The March for Life on the Frontlines: Connecticut’s Historic Pro-Life Moment

As the pro-life community gathered in Hartford Thursday, Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life told the Register that the battle is a spiritual one.

Connecticut's March for Life in Hartford attended by several thousand people, including the Sisters of Life.
Connecticut's March for Life in Hartford attended by several thousand people, including the Sisters of Life. (photo: Tom Wehner / National Catholic Register)

HARTFORD — As the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, a decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade and send abortion legislation back to the states, organizers of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., have renewed their efforts to support state-level marches and activism. 

On Wednesday, Connecticut saw its first March for Life held on the steps of the State Capitol in Hartford. Organizers estimated there were about 3,000 marchers.

Among the speakers were Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life; Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford; evangelical archbishop Leroy Bailey, senior pastor at The First Cathedral in Bloomfield; Sister of Life Mariae Agnus Dei; Christopher Healy, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference; Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut; Lisa Maloney, president of the Connecticut Pregnancy Care Center Coalition, Christina Bennett of Live Action and State Rep. Lezlye Zupkus, R-Prospect.

Archbishop Blair told the Register as he prepared to march with the throng through the streets of downtown Hartford:

“With the prospect that the battle against abortion will go to the state level, we need to focus our efforts all the more at the local level. I am gratified to see so many people here today … and thankful for the chance to publicly stand up for life.”

Connecticut has historically been one of the nation’s most aggressively pro-abortion states, and pro-life advocates have struggled to make any meaningful changes to the law.

But their voices were heard this week. Mancini spoke with the Register at the Capitol. 

“Connecticut is a hostile environment to life. And I’ve witnessed personally that when we can rally the grassroots in any state, but especially in a hostile environment, it can have such power, not just in the people themselves, so they feel they’re not alone, but more importantly in the beautiful things that happen when people come together.”

She emphasized that, with the Dobbs decision on the horizon, “for the first time, in my lifetime, we have the possibility of the question of abortion returning to the state legislative branches.”

“So it is all the more important that we're here today in Connecticut,” she continued, “because then it will be the legislators in Connecticut deciding the laws and whether life is protected or not. And every voice matters in Connecticut. You must let your legislators know where you stand.”

She thanked the Catholic Church for its firm commitment to the unborn and human dignity at all stages of life, in particular commending the support of Archbishop Blair.

“This is the most preeminent issue in terms of social justice and human rights, and its beautiful [to see the Church] preach about it from the pulpit. We have that a lot in [my home] Diocese of Arlington. I know not everyone has that, but you certainly have that here.”


Prayer First

The night before the march, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven hosted a “Mass for Life” and reception featuring Mancini. 

Archbishop Blair celebrated the Mass in the recently renovated church that houses the tomb of Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. 

About 250 faithful attended, including Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly and his wife, Vanessa, members of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, whose headquarters are in New Haven, members of the Sisters of Life, parishioners and pro-life leaders from throughout the state. 


Spiritual Battle

Parishioner Lori Myers noted the central role of prayer — in particular the sacrifice of the Mass — for Catholics in the pro-life movement and the March for Life’s efforts to support grassroots initiatives at the state level.

“As a Catholic, the right to life from conception to natural death is front and center of our beliefs. Because there is so much spiritual warfare associated with this cause, it’s vital we as a Catholic community come together to pray on the eve of such a momentous and historical occasion as the March for Life in Hartford tomorrow.”

Father Ryan Lerner, pastor of St. Mary’s parish, told the Register, “It’s very special to me that St. Mary’s has been chosen to host this year’s archdiocesan Mass for Life [and reception]. Our parish is home to a tremendous number of families. Seeing so many children each weekend is a reminder of the sacredness of all human life, from conception until natural death.” 

Father Lerner added, “We are also excited to participate in the local March for Life in Hartford — witnessing in the public square alongside so many others who are working to transform our culture into one shaped by the gospel of life.”


Culture of Death’s ‘Mercilessness’

In his homily, Archbishop Blair noted Connecticut’s reputation as a state where anti-life legislation has contributed to a prevalent culture of death. “We find ourselves in a cloud of darkness and death,” he said, “but the bright light of God’s joy and mercy is always with us.” 

Archbishop Blair described the prevalence of abortion in American society as a sign of “mercilessness.”

He emphasized that Catholics believe “life from conception until natural death is sacred to God, the author of life,” and that, “in the end, all will be accountable to him.” 

In the face of the evil of abortion, he said, the faithful feel “the righteous indignation of the Old and New Testament prophets,” and Jesus himself “promised harsh judgment to the unrepentant.”

In the face of mercilessness, the archbishop called on the faithful to remember that “faith in Jesus is faith in the Redeemer whose heart is an ocean of mercy for even the worst of sinners.” 

He urged the faithful to pray for both an end to abortion and the conversion of abortionists and their supporters. 

“Let us never lose faith in the perfect justice and the perfect mercy of God,” he concluded. 


The End of Roe?

Following the Mass, the parish hosted a reception in the church hall featuring remarks by Supreme Knight Kelly and the March for Life’s Mancini. Kelly welcomed Mancini, Archbishop Blair and the Sisters of Life, thanking the sisters in particular for the joy they radiate through their service to the Church. 

He emphasized, too, that with the possibility of the Dobbs v. Jackson case bringing an end to Roe v. Wade this coming June, state marches “will become center stage,” particularly in states like Connecticut, which has enshrined abortion in its state constitution.

Mancini commended the Knights in her talk, saying, “The March for Life would not exist if not for the Knights of Columbus. They are the backbone of the pro-life movement” in the United States. 

Mancini listed a myriad of initiatives supported by the Knights, including the Special Olympics, the Ukraine Solidarity Fund, the Sisters of Life, and the March for Life itself. 

The March for Life is wholly committed to grassroots advocacy in state legislatures, she said: “We are at a cultural crossroads in terms of the legality of abortion.” If Dobbs overturns Roe, “the question of abortion will return to the legislative branches of the states.” 

State marches, such as the Connecticut March for Life, are vital to the pro-life strategy in combating the culture of death nationally, she underscored. 

Mancini also noted that the national march has historically been held on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January. Temperatures in 2022 were well below freezing with the wind chill, and she confessed she was looking forward to better marching weather in the local state marches.

In 2022, the March for Life’s state march program will hold five state marches: Connecticut, Virginia, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 2023, that number will double to 10, then doubling again each year until all 50 states have an annual March for Life in their capital cities.