Photos from the March for Life Albany on June 3. (Photos: Allyson Escobar)
Nathaniel Voehlke, a 3-year-old from upstate Freehold, may be unknowingly one reason that pro-life activists descended on Albany on June 3 for the fourth annual March for Life New York.
Nathaniel was at the rally with his mom, Maria Voehlke, and his 2-year-old sister, Molly. Nathaniel was diagnosed with a heart condition before birth, and the doctors suggested an abortion early on.
“He had surgery and was fine. God wasn’t ready for him,” Maria Voehlke said through tears. “Women can put their babies up for adoption, they don’t need to kill them. There’s a lot of people who want kids if they can’t have or afford them. I don’t think abortion can be used as birth control; it’s not birth control.
“I want the murder of babies to end,” she said, while pushing a stroller. “I feel like if people see children present, they’ll realize that through abortion, they’re killing them before they even have a chance.”
This year’s March for Life in the state capital comes months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Catholic who attended St. Gerard Majello’s grammar school in Hollis and Archbishop Molloy H.S. in Briarwood, signed the Reproductive Health Act in January. The RHA expanded abortion rights in the state.
Reps from Cuomo’s office didn’t return calls for comment.
Joni Lupus — a Christian pastor and president of March for Life New York, the organization that sponsored the march — said that now is the most crucial time to be marching for life, especially in light of the state’s new abortion law.
“The new law allows babies right before birth to be brutally murdered in their mother’s womb. That’s why we’re here today—we’re against that law,” she told The Tablet. “We’re hoping to change people’s hearts not only to make the law of abortion illegal, but we want to make it unthinkable.”
At least 1,000 pro-life activists packed Empire Plaza, waving signs and flags. “We are the pro-life generation,” the marchers shouted.
The Monday morning march began with an opening prayer at a plaque in Empire Plaza, which was dedicated in 1998 to abused and unborn children of New York state. Marchers crossed Empire Plaza and concluded with a rally in front of the state Capitol building.
“Every one of us is here because, in our generation, we are going to end abortion,” Lupus told those at the rally.
Patrick Sweeney, a seminarian at Cathedral Seminary in Douglaston, attended the march with a group of friends because he’s angry about the Reproductive Health Act.
“More unborn babies are put at risk. We’re here to stand up in solidarity and hopefully put an end to this law,” he said. “The Catholic world recognizes the value and dignity of all human life. We recognize that those unborn children are as valuable as me and you. I think when you look around at this march, it’s a great response that New York state is still pro-life .”
Denise Collins, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Kensington, heard about the pro-life march the day before, and booked a train ticket that evening.
“Even though I’m just one person, one person makes a big difference, and I wanted to be a part of the count. I honestly regret that I was not more active before,” she said. “When Gov. Cuomo passed the RHA, he basically snubbed his nose at life. I know the biggest reason for abortion is money; the industry makes money on these procedures, and Planned Parenthood controls the media narrative. It’s really disturbing that people’s conscience can be bought. We act in this country like [abortion] is a big controversy; it’s not. Are there situations in which it’s very difficult to parent? Yes. But abortion is not the answer. ”
Jack Thimons, 9, was one of many children at the rally, marching with his family.
Earlier this year, Thimons created Convert Cuomo, a website where people can drop online prayers for the conversion of Governor Cuomo, who is Catholic.
“When I found out about the law, I was really frustrated and wanted to do something about it,” he said.
Jack’s father, Thomas, said he was inspired by his son’s activism.
“From a small young age and seeing the witness that he has, and stance for the pro-life cause, it invigorates myself to continue to want to do more for the pro-life movement,” Thomas Thimons said. “Through Jack’s persistence and building the site, it’s incredible to see how many people have sacrificed and prayed for conversion of Governor Cuomo, and I think it’s just going to continue. We really strongly believe he can and will have a conversion of heart.”
Catherine Donohue, president of The Bridge to Life women’s center in Flushing, expressed her disgust at current New York abortion and suicide laws, and hopes Cuomo hears the March for Life message loud and clear.
“We’re here to speak for the voiceless. We have to let people know how Planned Parenthood is deceiving women,” she said.