September 28, 2023 // Diocese

Actress Ashley Bratcher, Others Speak at 27th Annual Legacy of Life Banquet

Handmade baby blankets decorated 80 tables in the stadium where pro-life Hoosiers gathered for the 2023 Legacy of Life Banquet. Hosted by Right to Life of North Central Indiana, the 27th annual banquet took place on Monday, September 18, at Grace College in Winona Lake. Organizers mentioned that the attendance of this year’s banquet was the highest it has been since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pat Miller, host of the “Pat Miller Program” on Fort Wayne’s WOWO radio station, emceed the event. Ashley Bratcher, star of the film “Unplanned,” was the keynote speaker. Many others shared stories or messages throughout the evening.

Photos by Kasia Balsbaugh
Pro-life advocates gather at North Central Indiana’s Right to Life Banquet 2023 in Winona Lake, Indiana.

The banquet’s program was full. There was a video presentation from Life Guardians, a group equipping high school and college-age students to debate compassionately about pro-life issues. Deeper Still, a healing ministry for people wounded by abortion, hosted an informational table. Another speaker shared an abortion story from a father’s perspective. The Right to Life of North Central Indiana debuted its new logo, announced personnel changes, and awarded the yearly Mary Louise Lowe Pro-Life Award. And in a room full of pro-life politicians at the local and state levels, the audience heard from Indiana’s Lieutenant General Suzanne Crouch, as well as recorded video messages from U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and U.S. Rep. Rudy Yakym.

Right to Life Indiana President Mike Fichter and Right to Life of North Central Indiana’s Executive Director Dave Koontz delivered updates on the pro-life movement in Indiana, which is a profoundly pro-life state, and which passed a near-total abortion ban last year. However, Fichter and Koontz stressed that there is still a way to go in building a robust pro-life culture in the state, especially with the expected popularity of mail-order chemical abortions. “We can’t stop midway. … We’re not done by a long shot,” Fichter said.

Attendees of this year’s Legacy of Life Banquet learn about the events and mission of the Right to Life organization of North Central Indiana.

Two main ways in which Right to Life is working to build a pro-life culture are the Love Them Both campaign, which stresses the need to help and value both pregnant women and unborn children, and a campaign promoting adoption and offering Hoosiers resources to help them become more amenable to adoption.

After a dinner catered by Our Father’s House, actress Ashley Bratcher told her personal story to the audience. Bratcher played the role of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life activist, in the 2019 film “Unplanned.”

Bratcher’s early life included a failed acting career and her own unplanned pregnancy, in which she chose life. While always being aware that there was a God, Bratcher said she did not form a relationship with Him until her child was born.

“I really attribute all of this to the birth of my son,” Bratcher said. “When I looked at that little baby for the first time, that was when I understood I have a heavenly Father. That was when I was like, oh my gosh, if I love this tiny little person this much, how much more must our heavenly Father love us? And it all shifted.”

Soon after this shift, Bratcher stopped working as a middle-school teacher and returned to acting, beginning with small roles and building up a following on social media. After a stranger persisted in reaching out to Bratcher about trying out for the role of Abby Johnson, Bratcher gave in and read part of the script. She was hooked, and she ended up landing the role. “Unplanned” went on to become a box office hit.

Only recently did Bratcher discover that her own life had narrowly escaped being aborted, as her mother had refused to go through with an abortion at the last minute. The pregnancy had been unplanned, and Bratcher’s parents had sold a family heirloom – a used shotgun – to pay for the abortion that never ended up happening.

“We’ve gotten to a point in society where life has become so invaluable, so cheap,” Bratcher said. “Where something like a pawned shotgun is the price tag for a human life.”

Bratcher finished her story to the audience by saying that it was “God’s story,” and reminding them that involvement in the pro-life movement helps save innocent lives, no matter what your role in it. “Every single story matters,” Bratcher said.

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