Pro-life activists speak out at annual State House rally

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PROVIDENCE — Pro-life activists voiced their opposition to abortion last Tuesday, January 24, at the annual statewide pro-life rally organized by Rhode Island Right to Life. The rally took place in the State House rotunda and was attended by families, clergy and students as well as state senators and representatives who have expressed support for the pro-life cause.

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Dr. Susan Yoshihara, outgoing board member at Rhode Island Right to Life, offered the keynote address. Yoshihara, who will be leaving her role as education chairperson to relocate to Washington, D.C., is a senior vice president for Research at the Center for Family and Human Rights, a Washington, D.C., and New York-based research institute that aims to impact social policy debate at the United Nations.

“We are called to be a witness to that which is small and beautiful but — make no mistake — powerful and life-changing,” said Yoshihara. “Look at our children. They’re so small and they’re so beautiful. We’ll soon be passing on this pro-life torch to our children.”

For many of the activists at Tuesday’s rally, the atmosphere was one of celebration after President Donald Trump issued an executive order January 23 reinstating the pro-life “Mexico City Policy.” The measure, first instituted by President Ronald Reagan and announced at a UN conference on population held in Mexico City in 1984, forbids the U.S. government from providing aid to any foreign nongovernmental organization that performs or promotes abortion as a method of family planning.

Yoshihara, speaking with Rhode Island Catholic following the rally, lauded the measure, which forbids federal tax dollars from funding abortions overseas.

“When you talk to people on the ground, and I have, the clinics that get that money are the ones that stay open. And a lot of that money goes to contraception and abortion,” she said.

Yoshihara emphasized that reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy does not reduce American aid to overseas organizations, but redirects funds away from clinics that provide abortion services and toward clinics that provide health services without abortion.

“It really is effective in getting that money back to maternal health, back to child health, and that’s where it needs to be,” she said.

Barth Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, also praised the measure, announcing its implications for federal abortion policy to cheers from the crowd. Bracy also discussed the possibility of other policy changes during the pro-life administration, including the appointment of a Supreme Court justice who could be instrumental in overturning Roe v. Wade and returning control of abortion law to individual states.

“What it means is that states will have the power once again to pass laws protecting and defending human babies,” he said. “If we want to end abortion in R.I., it’s within our grasp and it depends on what we do here.”

Other speakers at the rally included Hannah Grant-Lusignan, a member of the activist group Silent No More who spoke about her experience having an abortion and conversion to the pro-life cause, and her daughter, Amelia, who shared her own perspective on her mother’s story.

“I have heard people say that having an abortion is an issue that should be between a woman and her doctor,” said Amelia. “But I remember when my mother told me she had aborted three of my siblings. Sadness filled my heart not only for my aborted siblings, but for my mother.”

Amelia, a high school senior and parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Coventry, said she felt encouraged by her mother’s willingness to speak about her experience and fight against abortion.

“My hope is that in my lifetime, a young pregnant woman will be supported by the people around her and not be pressed into the misery of abortion,” she said.

Clergy from several denominations also participated in the rally, including Father Bernard Healey, director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, who offered the closing prayer, and Bishop Herson Gonzalez, pastor at Calvary Worship Center, a Pentecostal Episcopal church in Woonsocket, who offered the opening prayer. Several priests also attended, including Father Chris Murphy, who said he sees his participation in pro-life events as a responsibility to the people of the diocese.

“The priest is in a unique role,” he told Rhode Island Catholic following the rally. “It is up to the priest to form his people so that they can engage in the appropriate conversations to effect change in laws and in the public arena.”

Ryan Miech, a senior at Bishop Hendricken High School, attended the rally for his third year. He is a member of his school’s pro-life club, which participates in activism and holds fundraisers for pro-life causes.

“It’s always been important to me to take time out and come support this cause,” said Miech. “I think it reflects on me as a person the most because I think love today is vastly thrown aside and swept under the rug. I thought this was a way to get that message back out there of love and human dignity.”