by Kathy Schmugge
COLUMBIA — On Jan. 22, 1974, Kathleen Poole organized the first march to the state Capitol in Columbia with about nine other marchers. She did not let the small numbers discourage her. They were going to be the voice for the voiceless.
Last November, the fearless fighter for life lost her battle with cancer. The 23rd annual Stand Up for Life March on Jan. 23 was dedicated to Poole, an inspirational leader who had dedicated her whole life to others.
“She [Kathleen] never grew tired of doing good,” said Holly Gatlin, executive director for South Carolina Citizens for Life. “She never grew weary and never gave up on the cause of protecting innocent human life.” She praised Poole for having organized University of South Carolina Students for Life and for establishing a pro-life booth at the State Fair, just a few of her accomplishments.
Through the years, the number of participants at the Stand Up for Life has increased. Over a thousand people traveled to Columbia this year, despite the threatening weather forecast that called for freezing rain and snow. The freezing rain never came, but the marchers did.
The rally is an opportunity for SCCL to thank the South Carolina pro-lifers who often go unrecognized by the secular media. They were applauded for the grass-roots efforts that helped pass seven life protecting laws, reducing the number of abortions in South Carolina by 53 percent. Another victory is the fact that the number of abortion centers in the state went from 14 to three because of laws that regulate the clinics. Pro-lifers have also worked hard to provide positive support to women in crisis pregnancies and their children.
During the opening prayer at the rally, Bishop Robert J. Baker said, “Without your blessing, our Lord, our efforts would be fragmented and ineffective but with your help we shall overcome and replace the culture of death with the culture of life.”
The crowds were anxious to hear and see the guest speaker, Jennifer O’Neill, a movie star with more than 30 films to her credit and a model and cover girl for more than half of her life. She gained notoriety after her starring role in the movie, “The Summer of ’42.”
O’Neill now uses her celebrity status as the spokeswoman for “Silent No More Awareness Campaign,” an effort to make the “public aware of the devastation abortion brings to women, men, and their families.” The organization is comprised of women who are no longer silent about the suffering they have endured because of their abortions.
O’Neill courageously shared her story with the crowd. She said she really did not want to have an abortion, but she “folded” after two weeks of “incredible” pressure from her powerful fiancée. On the day she gave him the news of her pregnancy, he told her, “You are not going to have a baby. You are going to have an abortion.”
“Eighty-five percent of all women who have abortions have been coerced in some way,” O’Neill said. “We are not designed to kill our own baby.”
She said that abortion not only takes the life of a child, but that it also injures the woman and her family and leaves them with physical and emotional scars.
She said that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 30 percent. After an abortion, women have a higher risk of drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, suicide, bonding dysfunction and eating disorders.
“There is a weapon of mass destruction. It is abortion, and it is an equal opportunity destroyer, devastating people and families in its path,” she said.
“There is hope in healing at the foot of the cross. Jesus Christ died for all of our sins, not just some of them. He does not want us to be robbed on a daily basis through secrecy, shame, and guilt, but he wants us to be released and freed through his power and grace. You have a choice to forgive,” O’Neill said.
Then she explained that the word “choice” seems to be the operative word in the abortion debate, but feels it is misleading.
“You are not pro-choice,” she said. “You are either pro-abortion or pro-life and you have a choice to do something about it.”