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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEWORLEANS-- A New Orleans pro-choice group held a vigil Thursday night in response to a national Christian group's presence across the metro area this week.

Operation Save America arrived last weekend sending members to protest outside clinics performing abortions.

'Not the church, not the state. Women must decide their fate,' was the chorus of pro-choice supporters at Duncan Plaza.

Dozens attending a candlelight vigil organized by members of the New Orleans Abortion Fund.

The group says the event is a counter offensive to Operation Save America's presence in the area.

'Operation Rescue, Operation Save America are bullies who go on tour. They come to places where they think they can have an impact, but in every place that they've been at, people have still needed health care and they'll mobilize to oppose them,' said Jessie Nieblas with New Orleans Abortion Fund.

Among the pro-choice crowd holding signs to highlight their support of women's reproductive rights was Rev. Jim VanderWeele of the Community Church Unitarian Universalist.

'We have consistently taken a stand. Not pro-abortion but pro-the ability of a woman to choose what she needs to do if she has a situation that needs attention,' VanderWeele said.

A handful of Operation Save America supporters showed up to Thursday night's vigil, deciding to skip a pro-life rally at the Williams Boulevard Baptist Church in Kenner.

'We have been out in front of the clinics. We have been reading through the entire bible at Planned Parenthood. We will finish it tomorrow,' said Pastor Dale Sochia with King Jesus Ministries.

After spending the day camped outside health clinics that perform abortions in New Orleans, Metairie and Baton Rouge, the pro-life supporters turn to an evening of prayer.

'Where clinics are closing it does something to me because it shows me we're having victory,' said Pastor Sochia to the congregation.

A Slidell couple says they drive to Causeway Clinic three days a week. They shared their testimony Thursday night.

That's where they met a young mother who then decided against having an abortion.

'We know that abortion is wrong. We know that if the ladies will give us an opportunity, then they don't have to kill their babies,' said Slidell resident John Kovalcik.

Two different camps, just a few miles apart, holding steadfast to their beliefs.

Both the NOPD and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office have beefed up security this week outside clinics that perform abortions.

The NOPD also had extra officers present at Thursday night's pro-choice vigil.

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