MONTPELIER, Vt. – Braving single-digit temperatures and a political landscape chilly to their cause, abortion opponents rallied in Vermont’s capital Saturday, vowing to continue their fight.

In the 36th annual “Rally for Life,” they bundled up against the 7 degree cold for a walk down through downtown that ended at the Statehouse, where a rally was held on the steps outside before population control opponent Steven Mosher spoke to the group in the House chamber.

Police estimated the crowd of marchers at 150. The group said about 350 participated.

The weather didn’t faze them.

“A little inconvenience is nothing compared to the sanctity of life and the value of life,” said Jim Herod, 62, of Washington, pastor of Washington Baptist Church, who was among the marchers.

The event comes as the anti-abortion movement gears up for a new wave of activity following the election of Barack Obama, who is pro-choice.

His election has dashed hopes among abortion foes that U.S. Supreme Court vacancies occurring during his term might be filled with judges who support reversing Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a women’s right to have an abortion.

“It’s very difficult in Vermont, because Vermont is a very liberal state,” said Judy Sekerak, 65, of Milton. “We have the most liberal, most pro-choice group of legislators, but we keep at it and we hope there’s people who see that 50 million kids have been killed.”

The event kicked off with a Mass celebrated by Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington Bishop Salvatore Matano and then a 10-minute march from City Hall to the Statehouse. The participants carried signs saying “Let My People Grow,” “Life: The First Inalienable Right” and “Stop the Obama Abortion Agenda.”

Leading them in a call-and-response chant, Judy Brown, 20, of Rutland, yelled at the top of her lungs and the people around her replied.

“Who are we?”

“Youth!” they answered.

“What are we?”

“Alive!”

“What do we stand for?”

“Life!” they replied.

Once at the Capitol, they gathered on the steps, where Joanna Turner Bisceglio, 40, of Waterbury Center, used a bullhorn to address the crowd, telling them “half of Vermont is pro-life” and urging them to pray that Obama changes his stance on abortion.

Inside, they packed the House chamber – sitting in lawmakers’ seats and packing the gallery and balcony – and said the Pledge of Allegiance, adding a twist at the end. After the final words “with liberty and justice for all” many added “born and unborn.”

Mosher, 60, president of the Population Research Institute in Front Royal, Va., told them that after eight years of having a sympathetic ear in the White House in President Bush, the movement faces a big challenge with the impending inauguration of Obama.

Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, which sponsored the event, said that although the legality of abortion is a federal issue, states have control over regulation and control of some aspects of it.

“If Roe v. Wade falls, it goes back to the states,” she said.

Planned Parenthood officials didn’t reply to a request for comment on the rally Saturday.

AP-ES-01-17-09 1650EST


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