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Abortion opponents protest with prayer in Watertown

Julia Botero
Prayer vigil at First Presbyterian Church in Watertown.

Opponents of abortion have been gathering around the nation this month. They are protesting the January 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, Thousands of protesters converged in D.C. last week as the House of Representatives passed a bill baring federal spending on abortions.  But anti-abortion activists also come together to pray on this issue every January all over the country.

At an annual prayer vigil at the First Presbyterian Church in Watertown, there are no signs or banners at this anti-abortion gathering -- just a table filled with pamphlets and newsletters tucked in the back of the room. On a stage a woman  sings  a passage from scripture.

Close to fifty people -- families and the elderly -- sit in rows and around tables,  listening. A woman comes on stage to lead the group in prayer.

Bette Hartzel helps bring people together every year for this prayer service. She is part of Life Right of Watertown and an anti-abortion activist for 45 years. She says America  is sending the wrong message by allowing abortions.

"Only the proud, the privileged and the perfect should be allowed to live. Its not a direction our country should go in. We always looked out for the humble and the weak and the poor," said Hartzel.

Hartzel agrees with the bill Republicans recently passed in the house, limiting federal spending on abortions.

But Hartzel says she doesn't want to be labeled a conservative. She says she shares a lot of liberal views. She is against the death penalty.  She believes woman should receive equal pay. But on abortion, she won't compromise. She disagrees with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's attempt to secure women's right to abortions in New York if Roe v. Wade is overturned. She says she's concerned about woman's safety.

"I think people are grossly  misinformed about what the reality of legal abortions have done," Hartzel said.

Like Hartzel, many at the rally preferred not to identify as conservative or Republican but as simply supporters of life.

Ryan Tyler, a physician in Watertown, says a respect for life governs everything he does right down to his profession. He says Republicans in Congress are doing the right thing focusing on abortion rights now, in the first weeks of the new year.

"I don't think you can proceed with other issues is you don't have a respect for life at your core. I don't think it will hold them back. I think it will solidify our base if we have core values. I don't think they should be front and central as our current pope says but I think we should support that," said Tyler.

Joan Boulio also at the vigil, says she's the youngest of 12 children. Boulio remembers a story she was told only a few years ago. While pregnant with her, her mother got very sick.

"My brothers would come home and there'd be greasy dishes in the sink, the fire would be out. Mom would be in bed, she'd be so sick," Boulio said.

The huge family lived on a farm outside Adams. A doctor suggested an abortion.

"The family doctor felt sorry for her. They don't have lots of money. Twelve kids. They live on a farm. Sure she has the option. For the life of the mother, you would have said."

But Boulio's mother chose to give birth to her.  And she hopes other women will  choose life too.