Students from St. John Catholic School created posters in preparation for the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (Jon Kelvey and Max Simpson / Carroll County Times)
When it came to crafting a poster that expressed how she felt about life and the unborn, Isabelle Erb, 13, and a seventh-grader at The St. John Catholic School in Westminster, knew just what she was going for.
"I wanted to have a picture of a mother lovingly holding her baby, and I wanted to quote from the Bible," she said. She settled on Psalm 127:3, which reads "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward," in the King James Version.
Isabelle wrote a line inspired by the Psalm, "Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from him," written beneath the drawing of a mother hold an infant and, in elegant script, an entreaty to "Choose Life."
The poster earned Isabelle second place in the 11th annual St. John Parrish Respect Life essay and poster contest, for which she was honored Friday morning at the Portico of St. John in Westminster.
Anti-abortion demonstrators flooded Washington Friday for the annual March for Life saying they felt empowered and hopeful that the election of President Donald J. Trump could result in a rollback of laws and programs that allow women to end pregnancies.
"The students were putting in posters and essays based on the theme, 'Human Rights Begin with Human Life,' and we awarded them their prizes today," said Wendy Hoff, a member of the St. John Respect Life Ministry. "They got cash awards, and the winning poster will be carried in our march today."
The march was the 43rd March for Life rally in Washington, held every year since 1974 to mark the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision that legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. Shortly after being recognized for her poster work, Isabelle joined more than 40 other parishioners on a bus to the nation's capital, where she would join the march for the first time, holding her poster high on the National Mall.
"It took me a lot of time, and I am very proud of it," she said.
ABC News reported that crowds were larger on Friday than in recent years, although an exact estimate was not yet available, and noted that the thousands of people who gathered near the Washington Monument may have been bolstered by a new presidential administration visibly supportive of the anti-abortion movement. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the crowd, marking the first time a sitting vice president has attended the march.
People participating in the Pro-Life March travel on a bus from St. Joseph Parish in Cockeysville, Maryland to Washington D.C. to attend the annual march. (Baltimore Sun video)
"We've come to a historic moment in the cause for life," Pence told the crowd, according to ABC News. "Life is winning in America."
Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump also addressed the crowd.
Friday morning, before heading down to D.C. on the charter bus, Maria DeCesare was cautiously optimistic about the change in political headwinds. A member of St. John Catholic Church, she helped organize the trip to join the March for Life and leaned on her faith when contemplating an end to what she estimates are 55 million abortions that have taken place since Roe v. Wade.
"I think it's very positive, but we're in God's hands," DeCesare said. "I think that the power of prayer is very strong, and I think God's will prevail, eventually."
Hoff was also optimistic about the possibility of political change, but said that ultimately what was important, and the reason why they were marching, was to see people all across of the country have a change of heart.
"It's political because of the laws of our country, but basically it's just a human rights issue," she said. "We love all women, including unborn women. We believe that to defend life, you have to start at the beginning."
And to go from the beginning to the end. When it comes to the culture of life, Hoff and DeCesare are as opposed to physician assisted suicide — such as the medical-aid-in-dying bills recently introduced in the Maryland House and Senate — as they are to abortion.
"We feel that all life is precious and dignified," Hoff said. "It is just one of those slippery slopes where we are rationalizing who can be killed, and I think that is a very bad place to go instead of just helping people not feel pain and helping people to feel loved and wanted. I think it all comes down to love."