Life Chains’ silent protests make powerful statement

COLUMBIA — Men, women, young adults and children stood along major roads around the state Oct. 1, holding signs proclaiming “Defend Life,” “Women Need Love,” and often praying quietly together.

They gathered along Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, U.S. 501 in Conway, and on heavily travelled areas of Gervais and Assembly streets near the State House in Columbia. Some came in jeans and shorts, others in suits and dresses. But they were all there to take part in National Life Chain Sunday, one of the largest pro-life events held annually around the nation.

Life Chains are created by people standing in lines along major roads, holding signs opposing abortion and its effects on women.

About 50 people gathered in Columbia, while more than 150 turned out for three separate Life Chains in Horry County.  Other chains formed in Greenville, Charleston, Sumter, Georgetown and Beaufort.

“I’m impressed with the turnout — it’s a good group and this is a good start, a good way to get some attention to the pro-life cause,” said Columbia resident Roosevelt Cummings, Respect Life coordinator at St. Martin de Porres Parish. Cummings attended with his wife, Virginia.

“We may be small in number but we’re on the right side,” said Steve Austin, who attends St. John Neumann Church and came to the event with several other members of his parish. “It’s important for us to be here just to heighten awareness of the issue.”

The Columbia event drew Catholics and members of some Orthodox and evangelical congregations from around the Midlands. A group of University of South Carolina students attended, holding a green banner reading “Students for Life.”

During the hour-long event in front of the State House, some people prayed quietly while holding their signs, either alone or in small groups. One man held a rosary and prayed on his own. Many people who drove by on Gervais Street honked their horns in support and gave chain participants smiles and the “thumbs-up” sign of approval. At the end, all the participants gathered in a circle in front of the State House and prayed together for an end to abortion.

Attendance at Life Chains around the state varies from year to year, but the chains always attract “regulars” who dedicate much of their lives to pro-life issues, said Kathy Schmugge, Respect Life coordinator for the Diocese of Charleston.

In recent years, organizers said, Life Chains have become increasingly ecumenical as concern for life reaches across denominational lines.

“There are faithful people who are always there at these events,” said Bill Kost, coordinator for Respect Life events in Myrtle Beach. “I’m kind of pleased we were able to form three different chains in the Grand Strand area, in different locations. If even a half dozen people turned out, that would raise awareness, but we had 50 people at each chain.”

Michael Cerkez, a member of St. Joseph Church in Columbia, said he has been taking part in the National Life Chain for seven years.

“I’m out here to show people how important it is to respect life — not just the unborn, but all life in general,” he said. “I’m also jubilant inside because our numbers at this event have risen over the years. Things are changing in politics and in the culture. More people are focusing on the importance of respecting life. If you don’t get out at events like this and say what you feel about this issue, nothing is going to change.”

Ninety people took part in the Life Chain along a section of Savannah Highway in Charleston, according to Bill and Claire Richter. The Richters are Respect Life coordinators for the Charleston area. They said that a number of young people participated, including a large group from Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island.

“The sun was warm,the breeze was cool, and the passengers in the en route cars were respectful,” said Claire Richter. “I truly believe that God was smiling on this event.”