Marching in Connecticut
In deep blue Connecticut, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by some 20 percentage points, a sprig of hope surfaced on an early spring day as the 2nd annual state March for Life got under way at the Capitol building in Hartford. Featuring a succession of truly inspiring prayers and rally addresses, with more than 1,000 upbeat participants from parishes, Catholic schools, homeschools, the Knights of Columbus, and other pro-life groups, the March 22 event was a marker in the long and largely losing history of the pro-life movement in the Nutmeg State. But with the contagious enthusiasm of the many young people, and the stalwart steps of older activists who refuse to cede their beloved land to the forces of death, one retains hope for the future of the small New England state that was founded on religious freedom principles.
The rally took place in the stately, columned portico of the gold-domed Capitol (where the legislature meets), a spacious area perfectly suited for political protests. The march itself wound through adjacent Bushnell Park, making a round of the circular traffic pattern and returning to the Capitol grounds. The emcee was Christina Bennett, who spoke eloquently of her love for her home state and the heartbreak she feels at having seen it veer during the past year even further from the cause of life. Her mother turned away from abortion while carrying her, Bennett said, and she has devoted her own life to helping women in crisis, starting off years ago as a volunteer at pregnancy centers. She then worked for Family Institute of Connecticut, joined the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, and currently serves as a news correspondent for Live Action, the national pro-life organization.
Other speakers included Peter Wolfgang, president of Family Institute of Connecticut; Christopher Healy of the Connecticut Catholic Conference; a number of college students who spoke of fighting the good fight on secular campuses; and representatives from the state’s eleven pregnancy centers. The Most Reverend Juan Miguel Betancourt, auxiliary bishop of the Hartford archdiocese, opened the proceedings with a prayer, setting a serious yet hopeful tone for the march. With all these wonderful witnesses and frontline workers for the cause, and the thousand-plus marchers cheering and waving signs for life, one had to wonder how the state had fallen into the hands of abortion extremists.
The Connecticut event is a manifestation of the national March for Life’s efforts to promote statewide marches to bring the life message to local populations and draw attention to specific attacks on life in each state. With the overruling of Roe v. Wade last June, this year’s march drew additional numbers and renewed resolve after the state legislature took steps to encourage women from abortion-restrictive states to come to Connecticut. Speakers focused on a bill in the General Assembly—which opponents call the “abortion tourism bill”—that would provide funds for women from other states to procure an abortion in Connecticut, setting aside $2 million in the state budget to pay for their transportation and lodging costs. Thus, prolifers would be forced to abet abortion against their conscience.
An “aid in dying” bill, which “allows terminally ill adults, under specified conditions, to obtain and use prescriptions to self-administer lethal medications,” has also been reintroduced. Despite its restrictions—for instance, requiring that two doctors must certify that the person seeking death is terminally ill and mentally competent—the bill would be another slide along the slippery slope to legal euthanasia. The persistence of the death lobby is stunning and unstinting: Fifteen similar bills have been introduced in the past 25 years with the backing of Death with Dignity—according the group’s website, “a leader in end-of-life care policy reform” whose “mission is to promote death with dignity laws based on our model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.” Fortunately, a sometimes-unlikely coalition of disability-rights advocates and prolifers has been just as persistent, testifying time after time and stopping the bills in committee.
The speakers at the pre-march rally signaled their awareness that last year’s Dobbs decision, which returned the power to restrict or expand abortion access to the states, had ignited a firestorm of opposition. A constant theme of their addresses was that given the current political climate in Connecticut, pro-life programs, plans, and goals must be tailored to reality; still, real progress can be made. Indeed, a strong network already exists of pro-life, pro-family groups working together to turn the tide—beyond just lobbying to stop the worst bills from becoming law.
Grassroot efforts like the Connecticut March for Life are absolutely vital in building morale and forming pro-life networks, but they will have limited effect unless they lead to the harder work of every prolifer contacting their legislators on every wayward bill, working with their pastors to promote life within each parish, organizing smaller events town by town, and talking with their neighbors about the radical direction of the state. Perhaps Connecticut is not as pro-abortion as the polls show. Some persistent personal outreach may at least raise questions in the minds of voters who keep returning rabid culture-of-death representatives to the Capitol.