TOWANDA - They brought signs. As always, they had lots of them.

But this year, they also toted umbrellas.

Sunday's rainy weather didn't stop the Bradford County Pennsylvanians for Human Life from holding their annual pro-life rally at the county courthouse in Towanda marking the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Standing in front of the building, the members of the group held signs with messages like "Pray to End Abortion" and "Choose Life."

According to Nancy Schrader, who spoke to the crowd at the courthouse, 60-70 people showed up in the rainy weather to get their message out. Afterwards, they marched up the street to Saints Peter and Paul Church for a pro-life prayer service.

At the courthouse, Schrader gave a speech to the crowd, which gathered under the roofed entrance. She noted that Michael Kilmer, chairman of the organization, and his wife, Lou Ann, couldn't be there because they were in Africa on a mission trip.

"Thirty-seven years ago this month in 1973, abortion became the law of the land in the Roe v. Wade decision. Since then, over 50 million babies have been killed in the name of a woman's 'right to choose,'" Schrader said.

"Even Jill Ireland, the head of the liberal National Organization of Women, acknowledges that life begins at conception, but insists that a woman's right to choose still overrides the right to life. How can this happen in a country which prides itself on freedom and protection for all? The answer is that abortion has been pushed out of sight. People aren't allowed to show it or talk about it in the media, in the schools, inside of our government, and even in some of our churches. If reasonable people could see what an abortion is, there is no way they could support it."

"When we saw the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II, where they 'eliminated' over 6 million people, we asked where were the German Christians? Their inadequate response was 'we didn't know.' Are we comfortable saying 'we didn't know about abortion' while millions of our unborn brothers and sisters are eliminated? As Christians, we have a special obligation to speak out against this great evil that continues in this country. We believe in a God of Life and Love, a God who created in His own image and sent His own Son to bring us life. He expects us to respect all life from conception to natural death."

"Thank you for coming out today, for taking the time to stand up and be counted," she continued. "We are engaged in a great civil war, my friend, and the lives of unborn babies hang in the balance. If we want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then Americans everywhere must stand up for the weakest and most defenseless and defend life. Our God would have it no other way."

From the crowd, a few people spoke.

One man, Gary Raupers of Towanda, spoke on a different subject, and asked people to remember the earthquake victims in Haiti.

Another person, Mary Alice Demangone of Towanda, read a quote that she attributed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The quote addressed the issue of health care reform, saying it's about saving lives, not destroying lives, a sentiment Demangone thought was appropriate for the rally. She was familiar with the quote, because she had read it at a mass at Saints Peter and Paul Church Saturday.

In addition, Schrader noted that the National March for Life will be held Friday in which hundreds of thousands of pro-life supporters will descend on Washington, D.C. She said the Bradford County Pennsylvanians for Human Life is sponsoring a bus that will leave from Sayre, Wysox, and Wyalusing.

At the church, Thomas Davis, senior pastor at Braintrim Baptist Church in Laceyville, was the main speaker.

Back in 1979, he and his wife, Deborah, who was suffering from an incompetent cervix, were given the choice of abortion by their doctor, he said. They declined, and went ahead with the pregnancy. Their daughter was born premature, but healthy. Today, their child, Nancy Irby, is 30 years old, lives in Ohio, and is the mother of a 5-year-old, Rebecca, he noted.

They believed that God would use them to help the child be born, he said. He said they placed their faith in Jesus, noting every life has value. "We looked to the Lord to lead us, we went that route, and He blessed us," he said.

And despite the fact that Roe v. Wade is still in place, it's clear that the group remains committed.

"We don't get discouraged because we feel this is a civil rights movement for the unborn," Schrader said, when asked for comment.

And Sunday's rainy weather was the least of their worries. Schrader noted how mother nature doesn't seem to cooperate for the rallies. In the past, the pro-life rally has been held in bitter cold temperatures, which she acknowledged.

"It's very cold or it's rainy."

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; e-mail: