Brandy Buckley – with her baby Anya, 1, in tow – participates with family members in the Jan. 29 Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln. Pictured to her right are her mother, Loni Burge of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, and Buckley’s daughter Ella, 11. The Buckleys are members of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha. Other children pictured, from left, are Bram, 6; Lissa, 4; Kit, 8; and Eli, 9. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF


Walk for Life participants have new reason for zeal

Story includes photo gallery, by Susan Szalewski, below.


Sunny skies, unseasonal warmth and a new cause for hope and enthusiasm might be a few of the reasons thousands flocked to the Jan. 29 Walk for Life in Lincoln.

About 4,000 people were in attendance, double the turnout of the previous year, said Sandy Danek, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, which organized the 48th annual walk.

Sandy Danek, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, speaks at a rally before the Nebraska Walk for Life, Jan. 29 in Lincoln. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF


Danek said she can’t point to any specific reason why the attendance returned to pre-pandemic numbers.

But the crowd may have revealed a significant factor when it erupted into applause and cheers whenever a speaker mentioned the possibility this year of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which effectively legalized abortion across the United States.

The January anniversary of that somber decision has been the reason for the Walk for Life and similar events across the country.

A complete reversal of Roe v. Wade would be the best scenario, Danek said. At the least, she said, pro-lifers hope to gain back some ground on the abortion issue.

Elected officials at both the state and national level are preparing for the possibility that the Supreme Court might reverse itself when it decides a Mississipi abortion case. That decision isn’t expected until June.

About a dozen political leaders, from both the state and federal level, spoke at a rally on the north side of the State Capitol before the morning walk began.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and others acknowledged the many challenges the pro-life movement faces. “It’s an uphill battle,” she said. But “we also have opportunities in front of us.”

“You know, a lot has changed in 50 years,” Fischer said. “Science has showed us that babies who are born earlier and earlier, not only do they survive, but they thrive.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse said polling shows that more Americans are becoming pro-life, particularly because of advances in medical imaging which can show a baby in utero.

“Fundamentally what’s happening in America is the nation is becoming more pro-life because it’s becoming more pro-science and more pro-reality,” Sasse said, and also more “pro-love.” 

The speakers also included U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon, as well as State Sens. Julie Slama, Joni Albrecht, Mike Flood, Suzanne Geist and Mike Hilgers.

Husker assistant coach Ron Brown, who was adopted, explained his personal reason for being pro-life.

“I thank the Lord for life,” Brown said, “and I thank the Lord for the celebration of life and the privilege of being born through the womb of a mother, even if it wasn’t planned.”

“The pro-life message has been and always will be about Jesus Christ,” said Father Justin Fulton, vicar general of the Diocese of Lincoln, in his homily at a Pro-Life Mass held before the walk.

The Mass was sponsored by the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Grand Island Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt presided, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln concelebrated along with other priests.

Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt presides at a Pro-Life Mass before the Nebraska Walk for Life. Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, at left, is among the concelebrants. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF


The Sacred Word of Jesus “flows through you to ignite a world that needs it,” Father Fulton said. “And it might take all of our lifetime to do it, but we never give up.”

Though Roe v. Wade could be overturned, “this is not when we get cocky,” he said. “This is when we get more humble. We pray that we allow Jesus to live through us.”

“We have to fight for what is right,” said Bridget LaGreca of Immaculate Conception Parish in Omaha, who took part in the walk with her husband, Mike, and children Stephen, 6, and Mara, 2. They were part of a group from Christendom Academy in Omaha.

 “All life is precious,” Bridget said, “born or unborn.”

John-Paul Middendorf, 14, and Joseph Dulac, 13, went to the walk with their families, who were part of a group from St. Barnabas Classical Academy in Omaha. Dulac said his personal reason for joining in was “saving babies.”

“And saving moms, too,” Middendorf said. “Love them both.”

A contingent from a youth group at St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn also took part in the walk. It consisted of high school freshmen Jacob Paronable, Carson Hill, Terry Le, Takoda Butler and Huston Farrens, who said they wanted to make an impact on the world, getting the message out that “a life is a life, no matter how small.”

Walkers proceeded from the Capitol for several blocks, on streets that were shut down for traffic, to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Union.

There participants heard a talk from actress Ashley Bratcher, who portrayed the now pro-life advocate Abby Johnson in the movie “Unplanned.”

Keynote speaker Ashley Bratcher shares her story at UNL’s Nebraska Union following the Walk for Life. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF


Bratcher spoke about her own pro-life story, part of which was revealed after taking the role.

She was nearly a victim of abortion herself, she learned.

“I was … minutes from having my life end,” Bratcher said.

That information from her tearful mother “made me passionate” about the pro-life cause, “personally passionate about it.”




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