March protests abortion decision

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Abortion opponents gathered for the Louisiana Life March to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states. They marched from the Old State Capitol to the State Capitol on Saturday.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Abortion opponents gathered for the Louisiana Life March to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states. They marched from the Old State Capitol to the State Capitol on Saturday.

Thousands of abortion opponents marched through downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday to protest abortions in Louisiana and commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in America.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond, of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, told a crowd of about 1,500 people gathered at the front steps of the State Capitol that the 40-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade is “a decision that we certainly regret.”

“It is here that we gather in sadness, as we commend these babies to the Lord,” Aymond said.

The archbishop said residents must continue having conversations with their legislators to make the United States an anti-abortion nation.

He also said abortion opponents must reach out to abortion rights proponents to “change their hearts.”

“We cannot write off anyone,” Aymond said. “God never gives up on anyone, and neither can we.”

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., repeatedly thanked people in the crowd for attending the event, telling them Louisiana has the most anti-abortion citizenry in the United States.

“That’s not because of us who may happen to get elected,” Vitter said. “That’s because of you and what’s in the hearts and minds of Louisiana.”

Vitter said that when he attends the annual anti-abortion rallies in Baton Rouge, along with the annual national rallies in Washington, D.C., they make him “sorrowful” and “hopeful” at the same time.

“We say a prayer, we bow our heads, we recognize that somber nature of these Januaries,” he said. “But I have to say for me, it’s enormously uplifting to be with all of you, and particularly the young people here today and who will be in Washington.”

Mike Richard and his wife, Lee Richard, of Sulphur, walked among the assembly Saturday.

Richard said he and his wife have attended the anti-abortion rallies every year to “stand for and speak for the defenseless among us.”

“As Christians, we’re called to witness,” Mike Richard said. “We can all talk the talk, but you have to walk the walk.”

Brian Phillips, of Baton Rouge, carried a large, wooden sign reading, “American politicians: by your lives and laws, bear witness to the holy name of Jesus.”

Phillips, who also has attended the Baton Rouge rallies every year, said he wants to make a statement against the “silent holocaust” in America.

“You want to bear witness to the sanctity of life,” he said.

A group of about seven women counter-protested the rally Saturday.

They stood on Fourth Street holding up signs with messages such as, “Proud to be a pro-choice Christian,” and “You can’t be pro-war, anti-environment, anti-equality and call yourself pro-life.”

Lori Halvorson, one of the picketers, said the group is not affiliated with any political organization but gathered as “like-minded citizens.”

Halvorson said she has attended anti-abortion rallies each year as a counter-protester.

“We want the state of Louisiana to know there is a voice for the other side of the opinion,” Halvorson said.

The crowd assembled for the third annual Louisiana Life March began the rally at Town Square on North Boulevard, near the Old State Capitol.

Participants of all ages made their way down North Boulevard to Fourth Street, marching straight to the State Capitol.

They carried signs with messages such as “If you can read this be glad you were not aborted,” and “Forget Mars! Discover life in the womb!”

At the Capitol steps, Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, pointed out signs representing the number of abortions in Louisiana each year since the Roe v. Wade decision in January 1973.

Clapper said those figures add up to more than 457,000 in the state.

Clapper reminded the crowd that the slogan for this year’s march reads, “40 years have gone. 55 million lives are gone. Stand strong. March on.”

“It’s an honor to stand with you here today for an abortion-free Louisiana,” Clapper said.