The U.S. Supreme Court may well overturn or seriously undermine its 1973 decisions that decriminalized abortion-on-demand throughout the United States.
A likely outcome of such action would be to give states more authority to regulate abortion.
“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade as we have been praying and working for, or it greatly expands the limitations on abortion that can be legally enforced” — which the Court seems poised to do when it announces its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization this spring or summer — “abortion will be debated again in every state legislature. Guaranteed,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight declared at an April 20 rally for the 13th annual Midwest March for Life in Jefferson City.
Bishop McKnight spoke to a mostly jubilant but resolute crowd of over 2,500 people from Missouri and neighboring states in the Rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol.
“To advance the culture of life,” he noted, “we must at this moment be willing to make the case for life ourselves, not only in the important decision-making processes that go on in this Capitol building and in the courthouses across the street, but also in our conversations and in our actions in daily life.”
This will require people of faith to put more radically into practice what they preach.
“We must be a people unafraid to stand up for the weakest among us,” said Bishop McKnight. “We must support the dignity of all human life and never tire of the demands of what it means to be pro-life.”
Most of the daylong event’s festivities were moved inside due to rain, although the March did take place through the streets of the Capital City.
“God stirred up the sky this morning,” said pro-life activist Bridget VanMeans, CEO and vision leader of ThriVe St. Louis. “It looks like He said, ‘Remind My people that I weep for the unborn.’”
In the opening prayer, Father Anthony Viviano, moderator for pro-life ministries in the Jefferson City diocese, pleaded with God to “enkindle an undying passion for the mission for which we gather this day.”
“Father,” he prayed, “we gather as protectors for ‘the least of Yours,’ those most precious to You, in their complete and total innocence. We come before You, Lord, as ‘poor beggars,’ seeking the courage, the resilience and a warrior’s spirit to protect the unborn.”
Ms. VanMeans presented the event’s Patriot for Life Award to state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman.
“I don’t know why we’re still fighting this 50 years later, but our time is not God’s time, and He calls us not to be successful but to be faithful,” Rep. Coleman stated.
Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe presented a Vision Champion for Life Award to Ms. VanMeans.
“It is essential that we continue to make our voice heard,” she proclaimed, her words resonating off the marble and granite walls of the Rotunda.
Midwest March for Life organizer Kathy Forck, co-director for the Columbia 40 Days for Life Campaign, honored the students of St. Joseph School in Westphalia for their enthusiastic participation in last year’s March.
St. Joseph seventh-grader Cameron Reinsch said it’s important to “stand up for the babies who can’t stand up for themselves.”
“We need to stand up for all the babies who don’t have a voice,” seventh-grader Trenton Orscheln added.
Several St. Joseph students talked about what they could do throughout the year to advance the pro-life cause.
“We could have fund raisers to raise money for mothers who are having a hard time with money problems,” said eighth-grader Kaylee Juergensmeyer.
“Praying for the babies is also very important,” said Cameron. “We pray to God that mothers can have the strength to keep and raise their babies or put them up for adoption.”
Mercy and compassion
Joan Kane, a member of the Board of Directors of an organization known as Support After Abortion (supportafterabortion.com), urged everyone present to cultivate a listening ear and an open heart in order to help people who have been wounded by abortion find the healing they need.
“There’s always more than one victim of abortion,” she noted.
Since about half of the abortions that take place in this country are a woman’s second or greater, “speaking with compassion can cut the abortion rate in half,” she said.
She urged everyone to be aware that an average of 1 in 4 women in this country has had an abortion by age 45.
Research shows that 22 million women and men whose lives have been touched by abortion would get help finding healing if they knew where to look for it, she said.
Therefore, it’s important to speak compassionately and non-judgmentally, listen openly to a woman’s story, and know how to put her in contact with people who can help her heal.
“Focus on the person who’s hurting, thus humanizing the conversation on abortion,” said Mrs. Rowe.
“Jesus met sinners right where they were,” she noted. “This is Divine Mercy. You can all live Divine Mercy in your own lives.”
Souls in peril
Keynote speaker Abby Johnson, a pro-life activist who previously was a manager of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Texas, emphasized the importance of not just saving babies’ lives but of saving people’s souls.
That’s why she founded And Then There Were None, an organization that helps people who are employed in the abortion industry get out.
“I want not one person to perish in hell,” she declared. “Not one! And while the work that we do is very important — saving babies from abortion — the work that we do with these mothers, the work that we do with these abortion-clinic workers — their souls are just as important as the physical lives of the babies we are trying to save.”
She said it’s important to interrupt the devil’s work in a person’s life.
“Be willing to offend somebody with God’s truth,” she said.
She noted that people standing on the sidewalk outside the abortion clinic she used to manage spoke honestly with her, telling her that what she was doing was wrong.
“You know what? The best way you can love someone is to speak truth into their life,” she said.
Mrs. Johnson believes her work is about converting hearts, not changing laws.
“You want to change a culture, you convert hearts to Christ,” she said. “You want to end abortion? You bring these women to Jesus Christ.”
After getting caught in God’s tears while marching through Jefferson City, young participants returned to the Rotunda to learn about how to defend the cause for life.
Pro-life youth activist Hope Miller said the goal cannot be to change another person’s mind with one discussion.
“Your goal must be to plant a seed that someone else will help grow,” she said.
Reagan Barklage, national field team director for Students for Life America, said it’s important to explain compassionately what an abortion entails.
“Argue the humanity of the human baby,” she said.
“Read, learn, speak intelligently, have conversations, work to change hearts,” she said. “Nobody has all the answers, and that’s okay. But never be afraid to get involved and speak up.”
Later that afternoon came an in-depth discussion about post-abortion healing.
Bishop Joseph Coffey, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain who is now an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA, led a prayer for women who are living with silent and lonely regret.
“We ask You to let them know that Your love and mercy is never-ending,” he prayed.
A couple from the St. Louis area spoke candidly of how they had agreed to have an abortion before they were married, when they were 17, frightened and naive.
Their parents helped convince them that abortion would be their best course of action.
“I would give anything if I could go back and not do it,” the husband said.
Wracked with guilt for decades, the mother felt like she did not deserve to have any children.
A friend helped them find post-abortion healing by attending a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. Now the couple is active in pro-life ministry and in helping other couples find the healing they need.
Mary Lovee Varni with the Respect Life Apostolate of the St. Louis archdiocese, spoke passionately about helping people who are suffering after abortion (archstl.org/hope-healing).
“I’ve seen miracles whenever a brave man or woman steps forward to claim their lost motherhood or lost fatherhood to abortion,” she said.
She said 9 out of 10 people who need post-abortion healing do not know where to look for it.
Most turn to trusted friends, which is why it’s helpful to know where to send them for help.
“You can provide that caring and confidential environment to help someone start their healing journey,” she said.