January 29, 2021

Caravan for life

Honoring lives aborted since 1973 still ‘crucial’ despite COVID-19 challenges

While stopped at a light near the Indiana Statehouse, a woman in a mini-van sporting pro-life messages takes a photo of the vehicles behind her during the Indiana March-turned-caravan for Life in Indianapolis on Jan. 22. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

While stopped at a light near the Indiana Statehouse, a woman in a mini-van sporting pro-life messages takes a photo of the vehicles behind her during the Indiana March-turned-caravan for Life in Indianapolis on Jan. 22. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

CARMEL, Ind.—As often seems to be the case, Jan. 22 was the coldest day of the week this year.

And as always is the case, weather did not prevent advocates from standing up for life in solemn observance of the Jan. 22, 1973, U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion throughout the nation.

“If standing in this cold is just one thing we can do to save a baby today, let’s do it all day long,” said recently sworn-in Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.

He spoke at a rally that concluded several events sponsored by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the Diocese of Lafayette and Right to Life of Indianapolis (RTLI) to mark the solemn occasion, including an archdiocesan-sponsored Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson on Jan. 22.

‘We must begin with ourselves’

In the pro-life battle, “Our opponent is not a particular person or group of persons,” the archbishop said in his homily during the Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis.

“Our opponent is with the evil that underlies what Pope Francis has referred to as a ‘throwaway society’ … [that] readily discards anything that is deemed useless or undesirable, including … human life.”

Discarding persons can take many forms, the archbishop explained. Among such forms are abortion, racism, human trafficking, capital punishment, disregard for creation, greed and more, including gossip.

“All these, with abortion at the forefront, contribute to a culture of death,” he said.

To change society to a culture of life, “The first person we must begin with is ourself,” Archbishop Thompson noted.

“When confronted with differences of opinions or opposition to our values, do we respond in a Christian manner or react in a defensive or threatened mode? Are we able to recognize those that oppose or disagree with us as created in the image of God?”

Each person is a child of God and a sinner in need of salvation, the archbishop said.

Therefore, pro-life efforts “must be rooted in a holistic commitment to defending the dignity of all persons—including the unborn, the immigrant, the refugee, the poor, the addicted, the prisoner, the sick and the elderly—all woven into the fabric of what it means to be a human being created in the image of God and saved by the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Thompson noted that, for Catholics, “The Eucharist, as source and summit of our identity and mission, provides the sustenance for this call.

“Ultimately, we march and pray to cultivate a culture of life that culminates in life eternal.”

‘We had to quickly pivot’

Usually after the Mass, the congregants spill out of the church to join others already lining up for the Indiana March for Life. Holding signs, praying and chanting pro-life messages, they process through the center of Indianapolis to the Statehouse lawn for a rally.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, “We had to quickly pivot” from the usual, said Marc Tuttle, president of RTLI which sponsors the annual march and rally.

One change was to switch this year’s march to a vehicle caravan. After the Mass, 125 cars, trucks and buses slowly processed along most of the usual march route, horns honking and students chanting and waving signs through rolled‑down windows.

But lack of parking near the Statehouse made the usual rally there logistically impossible. So, when the caravan reached the State Capitol building, it did not stop.

Instead, it headed north to St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, where the evening prior more than 100 people prayed during a diocesan-sponsored Vigil for Life.

“Their large parking lot and lack of a school offered the space needed” for the vehicles and mask-wearing participants, including those who opted to only attend the rally, said Tuttle.

Bringing up the rear of the caravan was a van sporting the logos “Chicago March for Life” and “Moving the Movement.”

The Chicago march organizers “decided to take [this year’s march] to the people,” said Tuttle.

They created a “Moving the Movement” tour of Midwestern cities with people who might normally attend the Chicago march. Each stop included a diaper drive with assistance from tour sponsor weDignify. (See related article.)

RTLI signed up the Indiana March for Life as one of six stops on the tour, which included Fort Wayne, Ind., and cities in Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

“Our team has driven over 2,700 miles, which would go coast-to-coast if you stretched it out,” said Kevin Grillot, executive director of weDignify. The organization, which trains pro-life leaders on college campuses, helped coordinate the tour.

He was the first among several faith leaders, youth leaders and others who spoke at the rally.

‘A growing pro-life state’

Many of the rally’s estimated 450 participants gathered around an outdoor sound stage. Others listened in their cars via livestream or Catholic Radio Indy.

Their excitement combined to form a cacophony of cheers and horn-honking in response to the speakers.

Such an outburst erupted when Grillot, speaking amid gusts that dropped the wind-chill factor into the low 20s, said, “Today is not a time to complain about life. Today is a time to sacrifice for life.”

Even more noise was raised when he announced the event had both the most participants and the largest number of donated diapers up to that point on the tour. The last stop took place in Chicago on Jan. 23.

But the crowd was somber when Grillot noted Indiana’s “terrible” ratio of one in 13 pregnancies ending in abortion.

Tuttle, too, cited a sobering statistic, stating that Indiana averages 8,000 abortions every year.

“But we are a pro-life state, and a growing pro-life state,” the RTLI president continued, noting that Americans United for Life recently ranked Indiana fifth on its list of most pro-life states in the country.

Looking at ratios, said Tuttle, “A woman is less likely to receive an abortion now than a woman was in 1973 when Roe v. Wade came down.”

The statistic is just one indication that “our movement is growing,” he said.

“We’re changing hearts and minds. A lot of that is credited to you,” he told the crowd, whose faces from young to old represented the face of the pro-life movement in Indiana.

He also credited “great leadership” in the Statehouse.

Not just illegal, but ‘unthinkable’

One such leader is Rokita, whom Tuttle introduced as “a brother in the Knights of Columbus” and “strongly pro-life.”

“This practice of killing unborn children is a direct contradiction of America’s founding principles,” said the state’s new attorney general, who is a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. “The abortion industry totally rejects the idea that God gave all people—all people—the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The goal of the pro-life movement “is not just to make abortion illegal, but to make it unthinkable” by changing hearts and minds, said Rokita.

It is a change wrought by showing compassion not only for the unborn, but also “toward every woman who finds herself overwhelmed, unprepared, ill equipped for a major life change,” he said. “Perhaps she’s scared, perhaps jobless, perhaps in an abusive relationship. … Whatever the case, let’s commit to providing an abundance of love and support.”

He closed his address with words of encouragement from Scripture: “Let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (Gal 6:9).

‘We must hold this event every year’

Tuttle admitted the ongoing pandemic posed challenges for this year’s Indiana March for Life and rally.

But in his mind, not holding the annual event was not—and never can be—an option.

“We must hold this event every year,” he said. “It’s important to take a day like today to remember and mourn the 62 million lives that were lost to abortion.”

The statistics on abortions each year since 1973 “are more than numbers,” he said. “For those of us born after 1973, they represent classmates, missing friends, parts of our community.

“When we talk about the numbers involved in abortion, we lose sight of the individual tragedies, not just for the babies but for the women as well, who were often coerced and who’ve undergone abortion against their will.

“As long as abortion is legalized and our brothers and sisters are perishing, we must hold this event every year to remember and to honor them as human beings, to make sure that no one ever forgets these [statistics] were people.” †

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