ANNAPOLIS — Carroll abortion opponents came here by the busload Monday night, waving anti-abortion placards and holding their children's hands, to let state legislators know they hadn't disappeared since last fall's elections.
The Carroll contingent joined several thousand abortion opponents from across the state in a 1-mile march from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to the State House, where they joined in hymns and applauded anti-abortion speeches delivered by members of the House of Delegates and Senate, clergy and Right to Life organizations.
"Somebody's got to do something," said Alice Roche of Westminster, who marched on a brisk, star-filled night with her son, daughter and mother-in-law. "I just want to see the 16 senators we know are pro-life to stick with it and not let any bill pass to make abortion moreliberal in the state.
"I want to let them know we're still here, and we're not going to go away. We're going to keep on until something is done to stop this."
Sixteen anti-abortion senators successfully blocked legislation last year that would have guaranteed the rightto choose to have an abortion in Maryland with few restrictions. They prolonged debate and forced a compromise proposal, which was killedin the House, leaving the issue unresolved.
Four anti-abortion senators who participated in the filibuster lost in last September's primary, but at least two new members who oppose abortion were elected in November, including Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, and Sen. Christopher McCabe, R-Howard.
An abortion-rights bill has been filed in the Senate and is expected to be debated early in the session. The law would resemble the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.
Carroll protesters, including contingents from the Church of the Open Door and St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Westminster and Liberty Reformed Presbyterian Church in Owings Mills, came to urge their supporters in the General Assembly to continue to fight for the cause.
Leslie Firestone of Eldersburg said she participated in the candlelight vigil "just so people understand that the issue is life, not politics. We're making (elected officials) aware that we're out here, that we have a belief system that is pro-life and that we are their constituents."
Former Sen. S. Frank Shore, a leader in last year's anti-abortion movement who was defeated in the primary, introduced Haines to the crowd as one of the "great new players" entering the Senate on the anti-abortion side.
Haines told the gathering that "support of the innocent unborn isthe right thing to do."
"We need to pray for our children and bring them up right, to defend the right to life. Then we wouldn't have this problem facing our country," he said.
The two-hour march and gathering was relatively peaceful. At one point, the crowd turned toward the State House, where the Senate and House were in session, and chanted, "Choose Life!" But the chant died down quickly. Most of the marchers let their "Stop Abortion Now" placards and other signs do their talking.
The tone of the rally served the marchers' purpose, said Jim Watson of Finksburg.
"I think it showed that we're sincere, and we mean it," he said. "It's not a fad. What we're trying to sayconcerns us."
Ed Frederick of Westminster said he attended because he wants to be a "doer," not just a "hearer" of the word spoken at St. John's Church and to show politicians "we do make up a sizable force."
A pro-abortion rights rally is scheduled to take place in Annapolis on Jan. 28.