January 27, 2023

Indiana March for Life speakers tell participants the ‘fight for lives starts now’

A panoramic view of a rally on the south lawn and steps of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis after the Indiana March for Life on Jan. 23 captures the crowd of roughly 1,100 Catholics and other pro-life advocates who participated. (Submitted photo)

A panoramic view of a rally on the south lawn and steps of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis after the Indiana March for Life on Jan. 23 captures the crowd of roughly 1,100 Catholics and other pro-life advocates who participated. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

This year marked the first Indiana—or any—March for Life following the June 2022 overturning of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

“This isn’t the 50th year of the pro-life movement,” said Right to Life of Indianapolis executive director Marc Tuttle at a rally on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on Jan. 23.

Rather, he said, “This is the first year of the pro-life movement being able to actually stand for the babies, stand for the women, and be able to bring about a day when abortion is completely unthinkable in our state.”

The rally followed a Mass with three Indiana bishops, and the Indiana March for Life. (Related story: Pro-life Mass with three bishops and 1,100 people is ‘largest since pre-pandemic days’)

Roughly 1,100 Catholics and other pro-life advocates of all ages from central and southern Indiana and from the Lafayette, Ind., Diocese processed through the streets of Indianapolis to the Statehouse, joyfully calling out pro-life chants and carrying life-affirming signs.

Students from Catholic schools in Brownsburg, Dearborn County, Indianapolis, Madison, New Albany, Oldenburg, Ripley County and more, as well as from the Lafayette Diocese, made for a predominantly young crowd.

Joining the march for the first time were 120 high school students and chaperones from the Diocese of Evansville, Ind.—along with their shepherd, Bishop Joseph M. Siegel.

The overturning of Roe means that “laws regarding the rights of the unborn go to the states now,” said Jeremy Goebel, the diocese’s director of youth and young adult ministry.

“We did have groups who went to [Washington] D.C.” for the national March for Life, he said. “But we wanted with my office and with the bishop to promote things at the local level because that’s where the need is, and to show you can do things locally and have an impact.”

Roe years were ‘pre-season’

Any mention of the overturning of Roe brought jubilant cries from the rally participants.

“Where were you when you heard that Roe v. Wade was overturned?” Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, asked the crowd. “What an electric moment in the nation’s history!”

Indiana U.S. Senator Todd Young agreed.

“I think [pro-choice defenders] thought we would go away” with the reversal of Roe, he said from the Statehouse steps. “But we’re still here in what we’re all proud to call the post-Roe era!”

Once Roe was overturned, “We were able to get three [pro-life] laws reinstated in Indiana by going to court,” said Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. Because of those laws, abortion based on discrimination and dismemberment abortions are outlawed, and aborted babies must be given a proper burial.

“And for two weeks in September, abortions were largely illegal in Indiana” until a lawsuit put a temporary injunction on the state’s new law protecting most pre-born children, he added.

“We’re fighting that [case] now,” said Rokita, referring to oral arguments heard by the Indiana Supreme Court on Jan. 19. (See related article on page 2A.) “There’s another case coming, but we’ll do our legal work on that one, too. Pray that the Indiana Supreme Court gets this [issue] right.”

Those legal battles are indicative of a message repeated by many speakers at the rally: the fight for pre-born lives is just beginning.

“The reversal of Roe was not the end of the battle—it was chapter one of the new phase of the battle,” said Fichter.

Rally speaker Mary Carmen Zahrajsek echoed his statement.

“Every year for 49 years we had Roe v. Wade as a stumbling block,” said Zahrajsek, Indiana regional coordinator for Students for Life. “I’m sorry to break it to you—that was the pre-season. The fight for lives starts now.”

That fight is a matter of human rights, she said, noting that “human rights should not kill other humans, that is plain and simple. Human life begins at conception, and human rights begin at conception.”

‘God gives each of us a purpose’

Mark Hublar believes that human rights begin in the womb. But some believe that right does not extend to those with disabilities.

“When I was born in 1964, the doctor told my mom and dad, ‘Mark has Down syndrome. Don’t take him home. Put him in an institution,’ ” the member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany told the crowd at the rally. “I am not broken. I don’t need to be fixed. I have a purpose.”

In fact, Hublar went on to earn a college degree in public speaking. With the help of his family, he created a business that takes him around the country advocating for meaningful employment for those with disabilities.

He shared more about his story during a March for Life Vigil the day prior at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. The vigil, organized by the Lafayette Diocese, also included adoration, prayer, music and a eucharistic procession.

From the Statehouse steps, Hublar shared sobering statistics with the crowd regarding abortion and Down syndrome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 6,000 babies are born with the condition each year. But a March 18, 2022, report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee points out that an estimated 60% to 90% of pre-born children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted annually.

“God loves all of us,” Hublar told the crowd. “God gives each of us purpose. I believe that all life has value.”

Some question the value of life conceived in rape.

“People ask, ‘Well, what about the 13-year-old who was raped?’ ” said Serena Dyksen at the rally. “I am the 13-year-old that was raped and taken for an abortion.

“What people didn’t tell my parents when they took me for an abortion was that that trauma would follow me for the rest of my life.”

Through her own journey of healing, the northern Indiana resident created She Found His Grace abortion recovery ministry.

“With more than 60 million abortions” since 1973, she said, “there are millions of mothers and fathers out there who are hurting and suffering trauma. I want them to know that there is hope.”

Melissa Coles, a national pro-life advocate whose decision to choose life and offer her son for adoption is shared in the documentary I Lived on Parker Avenue and in the movie Lifemark, echoed Dyksen’s words.

“When they fight [at protests], they’re angry, they’re yelling, they’re screaming,” she said. “They’re hurting, but they don’t realize they’re hurting. … That’s why when we fight, we have to fight with love.”

We must live out message ‘love them both’

Love is key in the pro-life movement, said Fichter.

“We’ve done a lot of research over the last year and half,” he said. “The world at large … [is] looking to see if we really mean what we say. We can’t just say, ‘Love them both.’ We have to live it in showing compassion for pregnant mothers and their unborn babies.”

Senator Young noted the post-Roe need for “more effort and energy for advocacy, of course.

“But we’re also going to need more of it to send a message of love, of neighborliness, to ensure that this movement is committed to persuasion. We have hearts and minds that need to be shaped and changed—and that’s even harder work.”

It’s work that Sara Cabrera takes seriously. Her mother was a young, unwed woman far from family when she considered aborting her oldest daughter.

Last fall, Sara and her friend Olivia Murrey, both 15, founded the Indianapolis-area Homeschoolers 4 Life group.

“This cause is all about showing up, showing support for moms and their babies and to other [pro-life] students to let them know that we support them,” said Sara, whose family along with Olivia’s worships at St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville.

The group wants to “show the leaders of our country and the world that we as young people are here to fight the injustice of abortion because we are the pro-life generation,” said Sara.

Goebel called the speakers “gifted and perfect for the rally.”

While time is needed for his Evansville group to process the experience and to receive more formal feedback, he said, “The general response is overwhelmingly positive.

“We wanted to create an impactful experience for people to appreciate the dignity of life a little bit more. I think the Mass, march and rally accomplished that.”

(Websites for groups mentioned in this article include She Found His Grace at www.shefoundhisgrace.org; Homeschoolers 4 Life at Homeschoolers 4 Life on Facebook; documentary and movie of Melissa Coles’ pro-life story at www.ilivedonparkerave.com and lifemarkmovie.com; and Mark Hublar’s disabilities advocacy business at www.markjhublarspeaks.com.)

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