LEWISTOWN - For the fourth consecutive year, the Citizens Concerned with Human Life of Mifflin-Juniata will take a public stand to promote the value of human life from conception to natural death.
The 2013 Lewistown Pro-Life March is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow in front of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in downtown Lewistown. From there, participants will march together to the Bethel AME H.O.P.E. Center.
The march will include music by the band "Fresh Fire" and singing led by Rev. Wesley Clemmer and Verna Clemmer. Featured speakers include local pastors, pro-life advocates and Rep. Kerry Benninghoff.
Event coordinator Frank Cunningham said the event is held annually near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court to legalize abortion in the U.S. This month is the 40th anniversary of the decision.
The Lewistown march is an opportunity for local pro-life advocates to raise awareness about the effects of legalized abortion and rally for the right to life, Cunningham said. Though many supporters are involved in local churches, the march is an ecumenical event designed for all community members, regardless of their religious beliefs.
"They don't have to believe in God to believe in this," he said.
Every year, about 36,000 children are lost to abortion in Pennsylvania, said Micaiah Bilger, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation education coordinator. That number was nearly twice as high during the two decades after Roe v. Wade. However, persistant advocacy and education influenced a state-wide Abortion Control Act requiring women under 18 to get parental consent before having an abortion. Also, 24 hours before an abortion, a woman must be offered information about her baby's development, the physical dangers of the procedure and alternatives available to her, Bilger said.
"Still, 36,000 deaths every year in Pennsylvania is a huge tragedy," she said.
Bringing attention to the prevalence of abortion in Pennsylvania and encouraging change is the goal for the march. Cunningham said it is the responsibility of the Citizens members and supporters to help people realize abortion is a sin.
After the local march, community members also have the opportunity to attend the 40th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. A bus trip to the event on Jan. 25 will be hosted by Crossroads Pregnancy Center, a pregnancy resource center serving women in Mifflin, Juniata and Huntingdon counties. The trip costs $20 per guest and the bus will depart Lewistown at 6:30 a.m.
Bilger said a record crowd is expected for the national march, which begins with a rally featuring pro-life speakers and legislators on the National Mall. After the rally, the crowd will march to the U.S. Supreme Court building in a peaceful pro-life demonstration.
Rev. William Weary, of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Lewistown and St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Mifflintown, plans to attend both marches in support of the pro-life cause. He said the public is often mistaken that the marches are a Catholic event and insisted that abortion is not just a religious issue.
"(Abortion) is against moral common sense," he urged.
The Citzens members encourage the public to join them for the local march at 1 p.m. in front of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Lewistown. Those who have difficulty walking and wish to participate may meet the group at the H.O.P.E. Center.
Anyone wishing to travel to Washington, D.C. for the national march may call Crossroads at 242-4800 or (814) 643-0331 to register.