Record turnout at annual “March for Life” protest

  • Pro-abortion rights advocates rally and chant on the corner of Fayette and South Main streets near the Equality Health Center as a steady stream of about 400 anti-abortion advocates walk by while praying during counter protests in downtown Concord on Saturday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ photos / Monitor staff

  • Lisa King of Nashua, Angel Ryan of Manchester and Ryan’s 12-year-old daughter, Monica, stand with signs at New Hampshire Right to Life’s annual rally in front of the State House in Concord on Saturday.

  • Pro-abortion rights advocates rally on S. Main Street near the Equality Health Center in Concord on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Pro-abortion rights advocate Zoe Eldridge holds up a sign during a rally on S. Main Street near the Equality Health Center in Concord on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • New Hampshire Right to Life’s annual rally took place in front of the State House in Concord on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. Anti-abortion advocates then participated in a March For Life around the Equality Health Center on S. Main Street. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Anti-abortion advocates place flower petals into a baby’s coffin during a procession around the block where a group of pro-abortion rights advocates rallied near the Equality Health Center in Concord on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Anti-abortion advocates Karen Colageo and Mary Simpson walk away from a pro-abortion rights rally at the conclusion of counter protests in downtown Concord on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 1/14/2017 10:30:49 PM

Children and teenagers with handmade signs, a father with a picture of a baby in an outstretched hand, and a self-proclaimed feminist who said no to abortion gathered before the State House steps Saturday morning to rally for life.

Less than a half-mile away on South Main Street, a smaller crowd of primarily women lined the sidewalk in front of the Equality Health Center to stand up for a women’s right to choose. Some were first-time participants in the counter-protest, others veterans to the case, but all shared similar fears about the future of women’s health care under a soon-to-be Republican administration in Washington.

Despite the frigid cold Saturday morning, New Hampshire Right to Life’s annual march drew one of it’s largest crowds, roughly 400 people, and the counter-protestors did the same, with approximately 100 participants. The event took place just days before the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade.

While both sides began the day in separate areas of downtown Concord, they met in a peaceful, yet vocal protest shortly after noon on the corner of Fayette and South Main streets. The March for Life began at the State House and continued past the Equality Health Center where the counter-protesters waited outside.

Pro-abortion rights advocates chanted in unison: “My body. My choice.” “Women’s rights are human rights.” “This is what a feminist looks like.”

Anti-abortion marchers prayed and dropped flower pedals into a baby’s coffin along their route.

For 10-year-old Sylvia Horton, the march was symbolic of a choice her biological mother made to carry her until birth, with the intent of giving her up for adoption. Sylvia, who was adopted at 9-months-old, said she was at the anti-abortion event with her adoptive family “so other people can grow up and be born, too.”

Her handmade sign read: “Smile, your mom chose life.”

While the Horton family had taken part in smaller events outside Planned Parenthood in Manchester, the March for Life was a new experience. Rachel Horton of Merrimack said she is excited about the possibility of change in Washington and the president-elect’s promise to defund Planned Parenthood.

Whether that will happen in New Hampshire, as well, is hard to say, Horton said.

To kick-off Saturday’s march, many signed a petition in support of defunding Planned Parenthood in the state, and it will be delivered to Gov. Chris Sununu. Although some anti-abortion activists made note that Sununu has flip-flopped on the issue and previously voted to fund the organization.

Those in the crowd were quick to cheer when there was a call for President-elect Donald Trump to nominate a Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Alison Kaladish of Wilton said she’s doubtful the landmark decision will be overturned, but she is expecting a significant change in government health care, including the cost of abortions and contraceptives. Kaladish said she vehemently opposes taxpayer funding for abortion and believes contraceptives should not be free.

While anti-abortion advocates rallied around the idea of a future without Planned Parenthood, those outside the Equality Health Center took to South Main Street to fight for safe reproductive health services which they said are at great risk.

Lynn Chong of Sanbornton had never taken part in the counter-protest to the March for Life until Saturday. However, given the current political climate, she had to show her support for the center – not just through donations but by giving her time.

“I think it’s important to stand up for women’s gains – to preserve them,” she said. “I have a granddaughter who is 11, and I want her to grow up in a country where women aren’t suppressed.”

A woman’s right to choose what is right for her body is under significant threat, said H.A. Snyder, who is an active supporter of Planned Parenthood. Snyder said people are quick to call abortion murder, and yet there’s not the same sense of outcry for those denied life-saving medical services, or for the homeless denied shelter in the cold.

Carol Kilmister of Dunbarton expressed similar fears about what she called “an erosion of women’s rights and basic social rights.” She stood outside the health center with other first-time participants to fight for a women’s right to choose, not as a proponent of abortion.

“It’s about having a choice, and about what’s right for me,” she said. “I don’t know that abortion is the answer, but as a woman I should be able to choose for myself.”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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