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Local students carrying the official banner of Nebraska Right to Life lead marchers in support of the unborn during the 45th annual Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln Jan. 26. Nearly 4,000 walkers were estimated to have taken part in the walk from the State Capitol to the University of Nebraska student union. MIKE MAY/STAFF

Nebraskans come together to support unborn

A brief snow flurry greeted people milling about K St. and filing out of St. Mary Church across from the State Capitol in Lincoln.

But the snow quickly stopped and, despite the remaining chill and overcast skies, spirits were high as the 45th annual Walk for Life began Jan. 26 to support the pro-life cause.

After a Mass at St. Mary Church, Sandy Danek, president of Nebraska Right to Life, the event’s sponsor, welcomed the crowd – estimated at nearly 4,000 – from the steps of the Capitol.

She introduced government officials including Gov. Pete Ricketts, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, U.S. Reps. Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry and others who addressed the crowd.

Ricketts charged up the marchers with the words, “Nebraska is a pro-life state,” and spoke of legislative opportunities to support life such as LB209, which would require abortion providers to inform women of options for reversing the effects of the “abortion pill.” He also warned of dangers such as New York State’s recent legislation authorizing abortions up to the moment of birth.

Father Damien Wee, pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Scribner and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Hooper, was impressed with the crowd.

“With all that’s going on today in the world and in our culture, this (public witness) is needed more than ever,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see that, despite the weather, so many people gathered here.”

After a release of blue and pink balloons into the air, the throng began its seven-block march, carrying banners and signs, singing, praying the rosary, some walking hand-in-hand, and young families wheeling infants in strollers.

Wendy Ridder of St. Mary Parish in West Point, attending with her sons, ages 4 and 2, saw the event as a family affair, and as setting an important example for the young.

 “My mom brought me since I was little, and I’m very active in the pro-life movement now,” she said. I’m all for getting involved when they’re young.”

Deena Wetovick, a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion, attended her third Walk for Life since her conversion to Catholicism in 2016. She was impressed with the growing attendance, seeing it as a sign of hope.

 “I see more and more people each year. Some of my friends come that I never knew came. I think (progress) is small, but every step counts,” she said. “Sometimes we can’t see it all, but it’s there.” 

The walk concluded at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student union, where participants browsed numerous pro-life booths and settled in to hear keynote speaker  Catherine Adair, a former Planned Parenthood employee who left the abortion industry to share the truth about the organization’s practices.

As a lapsed Catholic and pro-choice feminist who herself had an abortion, she joined the organization as a counselor and later became a medical assistant preparing women for their abortions. 

During her talk she described Planned Parenthood’s impersonal, profit-driven approach and told of her duties cleaning up after an abortion, accounting for and placing the body parts in plastic bags for disposal.

Adair’s life changed one day when cleaning up after a late-term abortion. “I walked into the room and on the table was a jar,” she said. “In the jar I saw the arms and legs of the baby; they were so beautiful, so perfect.

“It was then the scales fell from my eyes. I was so angry and frightened by what was in front of me,” she said. “I realized all I had told these women were lies.”

Eight years ago, Adair and her husband experienced a conversion, and Adair found healing and forgiveness through a “wonderful priest” who assured her that God loves her.

They are now the parents of five children, one of whom was saved from an abortion and adopted by Adair and her husband.

Speaking to the Catholic Voice, she said, “It’s life changing to experience the outpouring of love and support from pro-life people around the country – to have so many people praying for me, to see how hard people are working. And the sacrifices they’re making have really inspired me to want to be a better Catholic and to be involved in the pro-life movement.”

She said she was impressed with the turnout for the walk and praised the pro-life commitment of Nebraskans.

Tony Hergott, former Knights of Columbus state deputy and member of St. Isidore Parish in Columbus, also attended the walk with his wife and grandson.

“We’re all here because we love life and want to protect life in all its stages,” Hergott said. “I see signs of hope – I see the youth, young marchers, that brings hope. Any time we can bring attention to the need to protect life – I can’t think of anything more important than that.” 

“There are other options rather than abortion, adoption, for one,” he said. “God doesn’t create any mistakes.”

He also spoke about the active involvement of the Knights of Columbus in supporting life, including funding ultrasound machines for women’s clinics to let abortion-minded women see their babies with the hope of encouraging them to instead choose life.

“Of all the things I’m most proud of as state deputy was signing the paperwork for those ultrasounds and to think about the lives we’re saving,” Hergott said. Seven of the 10 Nebraska clinics that received the machines estimated their use may have saved over 2,000 lives in one year, he said.

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