Founder of pro-life group retires as executive director

A founder and the leader of Omaha-based Nebraskans United for Life (NUFL) for 42 years is stepping away from day-to-day duties as executive director, but will remain as president and chairman.

"Our organization is moving forward … it’s time to pass the baton," said Ann Marie Bowen, 74, a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Omaha.

Hired as executive director is Kristan Gray, a native of New Mexico who has served as a missionary in Africa, worked with women and teenagers in Bible schools and other ministries, grown adept at social and other media as a newspaper and radio reporter and lives in Shenandoah, Iowa, with plans to move to Omaha.

"I am enormously humbled by the work and I am overwhelmed by the number of volunteers and financial members who have carried this organization for 40 years," Gray said.

Gray said she had an abortion and was raped, both when she was a teenager, and has shared her story in a book titled "No One Could Know" and given talks around the country.

In promoting pro-life issues from conception to natural death, including the battle against abortion, Nebraskans United for Life conducts a variety of efforts. It runs a mobile ultrasound machine for young mothers that also is used in Catholic schools and elsewhere around the state to help educate young people about fetal development.

In its Omaha offices, the organization offers free pregnancy tests and exams for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as parenting classes, counseling for pregnant and post-abortive women, and material assistance including diapers, baby bottles, cribs and car seats. The organization runs a thrift store, lobbies lawmakers, and helps lead 40 Days for Life and other pro-life prayer efforts and rallies.

Bowen said her involvement with the pro-life movement began at about the time local, state and national pro-life movements were getting started, in response to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. In 1975, she became chairman and executive director of organizations that later became Nebraska Right to Life and Nebraskans United for Life. She also served on the executive committee of National Right to Life.

"I had a young family, my husband (the late Jay Bowen) worked nights. There were no complaints, but there were sacrifices," she said.

Now, she is ready to have more time with her nine grandchildren, including three under age 8, while she has the energy to enjoy them.

"My energy level has not subsided," Bowen said. "I’d stay with Nebraskans United for Life if I was needed. But I feel very confident Kristan will do well."

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