Seeing a group of young adults with special needs receive Communion on Monday morning during a Mass for teens and young adults at the Verizon Center in Washington made the long bus ride to the nation’s capital worthwhile for Lisa Yanzer, 24, of Portland.
“Seeing the kids with special needs at the altar being recognized was really moving,” she said in a telephone interview Monday night.
Yanzer said that Christ’s love for those who “might have been aborted” was evident.
A Wisconsin native, she was part of a group from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland that protested Monday on the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. More than 80 Maine Catholics took part in the annual rally and march, according to Yanzer.
The Maine group left Saturday and was expected to return Tuesday.
“I was challenged to take action on something I believe in strongly,” Yanzer said before she left Maine. “I’m hit hard when I think of babies who are aborted because they may have disabilities. They need a voice to speak for them. My plan to participate is more than just adding another face to the crowd — it has opened dialogue with others to talk about why this issue is so important.”
Yanzer is spending a year in Maine as part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, based in Baltimore. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Stout and has a bachelor’s degree in special education. As a volunteer, she works at a not-for-profit organization in Portland that provides services for special needs teens and young adults.
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps pays housing, utilities, food and health insurance expenses for volunteers, according to information on its website. Bus transportation to and from work or a bicycle are provided. Volunteers are paid a small stipend for personal expenses.
Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese, said Sunday that Yanzer spent more than her $100 monthly stipend to pay for the bus trip to and hotel expenses in Washington, D.C.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Catholic Church in the U.S. recently has focused on educating and mobilizing its youth base around pro-life issues. The Mass for teens and young adults was hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the Post said.
“The youth are at the heart of this,” Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, said Monday, according to the Post. “They are just so important to us. We try to get them energized with that passion in the morning.”
The “March for Life” has been held every year since 1974, a year after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, according to The Associated Press. It’s consistently one of the largest protests of the year in Washington.
House Speaker John Boehner addressed the group at a rally before participants marched to the U.S. Supreme Court, reminding those gathered on the muddy National Mall that he’s one of 12 children.
“I’m sure it wasn’t easy for our mother to have 12 of us, but I’m glad we’re all here,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I’ve never considered being pro-life a label or a political position. It’s just who I am.”
Several dozen members of Congress addressed the rally and were cheered by participants, many of whom carried signs reading, “I Vote Pro-Life First,” “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “Face It … Abortion Kills a Person.”
A Gallup poll last year showed that 49 percent of respondents identified themselves as “pro-choice,” while 45 percent called themselves “pro-life,” according to the AP. The same survey found that 50 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal under some circumstances, 27 percent said it should be legal in all cases and 22 percent said it should always be illegal.
The same polls showed that more young people, especially those in the 18- to-34-year-old range, are identifying themselves as anti-abortion, according to the Post.