Since attending his first March for Life in 1993, Dr. Steve Spaulding has journeyed to the annual event in Washington, D.C., 25 times in 27 years.
Most recently, Spaulding’s efforts to defend life — as well as the pro-life efforts of many other Southern Tier residents who attended the Jan. 18 march — have been especially profound, based on developments at home.
Four days after the march, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act that will significantly expand access to abortion, including late-term abortions. The act was signed on the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States and sparked the inaugural March for Life in 1974.
“It’s terrible,” Spaulding said of the Reproductive Health Act. “I’m hoping that this terrible law that will be harmful to many children and mothers will eventually be turned over.”
Meanwhile, many thousand people from across the country journeyed to the March for Life in hopes of eliminating legalized abortion in the U.S. altogether.
Pilgrims traveled from the Diocese of Rochester both privately and with bus groups. Included were two buses containing a total of 92 people who represented several Southern Tier counties. On the night of Jan. 17, the pilgrims boarded their buses at St. Mary Our Mother Church in Horseheads — where Spaulding is a parishioner — and Elmira Notre Dame High School and arrived in the nation’s capital around 5 a.m. For the rest of the morning, travelers chose from a wealth of March for Life-related activities, such as visiting legislators, touring the U.S. Capitol, taking part in a mid-morning Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and attending a youth rally and Mass for Life at the Capital One Arena. The diocesan contingent was joined at the march by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, who also served as a concelebrant for the Mass at the basilica.
At noon, marchers united for a rally on the National Mall. The march began around 1 p.m. and headed up Constitution Avenue toward the Capitol building and then the U.S. Supreme Court. Among the Tier marchers were an eight-person group from Cornell University and Ithaca College that traveled on a bus out of Cortland in the Diocese of Syracuse.
“The march was great,” said Abrey Feliccia, campus minister for spirituality at the two colleges. “There were so many people; it was really incredible to see. Every place we went, we would stop and talk to people.”
Feliccia acknowledged that being a part of the march “was very encouraging” in motivating her to continue advocating for life back in Ithaca, where she said pro-life views sometimes get challenged to the point that “you can feel like you’re the only one.”
“It reignites that passion,” she said of the march.
In addition to the Washington gathering, several related efforts took place in the Rochester Diocese on or near the date of the March for Life. For instance, a march took place Jan. 18 in Ithaca at the same time as the national march. According to Carolann Darling, event organizer, approximately 60 people marched from Immaculate Conception Church to the Planned Parenthood building on West Seneca Street. Participants then stood across the street from the facility, praying and holding signs supporting life and protesting abortion.
Elsewhere in the Tier, all-day adoration in honor of the unborn took place at St. Mary Church in Dansville Jan. 18; one day later, a rosary for the end of abortion was conducted across from the Planned Parenthood office on East Church Street in Elmira.
Although the 2019 March of Life has concluded, Spaulding said it’s vital for pro-life advocacy to continue all year long. He serves as president of Chemung Valley 4 Life, saying his organization is currently looking to erect a pro-life billboard along Route 86. The group also is staging a Lent 4 Life initiative March 6-April 19, praying across from Corning Planned Parenthood. In addition, the organization does rosary recitation the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. near the Elmira Planned Parenthood.
And in Ithaca, another upcoming initiative is the 40 Days for Life spring campaign that will take place March 6-April 14 near the Planned Parenthood there.
Spaulding said he hopes all these efforts will convince more folks to decry the horrors of abortion and the laws that encourage them.
“I think people will eventually look back upon this like they do slavery now, wondering how could people do this to other people,” Spaulding said. “But I think we’re going to have to change hearts before we change the law.”