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Anti-abortion advocates gather for socially distanced rally outside State House in Annapolis

Droves of activists clad in purple descended on Lawyers Mall outside the Maryland State House on Thursday afternoon to protest abortion and advocate for access to care from conception until natural death as lawmakers milled from offices to the chamber to drop last-minute bills before the deadline.

Socially distanced and protected by black fabric “LIFE” masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, the activists stood together against legislation related to abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

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“How many people here love someone who was conceived but wasn’t planned?” Maryland Right to Life Legislative Director Laura Bogley-Knickman asked the crowd. “We all know someone we could never live without. Every life counts.”

She stood with a megaphone in front of a line of activists from Students for Life of America, one of the event’s co-sponsors. Like many in the crowd, they held handmade signs and cheered when speakers mentioned what they described as “pro-life legislation.”

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Bogley-Knickman applauded a recent statement by the House Republican Caucus declaring a “pro-life” stance, but said Democrats who are in agreement are welcomed as well.

Several lawmakers attended the march, including Crownsville Republican Del. Sid Saab. Others passed through on their way from the office buildings to the chambers to drop bills off before the deadline.

Saab said he has been attending the March for Life since he was elected in 2014, and he said it is unfortunate that “pro-life” legislation isn’t taken seriously in the legislature.

Though he echoed Bogley-Knickman’s calls for Gov. Larry Hogan to take a stand on the issue, he said “his hands are tied” when legislation gets killed in committee. Hogan has said he is personally “pro-life” but hasn’t made any effort to alter abortion access in the state

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Saab was joined by House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford counties, and Del. Dan Cox, R-Carroll and Frederick counties, among others.

Germantown resident Catherine Glenn Foster, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life, spoke about the possibility of the current United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade with the help of recently confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

“Roe is a national embarrassment and we are ready to put an end to it. It is time for Roe to go,” Glenn Foster said. “One day very soon I truly believe we are going to live in a nation that is no longer governed by Roe v. Wade, by its fallacy. That means that one day very soon the power to protect children in the womb and mothers will be right back where it should have been all along — with the people.”

Student Alyssa Thoburn said she traveled from Virginia to attend the rally because she wanted to show that young people can be “pro-life,“ too.

At 17, Thoburn said she used to lean on exceptions like cases of sexual assault or when the life of the mother was at risk. Now, she wears a “pro-life generation” beanie and said she believes abortion is “the greatest human rights injustice of our time.”

She said abortion takes the life of unborn children and is violent toward women.

“I decided to do research on my own and, as soon as I started, I was just shocked by what I found,” Thoburn said. “The reality of abortion procedures and how violent they are and also the violence against women ... abortion is not actually medically necessary. There are alternatives.”

It was Thoburn’s first Maryland March for Life, an event that Bogley-Knickman said is usually much larger, sometimes with crowds of 1,000 activists marching down the streets of Annapolis for the cause.

This year, the group was much smaller, and the demonstration was mostly limited to Lawyers Mall. Members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property played the bagpipes and beat drums as others held large anti-abortion signs and solicited honks from passing motorists.

Still, Bogley-Knickman said, “each person here represents a life, so we are standing here to give a voice to the pre-born and to the vulnerable and the disabled.”

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