AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said he has made it a point to attend the Maine Right to Life’s Hands Around the Capitol rally every year because of children.

“They are the future and we have to have more children and a better future for our society,” LePage said. “Right now, more people are dying than being born, so it’s time to have an opportunity to keep them alive. We should not have abortion.”

LePage, who received two standing ovations, was among a handful of speakers Saturday afternoon to a crowd gathered at St. Michael School gymnasium in Augusta to “publicly recognize and mourn” the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973, which legalized abortions in the U.S.

The governor, who came under fire this month for remarks about out-of-state drug dealers that critics derided as racist, kept his remarks short. He said that if his mother had believed in abortion, “I wouldn’t be talking to you.”

LePage went on to say that he always has supported the underdog, and “there’s no bigger underdog than an unborn child facing the possibility of abortion.”

The Maine Right to Life Committee’s executive director, Teresa McCann-Tumidajski, missed the rally because of recent surgery, but her message was read to the audience by the Rev. Bob Emrich, who led the rally.

McCann-Tumidajski said the group “would not rest until each precious baby is protected from the horror of abortion.”

A major theme for all speakers was Planned Parenthood and specifically the videos that were made public last year that depicted Planned Parenthood staffers discussing the harvesting and sale of organs.

Emrich, Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, and Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, talked about the need to continue to fight for the defunding of the women’s health organization.

Espling, who wrote an opinion piece for the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel in October, said women have myriad options that don’t have to include Planned Parenthood.

“(Other health needs) are all things that can be done at federally qualified health care centers,” Espling said. “We use taxpayer dollars to fund those clinics where people have access to all the health care they need.”

Around the gymnasium, tables were set up and exhibitors spoke to members of the community and offered their thoughts on the abortion issue.

Janet LeBlanc, vice president of the Maine Right to Life Committee, said attending the event was important to her, despite the snowy weather, because of the “loss of life that has occurred in the last 43 years.”

“It’s important that we not only mourn the life of these children, but also that we reach out to the mothers who might not want an abortion,” LeBlanc said. “They just need to know there’s help and support and that we really care about them.”

The event was scheduled to include a march from the gymnasium to the Capitol, followed by the ringing of the Capitol bell 43 times to represent the number of years since the Roe v. Wade decision. But Emrich said the march was scrapped because of the snowstorm.

After the event concluded, LePage met with several supporters and spoke briefly to the news media, further expressing his anti-abortion stance and addressing his continued fight against the Maine’s drug problem.

“Keeping human life alive and safe is a big priority,” he said.