By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
BATON ROUGE – A cold wind whistling through downtown skyscrapers, could not discourage a crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 pro-life Louisiana residents from declaring “Life is Priceless” and marching five blocks from the Old State Capitol to the new Capitol in the 6th annual Louisiana Life March.
One of a kind in the state until 2014, this Baton Rouge event was joined last year by “Life March North” in Shreveport (held this year the same day, Jan. 23). A third march was added for 2016 in Alexandria, Jan. 30.
All three events protest the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states. Since then, more than 58 million children have been aborted, pro-life advocates report.
Tommy Middleton, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, said prior to the march that it was important for Baptists to participate in events like this because, “it is a Biblical concern.
“The Bible is an advocate for life,” Middleton said. “Our voice should be clear and known within the community.”
Cold temperatures may have discouraged some from marching in Baton Rouge. However, winter storm “Jonas” turned back more than 400 Catholic youth headed for the national march in Washington, D.C., so they decided to march here, instead, and their enthusiasm was infectious.
Several times they chanted, “I believe that it will end,” and entertained the crowd with an “I need a hero” flash dance on the Capitol steps.
Ben Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, started the march with a prayer.
“Life has been commodified in our nation. Abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood are selling the body parts of babies,” Clapper said. “But we know human life is priceless and we are here to stand for life.”
Students from “Baton Rouge Pilgrimage for Life” carried the banner followed by two dozen Knights of Columbus in their dress uniforms and plumed hats. A bagpipe band played a variety of hymns and the crowd sang along with “Amazing Grace.”
One man, wearing his camo-hunting jacket, rolled himself in a wheelchair while a young woman was pushed in her chair. An elderly woman walked the entire way using a walker. A dozen women pushed children in strollers.
Many carried signs declaring the march’s theme, “Life is Precious.” Some men carried, “Men regret lost fatherhood” and a dozen brave women from “Silent No More” carried signs, “I regret my abortion.” One boy carried a hand-made sign, “Abortion is murder” on one side and “what if you were aborted?” on the other.
The march stretched more than two city blocks and when it got to North Blvd., filming for a new Tom Cruise movie, “Jack Reacher II” stopped to let the marchers through.
When the crowd arrived at the Capitol, a Bethany Church praise band revved them up with worship songs and Bethany’s lead pastor, Jonathan Stockstill, declared, “We’re here to stand under a clear sky and let God see we are standing for those killed in the womb. We are praying to see abortion ended.”
David Scotton, an LSU student, told how, when his mother was pregnant with him, went into an abortion clinic but changed her mind, delivered him and gave him up for adoption. His story is being made into a documentary film by La. Right to Life.
Sancha Smith, state director for Concerned Women of America, told how as a young girl she was sexually abused by an “uncle,” lost her self-esteem, became promiscuous and at age 15 had an abortion. “Then one day I met a man named Jesus and he became my father because I was fatherless,” she said. Now, one of her grown sons is a pastor.
Leslie Ellison, a New Orleans school board member, encouraged the audience to influence their elected officials with the pro-life message.
Middleton closed by declaring “just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is moral, doesn’t mean it is right and doesn’t mean we should accept it.”
“The march for life is not just one day a year – it is every day,” Middleton said. “Make the effort to come here (Capitol) to speak to legislative committees about bills, that is a march for life.”
“When you vote, the most important letter behind their name is not “R” or “D” it is “R” – right – or “W” – wrong,” Middleton said. “We must make a decision for the Right and cancel out the Wrong. Vote on their moral commitment to life!”
Afterward, Clapper said he thought it went “very well” although attendance was down from previous years.
“It was probably the coldest day in the six years we’ve had this event so I think the crowd … was very strong” for the conditions, he said.
Many visited a dozen informational booths that included Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and the Crisis Pregnancy Center, located in north Baton Rouge, operated by Charles and Barbara Thomas.
“This crowd tells us the pro-life movement is not dead,” Charles Thomas said. “It’s not a political thing but it’s a God thing – it’s a life thing. People want to protect those unborn lives – we don’t want to make it a political issue.”
This 2016 event was sponsored by Louisiana Right to Life, Baton Rouge Right to Life, Louisiana Baptist Convention, BAGBR, the Louisiana Family Forum, Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United Pentecostal Church of Louisiana, the Knights of Columbus, Caring to Love Ministries, and Concerned Women for America.