LEWISTOWN - The quiet streets of a politically conservative town in central Pennsylvania may not seem like the usual stomping ground for an anti-abortion prayer rally. But members of Citizens Concerned for Human Life of Mifflin-Juniata Inc. gather each year on the first Sunday in October in an effort to end abortion in the U.S.
The annual rally is an extension of the National Life Chain, founded in 1987 by a small pro-life ministry in Sacramento, Calif. According to a press release, the event has grown rapidly over the past two-and-a-half decades. Last year, over 1,500 cities and towns held rallies in more than 1,700 locations, the release states.
"I hope this will get people to think about life in the womb and to place their support behind that life," Father Bill Weary, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Lewistown, and St. Jude's Thaddeus Church, Mifflintown, said.
Frank Cunningham, founder of Citizens Concerned for Human Life of Mifflin-Juniata Inc., said this year will mark the sixth year Life Chain has been held in Lewistown. Although his religious beliefs were the main reason Cunningham originally organized the rally, it wasn't his only influence.
"Even if I wasn't Catholic ... I said I'm gonna spend some time getting politicians to listen to us," he explained.
Each October, the local group gathers downtown for one hour of music, prayer and speakers. Though Life Chain focuses on personal reflection and self-analysis, organizers also hope the demonstration reaches a larger audience. Cunningham said he encourages citizens to vote for pro-life candidates and support anti-abortion legislation.
"We know we're gonna win eventually," he said.
Life Chain is one way for local residents to make their voice heard by bringing attention to the issue of abortion and turning people toward life.
"I just wonder how many Mozarts or how many future scientists and inventors we may have killed off already ... by our own hand and our own instigation," Weary said. "The number of abortions in Pennsylvania has reduced somewhat but there's still over a million abortions in the United States per year."
Jane Brown, secretary and treasurer of Citizens Concerned for Human Life of Mifflin-Juniata Inc., added that the statistics supporting the prevalence of abortion in the U.S. are surprising.
"I hope (Life Chain) makes (people) aware of how big the problem is," she said. "You never know when it's going to have something to do with you."
Citizens Concerned for Human Life of Mifflin-Juniata Inc. invites the public to attend Life Chain, to be held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Mifflin County Historic Courthouse steps in Lewistown. The demonstration is nondenominational. State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Belleftone, and Michael Ciccocioppo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, will be guest speakers.