Harford County will be well represented Friday when busloads of people from area churches visit the nation's capital for the 44th annual March for Life to stop abortion.
Parishioners from Saint Margaret Parish in Bel Air, one of the largest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, will be among the marchers. Saint Margaret parishioners have been attending the march for about 10 years, with about 35 to 45 people going each year, but this year, they have filled a 54-person bus to capacity, a church member said
The group includes some people from other Catholic churches in Harford County because the buses chartered by their own churches were filled to capacity, and students from The John Carroll School in Bel Air.
"This is probably the largest that it has been, but we always get a fairly solid amount," Jane O'Hara, outreach coordinator for Saint Margaret, said of the attendance.
The bus is scheduled to leave at 8:30 a.m. Friday from the church's Saint Mary Magdalen Mission on Churchville Road.
O'Hara said the march is "very peaceful and very prayerful."
She said there could be "several factors" at play regarding the increased local attendance for this year's march, including having a new president who has said he is pro-life, already has reinstated a policy banning U.S. funding for groups abroad that pay for abortions and is poised to fill the nearly year-old vacancy on the Supreme Court with what is expected to be a pro-life candidate.
O'Hara also suggested this Saturday's turnout will in part be a reaction to the previous Saturday's Women's March that drew thousands to the capital the day following President Donald Trump's inauguration, ostensity as a protest to the new president's positions and policies.
Pro-life groups have reported being excluded from the Women's March and have criticized organizers for promoting women's continued access to legal abortion.
The Right for Life march usually happens on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court landmark landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S., according to Kathy Sangmeister, a Saint Margaret parishioner and volunteer.
The high court issued its decision Jan. 22, 1973. This year the march was pushed back because of the presidential inaguration events, according to marchforlife.org which states: "As in previous Inauguration years, the National Park Service assigned the next day possible for the March for Life. We work very closely with the NPS to ensure that we have safety precautions and facility requirements met."
Sangmeister, a resident of Bel Air, coordinates transportation to the annual march.
"It's really been a blessing because people are just coming out of the woodwork and want to support the March for Life, support the sanctity of life," she said.
Sangmeister said she and other parishioners were inspired to take part in the march a decade ago by Father Jesse Bolger, a former parish priest.
"He just got it going here," Sangmeister said.
She said the march is "very near and dear to my heart."
"This is a time for healing, this is a time for coming together and it's a time to say we value life," she said. "It's an awesome experience."
O'Hara said Saint Margaret's lead pastor, Monsignor Kevin Schenning, has been "very vocal and supportive" of people attending the march this year.
The Saint Margaret group plans to attend Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception before heading to the March for Life rally. The rally will be at the Washington Monument at noon, followed by the march at 1 p.m.
Sangmeister and O'Hara both said they enjoy seeing a large turnout of young people each year.
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"The future rests in their hands, and they're going to carry us forward," Sangmeister said.