Over 5,000 people gathered in support, and protest, at the 44th annual March for Life on Saturday, Jan. 27 in Lincoln.
The march began with speeches by Gov. Pete Ricketts and other Nebraska representatives on the northern steps of the Nebraska State Capitol and ended at the Nebraska Union with a speech from keynote speaker Ann McElhinney.
The Nebraska Walk for Life is one of many events National Right to Life state affiliates hold in January to oppose Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, according to a press release issued by Nebraska Right to Life.
The march was in correlation with the National March for Life in Washington, D.C. that occured on Jan. 19. Multiple attendees have attended both the state and national march.
“I’ve been to the Lincoln march twice and attended the march in D.C. last year,” Anthony Krick, a senior at Pius X High School, said.
Krick was accompanied by twelve other Pius X students who painted their chests with the phrase “We love babies.”
Participants also yielded homemade signs with phrases such as “Pro-life is pro-woman,” and “Choose life.”
Kristen Nett, junior child, youth and family studies major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, held a sign saying “Don’t eat tide pods, be pro-life,” combining the cause with a recent social media trend. Nett is also the secretary of UNL Students for Life, the anti-abortion group on campus.
Nett said about 10 students from Students for Life showed up to the march. Sixty additional UNL students were also in attendance, according to Karissa Dicke, the pro-life chair of the Newman Center’s student board. Dicke shared her opinion on the importance of student’s attendance.
“As college students, we are the future,” Dicke said, “It is important that we promote a culture of life not only on our college campus but also in our local government. I think that it is vital that people can see that the pro-life movement is supported by so many in our generation, and that we are not afraid to stand up for the dignity of life.”
Nett also expressed her opinion on the anti-abortion movement, as she said she believes the argument goes beyond biology and theology.
“Pro-life is not about a science thing, it’s not a religion thing, it’s about all lives are created from conception and we should support those lives from conception to death and that’s just something I’ve known my whole life,” Nett said. “We should be pro-life because it’s pro-love.”
Kaylee Easter, junior education major and UNL Students for Life member, exemplified that message in her response to the counter protesters.
“We love them and we care for them,” she said. “We want to meet them and we want them to know that.”
Alongside the March For Life, counter-protesters walked on the opposite side of the street.
Berea Bennett, 26, co-planned the counter-protest at the March for Life in Lincoln this year. She has participated in six counter-protests for the March For Life in both Omaha and Lincoln.
“My goal is always to start some conversations,” Bennett said. “Maybe get a few people to think about what types of things would actually lower abortion rates.”
Bennett was one of many counter-protesters that held signs pertaining to women’s right of choice, in effort to make a statement to those in attendance for the Walk For Life.
“We want to show up every year to let people know that we are here and we will stand up for women’s rights,” she said. “Just because we have the law on our side does not mean it isn’t important to stay visible and active to ensure this important right remains protected.”
Bennett highlighted other practices in regard to women’s rights such as access to low cost or free child care, health insurance and access to birth control.
“I hope the pro-lifers take away some positive thoughts about us,” she said. “Hopefully, they will be able to see we aren’t just here to push abortion, and that it is about so much more than that.”
March participants had varying reactions to the counter-protesters. Colin McGuigan, senior at Bishop Neumann High School, commented on his view of the protesters.
“As I look in front of me I see hundreds and hundreds of youths supporting a good cause, and when I turn around I see a lot of ignorance and negativity spread on signs and people’s faces,” he said.” That just makes me know that I’m on the right side.”
Seminarian Daniel Alloy had conversations with the counter-protestors.
“There was one lady who wasn’t very responsive and just wanted to shout,” he said, “and I had four conversations with very nice young ladies who did want to talk. We kind of had to agree to disagree but both of us were better for having gone through the discussion.”
The march ended with keynote speaker Ann McElhinney giving a speech to participants in the Nebraska Union. McElhinney is author of the book and producer of the movie, “Gosnell.” The book and film discuss Philadelphia’s late term abortionist who is now serving a life sentence in prison for the manslaughter of a woman who died at his hands as well as the infanticide of three babies.
Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin was pleased with reactions to McElhinney’s talk as well as the turnout to the march.
“We had wonderful weather and a great, dynamic speaker,” she said, “Nebraska’s pro-lifers always come out to this event and with a speaker like Ann they leave motivated and inspired.”