RALEIGH — North Carolina Right to Life’s annual March for Life gathered at 1 p.m. on Jan. 18 in Bicentennial Plaza, directly across Jones Street from the State Legislative Building.
The organization and its march trace their roots to the 1970s when the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision made abortion legal in all 50 states. The group and the broader pro-life movement draw support from a variety of faith communities, especially Catholic and Evangelical Christians, which made up much of the support for the Raleigh event.
Msgr. Jeffrey Ingham, pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Raleigh, has been a priest in the diocese for 45 years and told NSJ, “I’ve been coming as long as I can remember.”
Ingham says showing up to the march is important because “It’s a visible sign of our respect for life and our insistence upon life … to show that we’re not alone and, in fact, most of the country agrees with us.”
While large crowds of pro-life supporters gathered, a group of approximately 10 counter-protesters also gathered directly behind the stage and chanted using a bullhorn. Those on stage, whether during prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance or speeches, were often drowned out by chants, including:
“We will fight. We will win. Throw the fetus in a bin;” “Racist, sexist, anti-gay — Christian fascists go away;” “Get your rosaries off our ovaries;” “Fetuses aren’t people;” “Abort all parasites in human bodies;” and “My body, my choice.”
Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh and a native of Colombia, told the crowd, “Don’t pay attention to them [the protesters]. We are looking around and saying, ‘They are noisy.’ Yes, but we are bigger, and we can be noisier.”
After a loud cheer from those gathered, Zarama said, “But our noise needs to a joyful noise, with love. We are not fighting. We are loving.”
President of NC Right to Life, Bill Pincus, also addressed the crowd, calling President Donald Trump “the most pro-life president in American history,” who was able to give the pro-life movement two conservative justices, adding that if he is reelected, he would likely get another pick.
If a pro-life Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, Pincus said abortion “will become a state issue,” and that North Carolina Right to Life is “uniquely positioned” to push the issue forward in the state. “Our goal is to influence public policy and legislation through education and lobbying our elected officials.”
The keynote speaker was Kurt Kondrich, father of a teenage daughter with Down syndrome named Chloe. After being told by doctors that she was likely to be born with the condition, the family pushed back against what he said was a “negative reaction” from doctors and nurses about their decision to keep their daughter. Kondrich ultimately left his job as a police officer and spends his time traveling and speaking against abortion.
In 2014, Kondrich was able to get a law passed in Pennsylvania, called Chloe’s Law, which required including more positive medical information and resources to women if prenatal tests show they are likely pregnant with a Down syndrome child. He said they did not want women to assume abortion is the right decision just because a test came back positive.
Like the other speakers, Kondrich was at times overpowered by the counter-protestors, at one point saying, “Is there some noise in the background? We need to pray for these people. They need a lot of prayer. They need Jesus.”
Kondrich said that he and Chloe also have spoken twice at the United Nations in New York City, both times about the issue of prenatal testing for Down syndrome.
“Their minister of health in Iceland was proud to announce that they had cured Down syndrome. Isn’t that amazing? And you know how they cured it? They’ve aborted 100% of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the last eight years,” Kondrich said, citing government data that nationwide, Iceland now has an average of only two children with the condition born each year.
“What happens next month if we get a prenatal test for autism, for depression,” he said, as Chloe stood by him on stage, smiling at the crowd. “How about, you may get heart disease later in life, so we might as well kill you now?”
After all the speakers were finished, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, led the crowd in a march around the legislature and by the Executive Mansion. The march was attended by around 1,000 people, according to State Capitol Police Chief Chip Hawley.
Every year, the pro-life movement observes Sanctity of Life Sunday on the closest Sunday to Jan. 22 — the anniversary of the day Roe v. Wade was decided. State organizations, like North Carolina Right to Life, will have local events in January and then travel to the national March for Life in Washington, D.C.
The 2020 March for Life in the nation’s capital will be held Friday, Jan. 24, where over 100,000 people are expected to gather on the National Mall before marching to Capitol Hill.