Thousands march in annual Walk for Life in Lincoln

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Nebraskans against abortion braved cold winds and icy streets to express their views on a march through downtown Lincoln on Saturday morning.

The 46th annual Nebraska Walk For Life began at the state Capitol and finished at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Union.

Organized by Nebraska Right to Life, the walk was held near the date of the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and featured several speakers, including public officials and those with personal experience with abortion issues.

A smaller group of pro-abortion rights activists were also present.

Sandy Danek, president of Nebraska Right to Life, said she believed the event drew about 2,000 people, which was down from the typical attendance of about 3,000 or 4,000. She said that may have been because of the weather. 

Many attendees highlighted anti-abortion legislation currently in the Legislature.

Concordia University sophomore Joanna Scherrill, president of the school’s Bulldogs for Life club, led peers in hymns as the march moved through downtown toward the student union. She said the group was there to profess its Lutheran faith and to defend human life at all stages. Scherrill said the singing was intended both to drown out the shouting of counter-protesters, but also to express the joy members believe is intrinsic to human life.

“Life isn’t convenient, but it is worth it,” she said.

The Rev. Ryan Kaup of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Nebraska City said he attended to support and respect human life from conception to death. While he acknowledged the importance of the separation of church and state, he said it was natural to allow his faith to inform his thinking on public policy. Kaup said he was concerned by the partisanship that surrounds the event.

The event’s keynote speakers were Jennifer and Jeff Christie, a married couple who experienced an unplanned pregnancy after Jennifer was raped on a business trip. They ultimately decided to carry the pregnancy to term and raise the child, and spoke about their experience. The couple said that despite the circumstances, they are glad they are raising their child.

“The intrinsic value of human life is not dependent on circumstance.” Jennifer Christie said. “If life matters, life matters.”

Counter-protester Ann Fintel of Lincoln used a megaphone to speak to the crowd as it passed by. She said she strongly supported a woman’s right to choose what to do about a pregnancy.

“I’ve seen women’s rights get turned backward and it makes me sick,” she said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts spoke at the Capitol before the march. He said he was there to support unborn lives and to support LB814, a bill in the Legislature that would ban dismemberment abortions performed between 13 and 24 weeks. The governor said he believes Nebraska is an anti-abortion state and he praised the volunteer organizers and attendees of Saturday’s event.

Sen. Ben Sasse also spoke, thanking the crowd for braving the weather and saying the successes of the anti-abortion movement were due to everyday people winning over hearts and minds. He applauded picketing outside abortion clinics and thanked the crowd for its dedication to their cause.

Our message is one of hope: We stand up for babies and moms, science and compassion,” Sasse said in a statement after the event.

Lt. Gov. Mike Foley also spoke and applauded the work of activists in Lincoln who recently purchased a building across from Lincoln’s Planned Parenthood clinic to create an anti-abortion women’s health center.

“Despite what our country has been through over the last 37 years, I am so hopeful,” Foley said.

Nebraska Right to Life’s Danek said she believes the event both changes minds and helps rally like-minded Nebraskans around anti-abortion legislation. She said she understands that the topic makes people uncomfortable, but thinks it’s important to discuss.

“I know this is a tough subject, but it’s a tough procedure,” she said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or nmcconnell@journalstar.com.

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