Thursday, January 23, 2003

Feelings go deep about abortion



By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WASHINGTON - Susan Russell calls her daughter Sarah her "miracle baby."

[photo] Sarah Russell, 15, rests her head on her mother Susan's shoulder as they wait for the March for Life to begin.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
The Newport woman was newly married when she learned she was pregnant. After numerous tests, doctors predicted the child would be blind, deaf, mute and have little chance of walking. Doctors recommended an abortion.

"I told everyone, `No, what God gives us we'll love,'" said Mrs. Russell, 44.

Today, Sarah is 15 years old. She is tall and bright-eyed with a thick mane of wavy red hair. She walks without difficulty. She can see. And she's certainly not mute.

"She started talking at age 1 and never stopped," Mrs. Russell said with a laugh.

Sarah's only handicap is that she is deaf in her right ear, partially deaf in the other.

"Here's my child they recommended I abort. Can you imagine anything more beautiful than what I have right here?" Mrs. Russell said, leaning into her daughter for a quick kiss. "God has a reason for her."

Those emotions are what brought the Russells to Washington on a cold, blustery day Wednesday to participate in the 30th annual March for Life.

"It's just what we believe in, and this is our way of making a difference in the world," said Sarah, a sophomore at Newport Central Catholic High School.

The Russells were part of a crowd estimated at tens of thousands including 362 other Northern Kentucky residents - mostly Catholic high school students - who arrived in Washington at 7:30 a.m. after departing in seven buses Tuesday night from Erlanger. This is the 12th year the Diocese of Covington has participated in the march.

Another 400 Greater Cincinnati residents bused in Wednesday morning from St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, downtown.

The three-hour March for Life, which began at the Washington Monument and ended at the U.S. Supreme Court Building, was a protest of the high court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which 30 years ago legalized abortion.

Guards were on hand at the Supreme Court, where metal barricades blocked peaceful protesters from the courthouse steps.

In a statement read at the rally, President Bush committed to signing legislation authored by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, to ban partial-birth abortions.

In the last Congress, Mr. Chabot introduced and led the effort in the House to pass the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2002.

The legislation was later blocked in the Senate. Mr. Chabot will reintroduce the legislation within weeks.

`It makes me angry'

For the duration of Wednesday's march, participants were squeezed like toothpaste in the crowd that inched up Constitution Avenue. The wide road was consumed by thousands of people, strollers, wheelchairs, marching bands and banners.

Covington Catholic sophomore Adam Goessling said he didn't feel lost in the crowd at all.

"A lot of times you wonder what one person can do," he said. "But we are each one person. And if we drove all the way here to change one person's mind, it was all worth it."

The Fort Wright resident compares abortion to a "holocaust."

"It's laziness," he said. "It's a lack of common sense."

Newport Central Catholic students Jocelyn Arlinghaus, a 15-year-old freshman, and Stephanie McGahee, a 15-year-old sophomore, braved the cold Wednesday. One loves figure skating, the other volleyball. One adores Nick Carter, the other Lil' Romeo.

But both see eye-to-eye on abortion.

"When I think about abortion, I think about hatred and killing," Jocelyn said. "It makes me angry."

"There would be a lot more kids to adopt if the girls who go to parties and get knocked up would stop getting abortions," Stephanie said.

A Tuesday night prayer service at the Diocese's Catholic Center in Erlanger kicked off the trip. Sixty-four adults joined the 298 students for the 11-hour, all-night ride.

The first order of business Wednesday was to attend a breakfast and anti-abortion rally sponsored by Kentucky Right to Life at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, where the group heard speeches from Kentucky U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, both Republicans.

Mr. Bunning boasted he has missed only one march in the past 17 years.

"You will see that moral decline started with Roe v. Wade," he said. "Your coming to Washington every year reminds Americans of the holocaust that goes on every day.''

A rally at the Washington Monument took place prior to the march, where pep talks were made and protest signs were distributed.

Mike Strotman, 35, of Liberty Township stood near the memorial with his wife, Debbie. The Strotmans, along with their nine children ages 5 months to 12 years old, were participating in their first march.

"We believe in this to our core," he said, adding that he didn't hesitate to bring even the youngest children along.

"This is all the truth. And as long as it's the truth, I don't shelter them."

The march proved to be a life-changing event for Claire Finke, 16, a junior at Holy Cross High School in Covington.

"I was kind of undecided about the whole issue," she said. "But the whole reason I came was to change my mind."

Claire carried a homemade sign - a thin stick attached to a small, torn piece of notebook paper that read "Pro-Life Kentucky" on one side.

"The march changed my mind about everything," she said. "Now I know I'm pro-life."

A classmate, 16-year-old junior Devan Fabre, said the event also deeply affected her.

"Last year when I came, I knew I was pro-life to a point. Like, I thought it was OK in cases of rape or incest," she said. "But now I'm totally against abortion in any situation."

And abortion is totally a young person's issue, they all agreed.

"We're the future," said 16-year-old Pam Auger, a junior at Holy Cross. "It's going to be our votes that'll change this."

As the U.S. Supreme Court building came into view, the girls walked arm-in-arm through the masses.

"It's a political issue, but it's also a personal one," Devan said. "It's important because it's happening to us."

E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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