By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA (LBM) – More than 12,000 people, combined, turned out across the state to march for life on three separate weekends in January and February.
According to information provided by Louisiana Right to Life, a crowd of 1,200 gathered in Baton Rouge; 5,600 assembled in Shreveport/Bossier and another 5,600 rallied in Alexandria/Pineville.
“It was such blessings to witness more than 12,000 Louisiana citizens at our three Louisiana Life March events boldly proclaim that every life deserves a lifetime,” Louisiana Right to Life CENLA Coordinator Brian Gunter told the Baptist Message. “We will never stop marching until every life is protected by law and welcomed with love into our world. We pray that we will see soon the end to abortion and assistance for all mothers.”
A large contingent led the procession with a “Louisiana Life March” banner. Others held up signs proclaiming “Unborn Lives Matter,” “Abortion Kills Babies” and “A True Feminist Would Fight For The Rights of Unborn Women.” Some held signs urging action by pro-lifers, such as “Be A Voice For the Voiceless” and “Stop Abortion Now.”
The theme of the marches —held Jan. 20 in Baton Rouge, Jan. 27 in Shreveport/Bossier and Feb. 3 in Alexandria/Pineville — was “Every Life Deserves A Lifetime.”
The Louisiana Life Marches are a chance for different denominations, ages and ethnic and racial backgrounds to march together and pray to declare their opposition to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973.
Gunter, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pollock, thanked the crowd Feb. 3 for their efforts in joining him and his church to further the pro-life cause by starting the first ever pregnancy care center in central Louisiana.
He told the crowd Feb. 3 that more than 200 churches, businesses and individuals helped make possible the CENLA Pregnancy Center that opened in December 2017.
He said that pro-abortion pundits claim the fight to end abortion on demand is over. However, Gunter challenged the crowd to abide by Galatians 6:9, “Do not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
“Brothers and sisters, make no mistake about this fact – we will win the fight to end abortion in America,” Gunter said. “We will not stop marching. We will not stop serving. We will not stop praying. We are going to work our fingers to the bone and then, by God’s grace, we are going to win.”
Claire Lemoine, director of the CENLA Pregnancy Center, said more than 20 women have been served since the opening of the center. Some of them have even elected not to proceed with an abortion after seeing their baby on an ultrasound inside the facility.
“There is no matter more important than the matter of life,” Lemoine said. “For 45 years now, the United States of America has allowed babies to be taken violently from the wombs of their mother, taken from the very person that was called to protect them. A baby has been called nothing more than a clump of cells. Lies have been told to our mothers, and they have suffered immensely.
“Because of the truth that has come into the light, as a nation we are moving in a direction of change,” she said. “We are moving in a direction of truth. We are moving in a direction of life.”
Louisiana College President Rick Brewer encouraged pro-life advocates to consider compassionate efforts like adoption and supporting a crisis pregnancy center. Brewer said he believes God has issued a challenge for those who value life to follow the example of Jesus Christ.
“He sacrificed his life to save us,” Brewer said. “What will we sacrifice to save the unborn?
At the conclusion of the march, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham voiced optimism a bill would pass that would require abortionists to check for a baby’s heartbeat before proceeding with an abortion. The Heartbeat Protection Act also would restore legal protection to unborn children once it is detected.
However, the bill that has 169 co-sponsors has yet to advance beyond committee in the House.
“If we as a society legally say that life ends when the heart stopped beating, the least we can do is say life certainly begins with the heart starts beating,” said Abraham, a member of Alto Baptist Church. “For most of us here, we believe that life begins at conception. With 4D ultrasound and technology we have now, we can pick up a heartbeat very, very early. Hopefully we will get to where we can pick it up at day one of conception so that we will count that as life.”
Referencing Isaiah 43:1, Abraham said those in the pro-life movement should not fear the future as they fight for the unborn. He reminded them that their efforts do not go unnoticed by lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
“So keep attending these marches,” he said. “Keep supporting the pregnancy centers, keep marching for the right to life because it really does matter.”
Offering a testimony were Baptist Message Editor and Louisiana Baptist Convention Office of Public Policy Director Will Hall, his wife, Catherine, and their son, Jacob.
During Catherine’s pregnancy with Jacob, her doctor tried to intimidate her and Will into making an “informed decision,” perceived by the Halls as code for “choose abortion,” Catherine shared.
She also told about how this doctor continued to raise negative issues, describing the hardships and inconveniences they and the baby would have to endure because of the likelihood of his having Down syndrome. Despite an unknown future, the Halls chose life for their son, the only option they believed was right.
Catherine said God has used Jacob to bless their family and others by showing that every life is a blessing.
“Our journey has not always been easy, but I doubt that any of yours have as well when you have children,” she said. “There is joy in the journey and Jacob has impacted and continues to impact many lives.”
“He is proof that every life deserves a lifetime,” she concluded.
David Scotton, who is featured in the film “I Lived on Parker Avenue” scheduled to be available online March 8, told the crowd in a post-march rally because of their efforts, people like him had the opportunity to live. His birth mom was moments away from aborting him when a pro-life supporter stood outside an abortion clinic and urged her to give him up for adoption.
“We in Louisiana and now as a nation have this opportunity to impact people on the power of adoption,” said Scotton, now a student at LSU. “I didn’t want to do this originally. This was not part of my life plan. But God has called me unto this path and this is very clear that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
“This movement has given me life,” he continued. “What all of you do I appreciate so much. I know many of you are on the abortion clinic sidewalk praying for women going in. It’s hard to realize that it could have been one of you that saved my life. So many of you actively save lives and I appreciate you so much.”
Dennis Sims, pastor of Ellerbe Baptist Church, Shreveport, said in his message those marching did so because the pro-life movement represents the love and change Jesus can orchestrate.
“Jesus promised that there is one incontrovertible, visible proof that one is a follower of Jesus and that is the love we demonstrate toward one another and our world,” he said. “Therefore let us declare loudly and proudly that we are followers of Jesus and that we have marched today, not out of insanity, hatred, anger or bitterness, but because of our love for the Lord, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we want everyone watching to know Jesus – the only source of true love, life, liberty and happiness as well.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson was unable to attend the rally because of commitments as a member of Congress, but addressed the crowd through an audio message.
“What an impact this event has had over the past five years,” said Johnson, a member of First Baptist Church, Bossier City. “We just want to send our gratitude, our great blessings and thank all of you for standing for the sanctity of every single human life. That’s who we are in Louisiana. That’s who we are in northwest Louisiana, and it’s making a difference.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry encouraged the crowd to stand for life. He cited a commitment by the current presidential administration to nominate pro-life circuit court judges as evidence the tide is turning in favor of those who oppose abortion. As the confirmation process moves forward, Landry asked the crowd to contact their representatives to encourage them to vote yes.
“This is our moment,” Landry said. “This is our victory, to put these people on the circuit court is going to deliver the victory that each and every one of you all have fought for over the last 45 years.”
Also speaking to the crowd was Louis Charrier, who was joined on stage by his daughter, Nicole, and his wife, June, who sang “Thy Will Be Done.” Charrier is pastor of Washington Baptist Church and other church plants in the state.
Not long her birth in 1980, Nicole was injured in an automobile accident that left her with a severe head trauma, causing her to go blind and leaving her with Cerebral Palsy-like symptoms. Though she still is unable to speak, walk or eat without assistance, she has impacted a number of people who tend to her physical needs through in-home care visits at the Charrier home.
Of the many medical personnel who have visited the Charrier home, six have accepted Christ.
Charrier told the crowd that despite her disabilities, he consider Nicole a blessing from God.
“Her life is important to us and to our nation,” Charrier said. “Every life is important.
“As a pastor, I believe that life comes from the Lord and it is a gift that God has given,” he continued. “Life is sacred. God gives us the strength to take care of her day after day. There are days sometimes that can be gloomy and disappointing. Sometimes it can get discouraging. God gives you the strength. God gives you the grace to continue going day after day.”
One day before the Baton Rouge march, Louisianans were a part of those who traveled from across the nation and around the world to stand up for the unborn in the 45th Annual March for Life in the nation’s capital.
Tommy Middleton, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, attended with his wife, Karen, Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins and his, wife, Patti, and a few other Louisiana Baptists from the state. Middleton told the Baptist Message he was honored to attend an event that had always been on his bucket list.
“It was an incredible experience to see the people of the US to come together for the cause of life,” Middleton said. “It was not just a social event but had an undeniable spiritual emphasis there. Most of the driving forces behind the pro-life movement are Christian. We are pro-life from the womb to the tomb.”
During the post-march rally, President Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to address a national March for Life crowd.
“The March for Life is a movement born out of love,” Trump said in a video feed broadcast from the White House. “You love your families, you love your neighbors, you love our nation, and you love every child, born and unborn, because you believe that every life is sacred, that every child is a precious gift from God.
“We know that life is the greatest miracle of all,” he continued. “We see it in the eyes of every new mother who cradles that wonderful, innocent, and glorious newborn child in her loving arms.
“I want to thank every person here today and all across our country who works with such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure that parents have the care and support they need to choose life,” he said. “Because of you, tens of thousands of Americans have been born and reached their full, God-given potential — because of you. You’re living witnesses of this year’s March for Life theme. And that theme is – love saves lives.”