Connecticut Pro-Lifers March for Life and ‘Commit to Being Mighty for Our Smallest’

Despite living in a state that supports abortion rights, participants at the event expressed hope that they will be able to build on the success that the pro-life movement achieved nationally last year, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Pro-life marchers took to the streets of Hartford to make their voices heard at Connecticut's March for Life March 22, 2023.
Pro-life marchers took to the streets of Hartford to make their voices heard at Connecticut's March for Life March 22, 2023. (photo: Matt McDonald / National Catholic Register)

HARTFORD — Several thousand pro-lifers rallied and marched against abortion Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol in Connecticut, one of the most abortion-friendly states in the country.

The event began with an approximately 50-minute rally on the steps of the Capitol building, followed by a march through adjacent Bushnell Park and along several side streets, ending where it started. There, the throng was met by a handful of pro-abortion protesters holding signs.

Among the speakers, Melissa Manion told rally-goers about having an abortion. She recalled with pain telling her boyfriend, who she said wanted to stay with her and help her raise the child, that she intended to go through with the abortion and that there was nothing he could do about it.

She subsequently encountered Jesus, and now helps women with problem pregnancies.

“Now is not the time to just say we’re pro-life. We need to be pro-love. We need to embrace women who are pregnant and scared, and make faith and give love and compassion to those hiding in the shadow of abortion shame. At the end of the day, what these people need is the love of Jesus,” Manion said, to applause. “Laws may change, but that won’t. Will you all show them the love of Jesus? Will you be his hands and his feet?”

This year’s is the second annual March for Life in Hartford.

“And what has happened since we all met here last year? Roe v. Wade is over,” said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, to applause. “And someday the 1990 law still keeping abortion legal in Connecticut will be over, too.”

Marchers young and old joined the crowds in Connecticut.
Marchers young and old joined the crowds in Connecticut.(Photo: Tom Wehner)

He criticized a bill being considered in the state Legislature that would provide public funds for women traveling to Connecticut to have an abortion, which he likened to “abortion tourism.”

But he said pro-lifers standing up against abortion helped bring about the end (in June 2022) of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Be aware. Be realistic. We know the state of Connecticut, what the obstacles are here,” Wolfgang said. “But if we can overturn Roe Versus Wade, we can do anything, even in Connecticut.”

The state director for the march, Erin Getz, who also works for the Education and Defense Fund of the March for Life, said that “for too long the laws of this state have been promoting a culture of death.”

Pro-Life Mass

Earlier in the day, Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford celebrated a pro-life Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. He, along with Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich and Auxiliary Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt of Hartford attended the rally.

In his homily, Archbishop Blair described support for abortion as “self-serving moral reasoning that is divorced from the truths of God.”

Marchers young and old joined the crowds in Connecticut.
Archbishop Leonard Blair celebrates Mass ahead of the march. (Photo: Tom Wehner)

But he warned that Catholics must make sacrifices if abortion is to end. He also said that God is in charge, which ought to make pro-lifers temper any discouragement or anger.

“If we think that the fate of the world, or of society, and of the unborn and the vulnerable, if we think that rests with us, we are forgetting who God is,” Archbishop Blair said.

“… That is why our indignation over the murder of millions of unborn child must never turn into an unholy anger. That is why our unrelenting challenge of those who willfully promote abortion, and other crimes against life, must not lead us to vilify or demonize them. That is why our dismay at the deaths of so many innocents never turns into desperate acts or despair. Any temptation to think that the only justice to be had is here on earth is overcome by the knowledge that there is a just judge in heaven.”

The Register spoke with several participants from the Nutmeg State in the crowd.

Marchers young and old joined the crowds in Connecticut.
Temperatures were mild with sunshine for Connecticut's March for Life. (Photo: Tom Wehner)

Brian Johnson, 53, a project manager for a construction company who lives in Quaker Hill, brought an approximately seven-foot-high wooden cross, which he held toward the back of the crowd as he listened to speakers at the rally.

“I feel like we all have to carry our cross. The very symbol that’s going to make a difference to someone’s life is the cross, because the person who hung on the cross is going to bring back those who have gone astray,” Johnson said.

Stephanie Villeda-Schaedler, 31, of Meriden, pushed her 22-month-old son Noah in a baby carriage along the march.

Marchers young and old joined the crowds in Connecticut.
Connecticut March for Life drew crowds in Hartford. (Photo: Tom Wehner)

“I’m here to march for life, for children who weren’t given a chance for a birthday. … For all the women who feel like they can’t give birth to a baby, and remind them that they can, that they have support,” said Villeda-Schaedler, who volunteers at St. Gianna’s Pregnancy Center in New Haven and runs a post-partum group called Elizabeth Ministry that help women who have recently given birth with groceries, laundry, meals, and other practical items.

Jewish Perspective

James Mosher, 56, of New London, an Orthodox Jew, wore a white yarmulke as he marched. He said he also participated in last year’s March for Life.

“I hope that it opens the eyes of the legislators here in Hartford, our state capital, to respect life more,” Mosher said, adding that he is concerned about assisted suicide, which is under consideration in the state legislature. “It’s more than just abortion. It’s about valuing life totally. They need to become more sensitized to life. I hope that this event pushes them in that direction.”

Marchers young and old joined the crowds in Connecticut.
Marchers young and old joined the crowds in Connecticut.(Photo: Tom Wehner)

He acknowledged that socially liberal Connecticut is tough sledding for pro-lifers.

“But we can’t stop. We’ve got to keep working,” said Mosher, a member of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation. “In Judaism, we’re not allowed to stop working.”

He cited Rabbi Tarfon, who lived after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, who is quoted as saying, “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.”

The rally and march were sponsored by the Education and Defense Fund of the March for Life, which runs the large yearly January rally and march in Washington D.C.; and the Connecticut Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops.

Christina Bennett, a correspondent for Live Action News and a member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, served as master of ceremonies for the rally.

Other speakers included Christopher Healy, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops in political matters; State Rep. Trenee McGee, D-West Haven, a pro-life Democrat; Marcelina Halas, a sophomore at Central Connecticut State University, where she serves as vice president of the school’s Newman Club and founding president of the school’s chapter of Turning Point USA; and Adrienne Greto, executive director of Hopeline Pregnancy Center.

Auxiliary Bishop Betancourt offered the opening prayer at the Capitol. Jordan Watson, a worship leader and behavioral health professional, sang the national anthem.

Students Gemma Marchetti, Anna Melton, Thomas Grimm, John Paul Underhill and Ava Lannigan from the Cardinal Kung Academy in Stamford led the Pledge of Allegiance at the rally. Students from Xavier High School in Middletown led the procession with the march’s official banner.

Said Getz, “Connecticut is small but mighty. So let us today commit to being mighty for our smallest.”