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Local residents join Pa.’s inaugural March for Life

Courtesy photo Local community members attended the March for Life at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Monday. The Blair County Pastors Network organized a bus trip for area residents to attend.

Area residents left Harrisburg feeling empowered Monday after participating in the state’s first March For Life.

“It was really thrilling to be there with so many people,” said Gretchen Mittermaier. “We are very excited to be a part of this, and it’s an important thing to do.”

The group, including pastors and students, boarded a bus to the state Capitol for the rally.

The day trip was organized by the Blair County Pastors Network.

Melayna Steward and Emily Miller, both sophomores at Bishop Guilfoyle Cathholic High School, were excited to be with like-minded people.

“It means a lot to me because it’s very important that we fight for the lives of unborn babies; they deserve a chance at life just like everybody else,” Steward said before boarding the bus to Harrisburg.

“I’m looking forward to helping out with a good cause because many babies don’t get a chance,” Miller added. “It’s their body, too.”

Bob Sutton, campus minister at Bishop Guilfoyle, was excited to bring his students along and share the experience with them.

“Events like this help students grow,” Sutton said. “I think it’s critical that the idea of the pro-life movement is not, at its core, a religious issue; it’s a civil rights issue, so we’re going as Americans to stand up for civil rights and to give voices to the voiceless. We believe each life is a gift from God.”

Sutton added that he believes in the lives of mothers, too.

“We believe abortion hurts the mothers as well, so we want to stand up for the dignity of all life and say we are here to support anyone who’s in a problem situation, anyone who needs support through a pregnancy,” Sutton said.

Sutton added, “There’s horrible situations out there that people find themselves in. We’re here to be here for them, and, especially, safeguard the lives of children.”

Tony Conrad, a local hospital chaplain, helped organize the trip.

“We’re praying that Roe v. Wade will be overturned,” Conrad said. “We’re hoping that if it’s overturned, that it will give it back to the states to make decisions. We’re there today to speak for the unborn and to influence our legislators.”

Conrad said, “Here, in this region, we do a lot of good stuff for unplanned pregnancies. We do a lot of good for folks and support women who are experiencing a crisis pregnancy.”

Conrad’s wife, Susan, said she’s a firm believer in the pro-life cause.

“I know for a fact that there’s a heartbeat at three weeks,” Susan said. “You can’t deny it; it’s life.”

Asked for comment, Blair County Democratic Party Chairperson Gillian Kratzer said that while she respects people who disagree, she’s adamant about a woman’s right to choose.

“I respect people who have their own personal beliefs about abortion,” Kratzer said. “They’re welcome to not have an abortion. Your freedom stops at my body.”

Kratzer said she finds it hypocritical that many pro-lifers are the same people who are against wearing masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She said people should show the same passion for all lives, not just the unborn.

“Sanctity of life is important the whole way through a person’s life,” Kratzer said.

Upon returning to Altoona, Edward Falce said he thoroughly enjoyed the trip. “We had some prayerful time, and it was just a blessing to be there.”

For Bonita Shreve, the experience was memorable and empowering.

“It was amazing to watch everyone come together,” Shreve said. “People from all corners of Pennsylvania came, and it was really neat to see that we were all rallying for life.”

“It was nice to be a part of something much bigger than myself,” said Kathy Rhodes. “And what a great cause it was.”

“It is important that we stop hiding and that we start standing up,” Sandy Maines said. “To know that there are so many people that are pro-life — I don’t think the majority is pro-choice. … We really need to let our voices be heard.”

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

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