AUGUSTA — Traditionally, hundreds of people brave frigid temperatures to participate in the “Hands Around the Capitol” rally and march each January in Augusta. The event has been held annually for 47 years since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. Participants rally, march and encircle the statehouse to pray that all will come to realize the value of human life from conception to natural death.

This year, due to the pandemic, the event will look different but will be no less meaningful or important.

The 48th “Hands Around the Capitol” is set for Saturday, Jan. 23. At noon, participants will gather in the parking lot of St. Mary of the Assumption Church, located on 41 Western Avenue in Augusta, with the march to the statehouse starting at 12:15 p.m. Marchers will carry signs with messages such as “Stop Abortion Now” and “We Stand for Life” and, upon arrival, the bell at the statehouse will ring out 48 times, representing the number of years since the legalization of abortion.

“We will gather in solemn memorial to be the voice of the innocent, vulnerable, and speechless who had no choice in the decision that ended their precious life,” said Karen Vachon, president and executive director of Maine Right to Life, which organizes the event. “Seeing a fetus, hearing a heartbeat has exposed the undisputable truth: life begins at conception and every life is valuable.”

“We are together in our commitment to uphold the value of life. That is our mission at ‘Hands Around the Capitol,” said Bishop Robert Deeley. “I hear time and time again that we should leave the decision concerning the life of an unborn child to a woman and her doctor. She will know what is best for her family and her life. On its face, it is a convenient argument. Its only problem, which happens to be a large one, is that it gives no acknowledgement to the life growing within the woman. The fetus is not the woman. It depends on her and her body, but it is a distinct individual. Who cares for this unborn child’s right to life?”

“One of the biggest reasons I have gone is that my son is adopted, and my daughter has adopted four children, so every time, it keeps reminding me just how precious life is. And every time I look at my grandsons and my two granddaughters and my own son, I say thank God their parents didn’t abort. Because of them, I now have six grandkids,” said Phil Lizotte, grand knight of Knights Council 9782 in Wells. “To offer your child to someone who cannot have a child, that’s the greatest gift you can give, the gift of life.”

For more information about the Hands Around the Capitol Rally or the Maine Right to Life Committee, visit www.MaineRighttoLife.com or call 207-782-0101.