Joppa resident Mary Erikson was holding her 9-year-old daughter's hand as they knelt and prayed with fellow March for Life participants in from of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Friday, when she burst into tears thinking of the babies whose lives had ended – before they started – because their mothers terminated their pregnancies.
"It was at that moment the emotion of the day and the purpose of why we were there just came over me -- I was weeping for the lost," Erikson said Friday night as she recounted her experience at the 44th annual pro-life march. "I'm holding my little girl's hand and I was just thinking some mom out there who had an abortion not being able to hold her baby's hand."
Erikson, a mother of three children, brought her 9-year-old daughter, Audrey, to the march. Her family attends Trinity Church, a Joppa-based Reformed Baptist Church – it is not affiliated with Trinity Lutheran Church, also in Joppa.
She and her daughter rode to Washington in a charter bus as part of a group led by Saint Margaret Parish, of Bel Air. The Catholic parish had extra seats on its 54-person bus, which were offered to people from other churches in Harford County who needed a ride to the march.
Erikson home-schools her three children, and she was invited to the march by fellow home-school mother Sheila Decker, of Havre de Grace. Decker has four children, and she home schools her two youngest.
Decker and her two oldest daughters went to the March for Life, Sara, 18, attends Aberdeen High School, and Anna, 15, attends Edgewood High School where she is in the International Baccalaureate magnet program.
All five rode on the bus with the Saint Margaret group, which left the Saint Mary Magdalen Mission parking lot Friday morning.
"I think that life is important, and when you make choices you have to accept responsibility, and if you make those kinds of choices at a young age, you have to be ready that, yes, I might be a mother at 18, and that's your choice to begin with – you face the consequences, it's like anything in life," Sara Decker said before the group departed.
Erikson recalled that "hope and life filled the air" at the rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument, followed by the march along Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court.
The march, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to the nation's capital to protest abortion in recent years, is typically held on the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal in the U.S.
This year's march was pushed back because the anniversary fell on a Sunday, plus Washington had been packed with people last Friday and Saturday for the inauguration of President Donald Trump and the Women's March on Washington, respectively.
Trump has pledged to appoint a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court to fill the seat of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year. Vice President Mike Pence spoke during the rally, the first time a U.S. vice president has spoken during the March for Life, according to the Washington Post.
"Everyone was friendly and kind and courteous, so it was great," Erikson said of the crowd.
She said that after her group reached the Supreme Court and later started heading back to the bus, they could see "a sea of people marching from where we had begun, and it just keep going and going."
She noted a small group of pro-choice people staged a counter-rally at the Supreme Court. Police formed a line between the two groups, but Erikson said some pro-life marchers crossed the line – after going through a security screening – and prayed with the pro-choice demonstrators.
"We have different views, but it was done respectfully," she said of the pro-choice rally.
Sheila Decker and her daughters attended the inauguration last week, and she had seen anti-Trump protests that turned ugly, with protesters blocking a security checkpoint so inaugural attendees could not get through.
Decker wanted her girls to experience a peaceful protest at the March for Life.
"We have a great democracy and that it works, and if its not particularly your choice, who or what was elected, that you should still peacefully protest it, and that that's a great right that we have in this country," she said, noting her husband is in the Army and has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Decker said her husband went to other countries "to show them that there is a peaceful way to protest, there are civil liberties, and you don't have to be ruled by a dictator or by an oppressive regime."