By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
[img_assist|nid=7878|title=2012 Life March|desc=More than 3,500 people from across Louisiana participated in the 2nd annual Louisiana Life March on Saturday, Jan. 21, in downtown Baton Rouge. Despite occasional rain, the march stretched for five blocks from the Old State Capitol to the present State Capitol building.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=422]BATON ROUGE – When Phyllis Clark was pregnant in 1978, she was tired and ill, so her doctor suggested an abortion. She ignored his advice and her son Jeremy, now 34, was born healthy and normal.
“That’s why we marched,” Clark said, after the second annual Louisiana Life March took place in Baton Rouge on Saturday, Jan. 21. “The devil tried to rob me of my son!”
Phyllis and her husband Mike are members of Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. “As Christians we need to take a stand for life,” Mike Clark said.
The Clarks joined about 3,500 other pro-life supporters of all races and denominations. They filled five downtown city blocks as they carried banners, sang songs and marched from the Old State Capitol through spotty rain showers.
When they arrived at the state capitol for the rally, the clouds parted and the sun broke through just as, a half-hour earlier, State Senator Sharon Weston Broome, D., Baton Rouge, had prayed for.
“We love babies, that’s why we’re here,” said Kristina Smith, who marched along with a dozen friends from Grace Memorial Baptist Church in Slidell, all carrying signs declaring such messages as, “Smile, your Mom chose life!” and “Abortion stops one heart while another heart breaks.”
Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, told the crowd that the event was both solemn and joyful.
“Joyful because we are celebrating life and the progress we’ve made but solemn because every day about 22 children are aborted in Louisiana,” Clapper said. “Louisiana is rated number one in the nation in pro-life legislation that requires abortionists to show women an ultrasound.”
Because of that legislation, Clapper reported, a woman in an abortion clinic in New Orleans recently saw her baby’s ten fingers and toes and at the 14th week, decided to keep her baby. The crowd cheered.
“We want Louisiana to be the first state in the nation to be abortion free,” Clapper declared, to more cheers.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R., La., told the crowd he is doing his best to de-fund Planned Parenthood from the $360 million in the federal budget presently allocated to Planned Parenthood.
“You are the true leaders and you will get us to the promised land on this issue,” Vitter told the crowd. “God asks us to be faithful and true to him. That’s what you are doing and He will take care of the rest. I am confident we will be successful.”
LBC Executive Director David Hankins introduced Fred Luter Jr. as keynote speaker. Luter, pastor of the 7,000-member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, also is first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We come from a diversity of faith perspectives and we don’t agree on everything,” Hankins said, his arms outstretched to the predominantly Catholic crowd, “but we do agree that every human life begins at conception and is sacred to God and it ought to be to man.”
Hankins told how Luter built his church twice, once over the years and again after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it, and told the crowd “we are blessed” to have Luter as speaker.
“Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly,’” Luter declared. “We all showed up here today, from all over the state, because we have a passion for life.”
Life starts with God, Luter said, life is sustained by God and life ends with God.
“If I wanted to know something about life I’m not going to ask Dr. Seuss,” Luter said to applause, “or Johnson & Johnson or … Ann Landers … or Dear Abby or … Dr. Phil … or Oprah; if I want to know something about life I’m going to ask the creator of life: Almighty God!”
The legs we walked here on, the eyes we see with, the mouth we eat with, the air that we breathe was given to us by God, Luter said. “Your alarm clock did not wake you up this morning. God did! He is the creator and sustainer of life!”
[img_assist|nid=7879|title=Fred Luter Keynote Speaker|desc=Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans, at the Louisiana Life March tells more than 3,500 pro-life supporters on the steps of the state capitol to continue to work toward ending abortion.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=442]In John chapter ten, Luter said, the thief comes to steal and destroy, and first Peter says the thief is like a roaring lion seeking who to destroy, but, “my brothers and sisters, God always has the last word!
“God’s word says ‘in all things we are more than conquerors,’” Luter declared. “I can do – young and old, black and white, Jew and gentile – I can do … all things through Christ who gives me the strength!”
Life begins, is sustained by and ends with God, “but until then, let us keep walking, let us keep demonstrating for life, let us keep praying for life and until then let us keep marching for life,” Luter preached. “Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white – they all are precious in His sight!”
Marsha Schexnayder, of Life After Choice Ministry in Lake Charles, told her story of being an 18-year-old bride in 1972 who suffered a painful abortion. “I felt the baby being sucked out of my body. The pain was tremendous – I felt death.”
The next year she had a baby – who is now a pastor – “and for 18 years I carried that deep, dark secret,” she said.
“But Jesus, ever so gently, walked into my darkness and my pain and brought the words of I John 1:9 – If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and – He didn’t stop there – and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,’” she said. “When the day comes we overturn Roe V. Wade, I want to speak to you all again!” She spoke to hearty applause and the cries of several babies in the crowd.
Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, closed by telling the story of the sinking of the HMS Birkenhead, where the doctrine “women and children first” was coined after they were put into the lifeboats while the men and boys over the age of 14 stayed on board and died.
“The courage of that day swept the globe,” Mills said. “I’m asking the men in this group to make a commitment to be a man of God according to the Word of God. Don’t just be pro-life, Be pro-active.”
Thirty-six hundred pink and blue balloons, signifying that number of abortions in Louisiana last year, were released to drift into the cloudy sky in front of the State Capitol.
Tommy Middleton, executive director of the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, led a prayer with several of the speakers prior to the march.
“We – as Baptists – of all people should believe in life,” Middleton said when asked why it was important for Louisiana Baptists to attend the march. “We are to be salt and light to the world. We have an ethical responsibility to be visible.”
Istrouma Baptist Church’s pastor, Jeff Ginn, attended the rally.
“It is important for us as believers to be a voice for those who don’t yet have a voice,” Ginn said. “If we, as the church, don’t speak up, who will?”