COLUMBIA — Impassioned speeches and witness to the sanctity of life stirred the hearts of many who attended the 35th annual Stand Up for Life March and Rally on Jan. 12.
“We stand at a turning point,” said Phill Kline, the keynote speaker at the rally. “Truly it cannot be said that in human history there was a nation that had more wealth and more power and more ability to offer at the table to a woman with an unwanted pregnancy as well as her unborn child.”
Kline is the district attorney in Johnson County, Kan., and a former attorney general for that state.
According to South Carolina Citizens for Life, Kline has recently filed more than 100 criminal charges against the abortion business in Overland Park, Kan. He was the first prosecutor since the Roe vs. Wade decision to obtain abortion clinic records during a Planned Parenthood investigation.
Kline and his wife Deborah are the co-founders of the Stand with Truth foundation.
His words were heard by approximately 1,000 people who showed their pro-life sentiments by their presence. The march, led by over 100 members of the Knights of Columbus, left the Russell House on the University of South Carolina campus at 11:30 a.m. and arrived at the capitol grounds shortly before noon. The dignified and solemn march included representatives, young and
old alike, from churches and other organizations carrying banners and “Stop Abortion Now” placards.
Tanya Wersinger, of Greenville, and her family arrived at the Statehouse early. “We couldn’t make it to Washington, D.C., so we wanted to show our support for life in our state capital,” she said.
In the invocation prior to the keynote speaker, Father Jim LeBlanc from St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken led prayers which recalled the numerous times God saved individuals in the Bible and gave them new life. The entire crowd responded to each supplication with “Lord, you give us life.”
Many of the attendees at the rally said they were deeply moved by the main speaker’s words.
Kathy Shaw, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia, was at the front of the crowd.
“I have been doing volunteer work at Birthright for two years,” Shaw said. “I think it is an extremely important issue that cannot be ignored. It is really important that we come together like this — to express the urgency of the issue. As Kline said, we don’t have any rights if we don’t have the right to life. That is key. I’m just gratified we have South Carolina Citizens for Life and that they organized this.”
Frances Freshwater, also of Our Lady of the Hills Church, was impressed with Kline. “He was phenomenal. He had me in tears. It was so valuable. I felt honored that we have such fine people in the legal system. Some of us just go to rallies, but we do what we can,” she said.
Valerie Baronkin, Respect Life coordinator for the Piedmont Deanery, said she has attended the Right to Life rallies since 1991. A trip to Washington, D.C., is planned for the national rally Jan. 22, and Baronkin said two buses will leave from Greenville. She said she is very pleased at the level of participation this year.
“I was personally inspired by Phill Kline,” Baronkin said. “There are things mentioned in his speech that I see even in Greenville, like girls going into abortion clinics being coerced.”
Baronkin said she also was impressed with the story of Tacinta Connor. Connor spoke about her choice not to have an abortion 10 years ago — then introduced her son. Connor said he is a loving and generous child and an honor student.
“I was impressed with her and her story and courage in coming forward,” Baronkin said. “South Carolina Citizens for Life played a big part in her being able to save her child.”
Three Sisters of Sts. Cyril and Methodius from St. Gregory the Great in Bluffton were just a few of the members of clergy and religious who showed up for the march and rally.
“This is a reflection of a long term commitment,” said Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM. “The right to life is the most basic, natural human right. If you don’t have that respect then other rights lose their meaning. So that’s why we have to be here. We give our prayers and teaching and support. We have to be visible to others.”