By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — St. Michael School students who participated in the March for Life in Washington last week said it was much more than a protest against legalized abortion.
Several eighth-graders who went talked to The Eagle-Tribune about why they decided to set aside three days to endure a 16-hour bus trip to the nation’s capital, walk a mile in frigid weather and then another bus ride back home.
“I think everyone deserves a chance at life,” Jenny Tabola said.
While the main focus was to protest Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined that the Constitution prohibits laws against abortion, the marchers also voiced their opposition to physician-assisted suicide and the death penalty, Ethan Venkatesan said.
The Catholic Church teaches that “people should die naturally,” Venkatesan said. A terminally ill person, he added, should “have the chance to live.”
What about someone who murders several people?
“Each life is a masterpiece that God has created,” Grace Fallon said.
“Every life matters,” said Brian Flanagan, who walked next to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, during the march. A murderer should be locked up, Brian said – but not executed.
The students estimated that the March for Life, an annual event since 1974, may have drawn as many as a million people. Fifty percent of the marchers were under 18, according to Maggie Guggenberger.
Asked if she was surprised by the large number of young people there, she said, “A little, but not really.” Many parents, she suggested, have instilled in their children the belief that “life is a sacred gift.”
While the Catholic Church has consistently opposed abortion, Catholics were not the only ones who took part in the march, the students said.
“It’s not just Catholics who respect life,” Helen Connolly said. The march began at the National Archives, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are displayed, and ended in front of the Supreme Court building.
It took place Jan. 22, the 41st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.
Caroline O’Connor said participating in the March for Life has taught her to “see the God in everybody.”
“I hope we won’t have to have another March for Life,” Grace said, expressing the hope that abortion, the death penalty and will no longer be legal.
Catherine Devlin said the experience has changed her outlook.
“Life is a gift,” she said. “We weren’t just put here.”
After having completed the march, Ethan said he “won’t be afraid to stand up for my pro-life views.”
Fourteen St. Michael School students went to Washington for the March for Life. They were among 750 parochial students from the Archdiocese of Boston who made the pilgrimage.
Their chaperones included Assistant Principal Susan Rogge, religion teacher Betty Gill and science teacher Ronald Annand.