together to fight issues, not one another.”

McCann-Tumidajski said since Roe v. Wade, “61 million unborn children have been snuffed out by abortion.”

But she said abortion rates in Maine are declining, dropping by 19 percent since 2009, and by 2 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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