Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
January 25, 2022 // Diocese

Pro-life advocates demonstrate support at South Bend rally

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

Every year since 1974, people within the pro-life movement have come together on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that codified abortion through all nine months of pregnancy nationwide at the cost of 63 million lives. Right to Life of Michiana held their annual Rally and March for Life on Jan. 21, beginning at St. Hedwig Memorial Center in central South Bend and processing to the Federal Courthouse. There, participants lined Main Street to pray until 1 p.m.

Click here for more photos from the events.

Since the Supreme Court met in November to consider Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a court case regarding Mississippi’s new law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation, hope has been rising in the pro-life community. This hope is that the justices will overturn or significantly modify Roe v. Wade, which would fundamentally change the focus of pro-life organizations around the country.

Josef Samuel
Around 500 people braved the cold to attend the March for Life in South Bend on Jan. 21, including many faithful lay Catholics and religious.

Speaking at the event, Jackie Appelman, executive director of Right to Life Michiana, urged everyone to make a commitment not just to turn out once a year but to work to change hearts and minds as well as laws. Committed members of the movement who offered prayers and loving support in front of a local abortion facility helped save the lives of at least seven babies last month. RTL Michiana has a trained Life Team group that stands ready to give presentations covering fetal development, abortion, local support for women and ways to get involved to youth groups, churches, schools and others. The organization also offers a Life Defenders Boot Camp, which teaches people to logically and compassionately defend the pro-life position, empowering them to talk to friends and acquaintances about this issue.

Mike Jacob, outreach pastor at SouthGate Church, led those gathered in prayer. “Lord, You care and You cry for every single soul. Help us be Your voices for the voiceless. Make us the difference-makers. Let us be determined and not depressed.”

Raised in a single-parent household in the projects in California, Jacob’s pro-life commitment is deeply personal. His mother considered abortion when pregnant with him as a college student in 1969, but she valued his life more than her own convenience. Now the father of a long-awaited 19-month-old, Jacob asked how many in his audience love babies. However, he emphasized that babies, born and unborn, have value not because of their cuteness, but because everyone is made in the image of God.

He too urged all, in call and response style, to put their beliefs into action. “If you know something … say something. Sneak your pro-life values into every conversation, whether you’re at work, at school or at the store. … If you say something … you need to be ready to do something about it.” 

Around 500 pro-life advocates from the South Bend-Mishawaka area marched and prayed for this cause dear to their hearts. Some of the stalwarts who have demonstrated every year, like John and Kathleen Ferrone, gathered on the grounds of St. Hedwig, South Bend to march to the federal courthouse on a cold, sunny day. They were joined by hundreds of younger participants, including large groups from local Catholic schools and whole pro-life families. 

Groups of demonstrators on opposite sides of Main Street chanted familiar pro-life calls across the street to each other. Many passing motorists honked and gave thumbs-up signs, including the drivers of a cement mixer and a city bus.

Veronica, a sixth grader at Trinity School at Greenlawn, a Christian middle and high school in South Bend, said, “I don’t support abortion; I think it’s wrong.” Kristen Kercher brought two babies in a stroller. Young children wore scarves proclaiming “Unique from day 1.” 

Nearly the entire eighth grade class of St. Matthew Cathedral School attended the demonstration. They professed their desire to help save babies and persuade mothers not to abort.

Additionally, Penn High School, Bethel University and other schools were also represented at the march. Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka and members of the Knights of Columbus, a sponsor of the event, could also be seen in the crowd.

For those mothers in crisis pregnancy situations, answers are available at HerMichiana.org. Educational and volunteer opportunities can be found at prolifemichiana.org.

Right to Life Michiana eyes post-Dobbs pivot: ‘the beginning of a new stage’

By Jodi Marlin

Melanie Lyon and her husband were excited, she said, to be able to attend the emotionally moving National March for Life in Washington, D.C. this year for the first time. The opportunity took on additional gravitas, however, when the South Bend couple realized this year could possibly be the march’s last.

“Obviously this won’t end abortion, but the march began in direct response to Roe v. Wade. This could be the end, which is what we’ve been praying for,” she said.

Lyon, outreach coordinator for Right to Life Michiana, said engagement with the organization by supporters of the unborn, as well as harassment and vandalism by abortion rights activists, have increased in recent weeks. She has witnessed emotions become heated on both sides of the discussion because both sides anticipate a historic change in the near future regarding access to abortion.

Jonathan Acierto
The pro-life demonstrations this year have significant meaning as the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case faces a decision in the Supreme Court this summer.

The hopes of Catholics and others in the pro-life community across the country rest on the outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case is currently under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court and challenges the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi law banning abortion after week 15 of pregnancy. 

A potential positive outcome – in other words, if the Mississippi law is upheld – will effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

Discussions have been frequent about what a post-Roe future would look like. Should the Mississippi law be upheld, the decision of how much to limit access to abortion would be returned to the states. The staff and volunteers of Right to Life Michiana are optimistic Indiana would pass fairly restrictive abortion legislation, but that doesn’t mean the pro-life fight will be over. 

For one thing, Lyon said, Indiana is next door to Illinois. “Chicago has essentially no abortion regulations, so I think we’re going to see a lot of women from our community traveling there to get an abortion.”

Pivoting from community protests and full-time sidewalk counseling at the local abortion facility to increasing the support available to women facing crisis pregnancies will be Right to Life Michiana’s mission should Roe be overturned. Just last week, members of the organization were present at the official opening of a baby box installed in South Bend. 

“That’s a really important part of the post-Roe culture, offering options to women with crisis pregnancies,” Lyon said. 

Another front on which to fight will be the FDA’s relaxation of access to the abortion drug mifepristone, which is now available by mail in some states after a simple telehealth visit. “If Roe is overturned, it’s not the end of the fight. It certainly will be progress, but it’s the beginning of a new stage in this fight of defending the preborn and supporting women.”

Signage at the South Bend March for Life was expected to reflect in creative ways this hoped-for end to Roe v. Wade. Emotions were also expected to run high for several Right to Life Michiana members who have remained active in the pro-life mission for 10, 20 or even 30 years. 

“This march will be extra special for them,” Lyon noted. As the organization celebrates its 50-year anniversary, the stories of how the convictions of those volunteers led to action, and their experiences during those decades are being documented and will be presented at www.prolifemichiana.org/.

Lyon hoped the South Bend community would be inspired by this year’s march to regularly give of their time to convince women in crisis pregnancies to carry their babies to term and support them along the way. 

“We hope they’ll realize they need to do something to end this injustice. We can’t always rely on the law to protect human life. Even if it’s just praying every week for an end to abortion, that would be meaningful. Unfortunately, a large portion of our population supports and celebrates abortion. Because of that, we really need all hands on deck from those who really believe all life is worth saving.” 

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