By Maria Rocha-Buschel
On the heels of a near government shutdown in Washington over funding of Planned Parenthood, a pro-life rally was held locally in front of Epiphany Church on Sunday. This particular rally, with around 40 protesters participating, was in support of a national pro-life movement called Life Chain that holds rallies every October.
Beth Mumm, a resident of Peter Cooper Village and the organizer of the event in front of the Gramercy Catholic church, said that Life Chain has been organizing these rallies for longer but she has organized this event in Manhattan for the last three years. The website for National Life Chain says that the organization has been holding rallies since 1987, when the first event was held in two small California towns.
Mumm said that most of the people who usually come to participate are parishioners at Epiphany, but this year there was also a group that traveled from Hicksville on Long Island, as well as a handful of people from St. Brigid’s on Avenue B and churches in Brooklyn. Representatives from the religious community also participated, including sisters from Sisters of Life and friars from Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
While the original Life Chain rally that started almost 30 years ago consisted of an actual chain, one of people linking arms and standing in prayer, the current incarnation involves participants standing on the sidewalk and displaying signs that say “Abortion kills children,” “Adoption: the loving option” and “Jesus forgives and heals.”
Life Chain organizes their events to occur at the same time throughout the country and the one at Epiphany was the only one happening in Manhattan this year. Robert Bennett, a Stuyvesant Town resident who attends daily mass at Epiphany, said he feels it’s important they have a presence in the city.
“We’re here to save lives and it’s kind of an invisible movement in New York,” he said.
Stuyvesant Town resident Linda Marzulla, who attends services at Immaculate Conception on East 14th Street, has been a counselor for 16 years, working with women with unexpected pregnancies and giving them information about adoption in the hope of steering them away from abortion.
“They have a right as humans to seek help,” she said of the service.
Jesse Chan, also a Stuyvesant Town resident, said that his involvement with the pro-life movement began before he started attending church regularly.
“This doesn’t have to do with religion,” he said. “I believe in the goodness of our hearts. If we can reach one person and save one baby then it’s working. Sometimes we change their minds and it’s a really touching thing.”
Mumm, Bennett and others involved in the rally said that they weren’t discouraged by the overwhelming pro-choice sentiment in the region. One person yelled out his car window, “Women’s right to choose! Women’s right to choose!” Others drove by while leaning on their horns, the sentiment unclear as to whether it was in support or against the rally, but others chose the silent and more direct route of driving by while sticking their middle fingers up out their car windows.
Mumm said that most people have been respectful of their protest, and Bennett said that the rude gestures and comments don’t faze him. “That’s what happens. It’s New York City,” he said. “It’s not balanced. There are definitely more negative reactions than positive but it’s all for the children.”