January 31, 2020

Pro-life advocates make their voices heard at Indiana March for Life

A woman prays before the Blessed Sacrament on May 30, 2019, at the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis. Beginning on Feb. 2, people in perpetual adoration chapels around the archdiocese will pray rosaries around the clock for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

During the third annual Indiana March for Life on Jan. 22 in Indianapolis, a mass of about 1,100 pro-life advocates march up Meridian Street toward Monument Circle, far outnumbering a small group of protesters on the monument steps. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

On Jan. 22, roughly 1,100 voices rang out through the streets of Indianapolis in defense of the unborn.

With joy and confidence, they proclaimed their message: “We! Are! The pro-life generation!” “Pro-life is pro-woman!” “We love babies, yes we do! We love babies, and mothers too!”

They were the voices of pro-life advocates participating in the Indiana March for Life, an annual event co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the Diocese of Lafayette and Right to Life of Indianapolis.

The timing of the event—which included a Mass, march and rally, as well as a prayer vigil the evening before—is significant. It marks the date when, on Jan. 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.

There were new voices at this year’s event. First were those of the roughly 300 more people who participated this year than last.

And there were voices of new speakers at this year’s rally representing a young generation of pro-life advocates—including one yet to be born.

There were other new voices, too—those of opposition. For the first time since the event’s inception on Jan. 22, 2018, participants were met with protest from pro-choice advocates.

But at a Mass preceding the march, the voice of Archbishop Charles C. Thompson reminded the participants to avoid “hardness of heart” and to “stay centered on Christ.” (Click here to see more photos from the event)

‘Go forth with the joy of the Gospel’

Archbishop Thompson served as principal celebrant of the Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. Concelebrating with him were Lafayette Bishop Timothy L. Doherty and numerous priests of the two dioceses.

In his homily, Archbishop Thompson noted the importance of beginning the march and rally with the eucharistic liturgy.

“The outpouring of grace provided by this celebration of word and sacrament is meant to lead us in service to others,” he said, “including the unborn, those struggling with unplanned pregnancies, expectant mothers, health professionals, legislators and [those] who suffer from the procurement of abortion. No one is beyond the scope of divine mercy.”

Archbishop Thompson explained how both readings for the Mass revealed that “divine grace prevails over the forces of ignorance, injustice, hypocrisy and evil.

“God knows what transpires in the hearts and minds of human beings. So, we must go forth today not with hardness of heart, but with the joy of the Gospel. We must stay centered on Christ.”

Even as a small group of protesters gathered along the march route, the archbishop noted that those seeking the overturning of Roe v. Wade “cannot be authentic advocates and defenders of the dignity of life for the unborn if we do not evidence respect for the dignity of those with whom we live, work, encounter and even disagree with in this life.”

Archbishop Thompson closed his homily calling for those present “to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts and the light of Christ to shine through our witness.”

‘Unplanned pro-life advocates’

That witness proclaimed the sanctity of life with prayers, chants and signs as the participants made their way on the one-mile march through the center of the state’s capitol, with no interference from the protestors.

The route ended at the south steps of the Indiana Statehouse, where Bishop Doherty opened the rally with a prayer.

Then for the next 90 minutes, participants listened and cheered as about a dozen legislators, pro-life advocates and ministers of various faith traditions shared encouraging words and moving stories.

Marc Tuttle, president of Right to Life of Indianapolis, noted that 47 years have passed since the Roe v. Wade decision.

“That means we’re now at least two generations of survivors,” he said. “I don’t think any of us can forget that we have brothers, sisters, teammates, classmates—there are people in our lives who are missing because of abortion.”

A few thousand of those aborted lives were discovered last fall on the grounds of the Illinois property of abortionist Ulrich “George” Klopfer after he died on Sept. 3. He had aborted all 2,411 fetuses at facilities in northern Indiana. In their honor, Right to Life of Northeast Indiana executive director Cathie Humbarger called for a moment of silent prayer at 1 p.m.

The quiet moment occurred after the protesters, who had moved to a sidewalk near the rally, had dispersed. Earlier, however, their shouts could be heard during moments of unplanned silence at the rally as cold temperatures intermittently affected its loudspeakers.

When the equipment was working again after one such moment, Pastor Mike Spencer, Midwest director of training for the Life Training Institute, commented on the shouts of opposition that had been heard while the sound system was down.

“Listen to those protesters in the back,” he said. “That is the anger that we are up against. But we will not respond the same way. … The irony here today is that the very people protesting us are the ones that we would stand for, whose lives we would defend.”

In her address to the crowd, Rep. Peggy Mayfield noted that each person could, like her, be an “unplanned pro-life advocate.”

The legislator summarized three pro-life bills she sponsored or authored since 2016 that were appealed up to the Supreme Court.

“I never intended to have … three cases before the nation’s highest court,”

Rep. Mayfield said. “It was all unplanned.”

Similarly, she said, each person could have an unplanned impact on the pro-life movement or, as importantly, on even just one woman in an unplanned pregnancy.

“Keep supporting pro-life candidates,” Rep. Mayfield encouraged. “There will come a time when we will retire, and we need to have a deep bench to help protect the lives of the unborn.”

‘If not us, then who?’

Two young advocates ready to fill or support that bench also addressed the crowd. One was 23-year-old Paul Annee, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish. He was recently elected to represent a City County Council district on Indianapolis’ south side. Like Rep. Mayfield, he urged the crowd to “vote pro-life!”

The other young advocate was Nora Alcala, 24. She recently started an Indianapolis chapter of Pro-Life Future, a Students for Life-affiliated group for adults ages 20-35.

The member of Holy Spirit at Geist Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, noted that people sometimes look at abortion and ask, “God, why do you allow all this tragedy? And what are you going to do about it?”

“He has done something,” Alcala insisted. “He created each and every one of you to do something, and now is the time to do something! If not us, then who?”

A sound and ‘a face for this fight’

Perhaps the largest cheers rose for two children too young to speak for themselves. One was a little boy named Hill, whose disarming antics during the rally had charmed many in the crowd. The talk his adoptive mother Joni Abdalla asked permission to give during the rally was unplanned—as was Hill’s conception.

“I wanted to give you all a face for this fight,” she said, holding the little boy on her hip. “This is my son, Hill. He … was conceived in rape when [his birth mother] was 16 years old.

“This little boy brings more love and joy than any other person I’ve ever met. This little boy is an innocent, precious gift. His mother said, ‘You were not made out of love, but you are the most love I will ever [receive].’ ”

The other child too young to speak was Benedict Roberts. He’ll join his parents Casey and Samuel as a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis—after he is born in about two months.

As Casey sat on the Statehouse steps with a blanket for warmth, a hand-held monitor and microphone were used to broadcast the beat of Benedict’s heart at 32 weeks gestation. Her face beamed as 1,100 people clapped and cheered at the rapid whooshing sound.

“It was a powerful witness to hear baby Benedict Roberts,” said Brie Anne Varick, coordinator of the archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity. “It was a clear witness that there is life in the womb.” †

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