Abortion opponents from Lackawanna County join march in Harrisburg

Sep. 19—SCRANTON — The U.S. Supreme Court answered one of Jordan Cook's prayers June 24 when it overturned Roe v. Wade and ruled there is no constitutional right to an abortion.

But the Marywood University senior knows there is still work to do in Pennsylvania.

"The Lord has given us hope," Cook said.

On Monday, the 21-year-old Lehighton resident joined thousands of other abortion opponents in Harrisburg for the second annual Pennsylvania March for Life.

The march and rally on the steps of the state Capitol were the first major demonstration in the commonwealth since the Supreme Court decision that left it up to each state to establish laws to protect or restrict abortion.

Wearing a green "Choose Life" T-shirt, Cook was among 15 people, mostly Marywood and University of Scranton students, who boarded a bus for the rally early Monday outside the Diocese of Scranton Pastoral Center on Wyoming Avenue.

The bus stopped later to pick up additional passengers at Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre.

For Cook, the decision to attend the rally was about standing up for the unborn and giving public witness to his faith.

"We are putting our beliefs into actions, and we are fighting for the babies," Cook said. "We are telling (Gov.) Tom Wolf we don't want abortion in our state."

Julie Kilmer, 21, a senior from Rockville, Maryland, who is president of Prolife Club at the University of Scranton, said she has always opposed abortion but felt called to take on a much more activist role in recent months.

Kilmer, who was outside the Supreme Court when the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that overturned Roe was announced in June, said her message can be a difficult one to get across, even on a Catholic campus.

Abortion rights advocates like to focus solely on the woman, Kilmer said, when it's about the woman and the child.

"I think a lot of people are being misled that being pro-choice is pro-woman, but it's really prolife that's pro-woman," she said.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, who attended the march and concelebrated a Mass for participants afterward at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Harrisburg, called it an "incredible gathering" that was much larger than the inaugural event in 2021.

"There was an awful lot of energy," the bishop said in a telephone interview. "Clearly with the overturning of Roe, there is a lot of enthusiasm but also a recognition of the fact that now the fight to protect life moves to the states."

Bambera said it is hard to predict what will happen next but anticipates a lot will depend on the outcome of the Nov. 8 election.

"Certainly things don't turn on a dime," he said, "but the witness of so many people who are quite happy and willing to assert their respect for human life is always a wonderful sign not only to legislators but to the community at large."

The bishop said there were several federal and state lawmakers in attendance at the march, and he had a chance to speak with a couple of them, including U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9, Dallas, and state Rep. Tina Pickett, R-110, Wysox Twp.

North Scranton resident Thomas Cunningham, 29, who was part of a bus contingent from the diocese, said it was gratifying the Supreme Court finally gave abortion opponents a victory after many years of "being on the back pedal and caving in to the culture."

He hoped the march would demonstrate to lawmakers that the rights of the unborn are something worth fighting for but said it was about more than changing laws.

"Hopefully, we can change the hearts of people to kind of see why we are so adamant against this and why we defend what we defend," Cunningham said.

Thaddeus Zielinski, 67, a resident of the Chinchilla section of South Abington Twp. who has gone to the annual March for Life in Washington many times, said he was a little surprised when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

He ultimately wants to see Pennsylvania become a "prolife state" and said the march could help make that happen. But he'd accept a somewhat different outcome.

"Maybe at the very least a mother who is on the borderline might look and see the support and decide to keep her child," Zielinski said. "It just might change a woman's mind somehow and one life can be saved."

Contact the writer: dsingleton@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9132