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Women 'Hungry for Truth' About Abortion, Says Head of Pregnancy Center
Julie Asher
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011
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WASHINGTON (CNS)—Laura Strietmann, the director of a Cincinnati crisis pregnancy center, calls abortion "the issue that is shaping our country," and said the challenge for pro-lifers is to get everyone "to respect life again."

In her work, she hears the stories of women's pain and sees pregnant women in need who "are hungry for the truth about abortion," she said. "When they come in the door, we need to love them and tell them the truth," that abortion is taking a life, she added.

Strietmann, a member of St. Rose Parish in Cincinnati who is enrolled in a lay pastoral program at the archdiocesan seminary, believes no woman really wants to have an abortion, but many feel they have no other choice.

She spoke to Catholic News Service as she headed toward the March for Life rally site on the National Mall Jan. 24, where thousands of pro-lifers were gathering to mark the 38th year since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion.

March for Life had not yet posted on its website an estimate for the number of participants, but the Catholic News Agency and Eternal Word Television Network said there were hundreds of thousands.

Bundled up against the cold, with the temperature hovering in the mid-20s, people streamed toward the rally site from various points, carrying all manner of signs, many of them homemade.

Among the messages were: "Choose life: Your mother did," "Unborn babies feel pain," Face it: Abortion kills a person," "I regret lost fatherhood" and "Defund Planned Parenthood."

One couple waiting for the rally to begin held identical signs that read: "To the mother of our 4 adopted children: Thank you for their lives."

Along a block of Pennsylvania Avenue, not too far from the rally site, Deborah Mischenko of Mineville, N.Y., had put up a simple display of nine poster-size images -- starting with an image of an embryo and the words "I'm here," and going through the development of a fetus in the womb. The final image was of a newborn and the words "I'm here."

Mischenko, who is with Mountain Meadows Christian Center, told CNS she had received pretty positive reaction from passers-by. "The whole point is you don't have to argue with these," or even say "abortion," she said.

Before the March for Life rally started, Stephen Kosciesza of Wheaton, Md., walked through the crowd with a sign that read, "Abortion—a neat, quick easy way out for men." He said it described the "selfishness of men who stand to benefit" from abortion.

Kosciesza said he comes every year, adding that it is important the march take place in the "epicenter" of government and will keep coming back until abortion is ended.
Max Potts, 22, was with a group from the pro-life group at De Sales University in Center Valley, Pa. Asked why he was there, he replied, "I have four words for you: because babies are awesome."

Archpriest Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., came with a group of priests and their wives and families and seminarians. He told CNS "the right" to life is a judicial term and stressed that what he and other pro-lifers are standing up for is the belief that "life is a gift from God and we're here to make that witness."

The evening before the March for Life, some of the teens who were gathered on the campus of The Catholic University of America to attend the all-night life vigil spoke to CNS about the importance of the events marking the Roe anniversary.

"It is a terrible sin," Charity Jamison said about abortion. The 15-year-old was with a group from St. Edmund Campion Academy in Cincinnati. "For me, it is terrible to think of all the friends who weren't born because of abortion."

"We are here to protest against stuff we know is wrong," said her schoolmate Naomi Fredette,16.

"We can't kill innocent children. I have seven siblings and I can't imagine not having them or not wanting them," she continued. "It's important that we pray about it. The experience is spiritually strengthening, and a big group allows your voice to be heard."

Fredette believes in the power that comes with numbers, not only strengthening an individual's spiritually but also sending a message that can change minds.

"What can you do?" asked Jenifer Readnour,18, of Kentucky. "You can pray or volunteer at pregnancy help centers. But the march is also good because it allows us to gather together and be heard."

Joe Finke, 17, who also was from Kentucky, said he participates with his friends but that he would protest even if he were the only one. "Some come here because they 'have to' or because their friends are here. Those reasons help, but I would come here no matter what," said Joe Finke, 17, of Kentucky

He added: "I think the march is also good because it has started to make people see how many are pro-life and not pro-choice."

Early in the morning on the day of the march and rally, on the other side of the Capitol, volunteers in the parish hall at St. Peter's on Capitol Hill began their day at 4 a.m., preparing a warm welcome for pro-life marchers who came by bus overnight. By day's end, they expected to have handed out 175 dozen doughnuts, served gallons of hot coffee and hot water for tea and hot chocolate, and given out numerous small containers of juice.

Chartered buses started arriving around 4:30 a.m. Pro-lifers came in waves throughout the morning and then headed down to the Mall. St. Peter's also offered four Masses before noon.

Why do it? "Because the parish is always pro-life" and shows solidarity with the marchers, said volunteer Dr. Anthony Martinez, a physician who just returned from a volunteer medical mission to Haiti. He said he has seen the enthusiasm for the pro-life cause build "like a crescendo" over the years, especially among young people.

But laws on abortion won't turn around "until the powers that be, the leaders of this country make logical decisions," Martinez said, adding, "I believe in my heart it (Roe) will be overturned." And prayer is the key." Just like when he was a child, he recalled, and Catholics prayed for "for the conversion of Russia. It happened."

"It's a full expression of our faith," said coordinator Suzanne O'Connor about the parish's support for the pro-life marchers. She said the parish has provided hospitality since the first anniversary of Roe. But, she noted, it doesn't happen without dozens of volunteers working throughout the day and helping with preparations in the days before.

Hours before March for Life participants arrived at the Supreme Court after the rally on the Mall, a woman walked back and forth in front of the court with her sign: "Choose Life: End the Death Penalty." She declined to give her name to CNS but said she was a Catholic from Maryland who spends each Monday morning in front of the court as her way to draw attention to the issue.

"All life is sacred," she said, and the death penalty "harms us all."
Contributing to this story was Becket Adams.

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