Thousands converge on Lincoln for annual Walk for Life
April 18, 2019
Young families with children in strollers, teens chanting “We are the pro-life generation,” senior couples, clergy and members of religious orders – people of all stripes and ages gathered by the thousands in Lincoln Jan. 27 to show their support for the unborn.
The crowd at the 44th annual Walk for Life, sponsored by Nebraska Right to Life, echoed the enthusiasm of those attending the March for Life a week earlier in Washington, D.C.
Megan Drapa, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha who previously lived in Washington, has attended several marches there, and finds the events “extremely uplifting and inspiring as always.”
Attending the Lincoln walk for the first time with her husband, Joseph, and their four daughters, ages 20 months to 6 years, she noted that “pro-life means pro-women.”
“I want to help change the culture so my girls can grow up in a culture empowered to celebrate exactly what femininity is,” Drapa said. “I feel the tide changing in the pro-life movement, and it’s leading by being pro-women.”
The event began with a standing-room-only Mass at St. Mary Church, sponsored by the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with Lincoln Bishop James D. Conley presiding and Father Ryan Kaup, a priest of the Lincoln diocese, delivering the homily.
After Mass, a rally on the steps of the Capitol featured Gov. Pete Ricketts, who proclaimed, “Nebraska is a pro-life state,” and highlighted recent legislative victories to support his statement, including a bill authorizing “Choose Life” license plates, and the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act requiring information be provided to mothers facing complicated pregnancies about non-abortion alternatives.
“We need your help again this year,” Ricketts said as he described his budget proposal to prevent abortion providers from receiving Title X federal funds. He asked people to contact their senators to support keeping the Title X language in the budget bill.
Other political leaders who spoke included Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Nebraska’s two U.S. senators, Deb Fisher and Ben Sasse, U.S. House members Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry (along with daughter Claire) and state Sen. Dan Watermeier, sponsor of the pro-life license plate bill. All stressed the need for continued support for pro-life legislation.
In addition to legislation, participants noted other positive trends.
Caroline Oltjenbruns of St. Andrew Parish in Bloomfield and a longtime religious education teacher, said she likes to think of the “positive side of things.” Her students at one point asked if there’s an upside to the abortion issue.
“Before abortion became legal in the United States, Catholics were somewhat apathetic about abortion – it was just not talked about. It was put under the rug, but it’s not now.
“As Catholics, we’ve learned that we have got to step up and help people understand that this is not the right choice,” she said.
Father Damien Wee, pastor of St. Rose Parish in Hooper and St. Lawrence Parish in Scribner, said there are signs that the culture is slowly changing through prayer and sacrifice. “It has borne fruit, but we have to keep going.”
“For many years I’ve been to the March for Life, and it’s a very hopeful sign to see the younger crowd turning out and recognizing the value of life and the importance of standing up for it,” Father Wee said.
As the rally ended, people released blue and pink balloons that floated skyward as the crowd began a seven-block walk to the University of Nebraska student union. Once there, they browsed numerous pro-life booths and settled in for a keynote address by Irish investigative journalist Ann McElhinney.
With her husband, Phelim McAleer, she wrote “Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer,” and produced the movie “Gosnell,” recounting the story of Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, now serving life in prison for the deaths of two patients and killing of babies who survived late-term abortions.
McElhinney discussed Gosnell’s “house of horrors” abortion clinic – filthy and staffed by unqualified people, including a 15-year-old administering anesthesia.
Despite numerous complaints, the Pennsylvania Department of Health for 17 years failed to inspect the clinic, she told the crowd.
And clinics like Gosnell’s are still operating throughout the United States, she said.
She encouraged audience members to get involved and visit gosnellmovie.com to learn more about the film and donate toward its distribution in theaters across the country.
McElhinney compared abortion to the Nazi holocaust and cited the words of German pastor, theologian and Nazi resistor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”