About 200 adults and children carrying "Abortion Kills Children" signs lined Route 140 south from Route 97 yesterday, occasionally punctuating the din of traffic with a soft hymn or a quiet prayer echoing the words printed on their signs.
"We are begging people to soften their hearts and save life," said Connie Hoge, a demonstrator from Westminster.
The hour-long Westminster Chain of Life demonstration against abortion was one of about 14,000 similar demonstrations across the nation marking "Respect for Life Sunday," a national, church-based anti-abortion event.
In Westminster, participants spread along a quarter-mile section of the city's major highway in a protest that drew just two counter-demonstrators.
Patricia Fisher, co-chair of Carroll County Right to Life and organizer of the event, said, "This is not a picket, but an hour of prayer time for the pre-born. We won't stop traffic or block streets."
Passing drivers generally were supportive, many honking their horns or giving a "thumbs up" sign to the mostly silent demonstrators.
Not all were so courteous, however.
One driver shouted, "How long since you were pregnant?" to demonstrator Kevin Utz.
"I made no comment," said Mr. Utz, who was participating with his wife and three children. "This is a silent protest."
When Mrs. Fisher chose the busy intersection about six weeks ago, traffic volume -- even on a quiet Sunday afternoon -- scared her.
"But I felt called to use this corner," she said.
"The people who see us will know why we are here," said her husband, Bob Fisher, as he passed out signs on the nearby parking lot of Crossroad Square Shopping Center.
About 15 minutes into the demonstration, two young men leaving a shop asked, "Guys, you got anymore posters?"
With their signs in hand, Wayne Battersby, 19, and Aaron Crawford, 17, took places in line. "All life is precious, and we only get one," said Mr. Battersby.
His friend said he was "not much into what society is doing today with abortion. This demonstration is standing up for Christian beliefs."
In organizing the protest, Mrs. Fisher sent messages to 30 churches in Carroll County.
Many of those who responded described the effects of their own "crisis pregnancies."
"I am tithing time to tell others how hard an abortion is to live with," said Marcia Reinhart, who said she had an abortion 24 years ago. "Maybe, I can help some other woman think twice. It's not birth control; it's killing a child."
At 22, Heather Jones said she has had two unplanned pregnancies and has given up both babies for adoption.
"There is a choice, and it doesn't involve killing," said Lou Enoff, who stood next to Ms. Jones in the chain. "Thousands of families are ready to adopt these children."
Richard DeMario said he and his wife frequently have offered their Manchester home to women in crisis pregnancies. One pregnant young woman living with them now has had three couples offer to adopt her child.
"Abortion is not the solution to any crisis," said Mr. DeMario, who held the youngest of his four children in his arms.
Similar demonstrations took place in Taneytown, Emmitsburg and Frederick, said Vince Perticone, who organized a chain of about 50 people in Taneytown.
"Our chain was a solemn, prayerful and peaceful stand of people look ing at our nation's preservation in our progeny," he said. "Prayer is the only way we will change people's hearts."
Surrounded by people decrying abortion from both sides of the highway, two women chose the median strip to make a stand for abortion rights.
Eleanor Johnson and Lucille Coleman held tightly to their large purple "Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights" banner. A mood of tolerance prevailed, and no harsh words were exchanged.
Although they were the only abortion-rights activists to participate in the counter-demonstration, Ms. Johnson said they represented the majority of Marylanders "who decisively defeated efforts to limit abortions."
"We hold life sacred but feel the diversity of opinion on the morality of abortion," she said. "Choice is the essence of democracy."