Saying they were inspired by Bible verses and a belief that women who have had abortions can repent, about 1,500 demonstrators braved 100-degree heat and lined downtown Baltimore streets and Ritchie Highway to take their message to Sunday drivers.
"We want to affect people in their cars who sit on the fence, who thought pro-life was a small minority," said Bill Collins, spokesman for the "Life Chain" protest. "We're here to make the statement that abortion is killing children. God is against abortion. The Bible says that he does not wish for us to kill children."
The two-hour, silent demonstration yesterday was organized by local churches and anti-abortion groups.
The demonstrators circulated petitions to get a referendum on the 1992 ballot challenging an abortion bill passed this year by the General Assembly. Under the bill, abortion would be legal until the point in pregnancy when the fetus could survive outside the womb.
The protest chain started at the Inner Harbor and stretched south along Light and Hanover streets. It picked up again near the Motor Vehicle Administration building on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie and then again near Harundale Mall and Pasadena Crossroads, formerly known as Jumpers Mall. Demonstrators also appeared at the State House in Annapolis.
Standing silently by the roadside, protesters held up signs that read "Abortion Kills Children" and "Jesus Heals and Forgives." A similar protest is planned for fall, Collins said.
"I'm here to demonstrate against killing babies," said Phyllis Leach, a grandmother from Carney. "People don't know the facts -- if they knew how many babies were being killed and for what reasons, it'd change their minds."
"We want people to know that abortion is wrong," said Rhonda Sabol, 25, of Ellicott City. "And for those who have had abortions to know that it is killing and there is healing. People should know that if they are expecting a baby that God is going to take care of them and their baby no matter what circumstances they were born into."
About 50 pro-choice demonstrators countered the pro-life protest near Pasadena Crossroads, holding signs that read "Honk if You Are Pro-Choice" and "Keep Abortion Safe and Legal."
"Whether abortion is legal or not, women will have abortions and when abortions are illegal, women die," said Laura Larson, a pro-choice demonstrator. "I'm here to show support for the pro-choice movement and to keep women from dying from illegal abortions."
Jim Guest, president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, did not attend either demonstration, but issued a statement last night.
"These protesters are a vocal minority trying to force their own extremist beliefs on every woman in Maryland," Guest said.
"They want to outlaw abortion and deny a woman the right to make her own pregnancy choices. They want to impose government censorship on what a doctor can tell a pregnant patient about her medical options. They want to reject access to birth control for low-income women unless the extremists themselves approve the family planning clinic. Marylanders reject their extremist views and support freedom of speech, freedom of choice and a woman's right to control over her own body."