Participants bundle up as gusty winds made temperatures of about 15 degrees feel more like zero to five below at the 10 a.m. start of the Jan. 18 Walk for Life, according to the National Weather Service. NEBRASKA RIGHT TO LIFE

News

Walk for Life participants brave frigid weather

Demonstrating for the sanctity of life with ice and snow at your feet and a blast of frigid air in your face is not for the lukewarm of heart.

On Jan. 18 a bundled-up crowd of more than 2,000 people participated in the 46th annual Walk for Life in Lincoln.

They listened to a few speeches outside the state Capitol, with temperatures near 15 degrees and wind chill readings dipping as low as -5. They watched the release of 350 pink and blue balloons into sharp winds that gusted to 30 mph, and they walked with pro-life signs about seven blocks north to the Nebraska Union at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

There, several other speakers awaited the demonstrators in indoor warmth.

The crowd was about half of what it might have been in nicer weather. The walk typically draws more than 4,000 participants, said Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, which organized the event.

Al and Cheri Asherlin of Mary Our Queen Parish in Omaha were among those who braved the weather.

It was the second time for Al, who couldn’t attend before his recent retirement.

Cheri has gone multiple times to the January event commemorating the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal in all 50 states throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

Since 1973, abortion has claimed the lives of more than 61 million preborn babies, Schmit-Albin said. The pink and blue balloons are released at the walk each year in memory of those lives.

Cheri Asherlin didn’t balk at the weather, remembering worse years.

“I go every chance I get,” she said by phone after the walk.

“Life is important – very important – from conception to natural death,” she said.

For the Asherlins, that sentiment is not an empty platitude. As a young couple they were told they could never have children. So they adopted one son, but later conceived naturally another son, who was born with serious heart problems, and a daughter.

Their adopted son Chad, now 42, works in information technology in Omaha and is married and has four children. His biological mother could’ve had an abortion, but Cheri said she is grateful that Chad was given over to their family instead.

“He is such a blessing to us and is always there to help with whatever we need,” she said.

The Asherlins’ children give them much to be thankful for. Their son Ryan survived five heart surgeries by the time he was 26 months old. He is now 38 and a clinical psychologist in Denver. Daughter Katie, 33, is a veterinarian in Omaha who is married and has one child.

Al and Cheri were among 10 passengers on a bus from Mary Our Queen to the Walk for Life events. Before the walk, they went to a 9 a.m. pro-life Mass at St. Mary Church, near the Capitol.

Thirty people had originally signed up for the bus trip, provided by the Knights of Columbus at Mary Our Queen. Forecasted high winds might have scared off some, Cheri said.

Conditions were “not quite as windy as predicted,” she said. “Maybe the tall buildings helped.”

Schmit-Albin gave credit to the pro-life demonstrators.

“It was a very good turnout considering the conditions,” she said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts and State Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln were among those who talked briefly before the walk outside the Capitol.

Ricketts had earlier proclaimed Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, a statewide day of prayer to end abortion.

Geist is sponsoring a bill in the Legislature, LB814, that would ban dismemberment abortions. The second-trimester abortion method, known medically as dilation and evacuation (D&E), tears a pre-born baby apart and removes him or her from the womb piece by piece, causing him or her to bleed to death.

Speaking inside after the walk were U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and State Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston. Several other lawmakers were in attendance.

Keynote speakers Jeff and Jennifer Christie of Virginia shared how their now 5-year-old son Joshua was conceived in a rape when Jennifer was away on a business trip.

Jeff never suggested abortion, his wife said, and they consider their son “a gift.”

“I’m not raising a rapist’s baby,” she said. “I’m raising my baby.”

“Is he a reminder? Yes, he’s a reminder that women can be stronger than their circumstances. He’s also a reminder that beauty can come from darkness.”