William Smith, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa –
FORT MADISON – The solitary beat of a snare drum set a slow but steady pace for more than 125 people marching through downtown Saturday morning.
Carrying homemade signs that read “Life is a Gift,” “Abortion Stops a Beating Heat” and “Every Life is Worth Living,” their pro-life message was clear and to the point.
“We’re all coming out here to talk for those who can’t talk for themselves, because it’s the right thing to do,” said Nathan Roberts, 16, of Fort Madison.
The Right to Life March has been an annual Fort Madison event for a decade, always falling on a Saturday close to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion Jan. 22, 1973.
“From the womb to the tomb, God loves people with all his heart. Isn’t that a wonderful thing to know, that God loves life,” the Rev. John Roberts said during a pre-march prayer.
Before the march began, participants gathered at Central Park and received anti-abortion signs from Sue Dunlay, an officer with North Lee County Right to Life. Dunlay organizes the march every year, and students from Holy Trinity Catholic School are in charge of making the signs.
“It’s so sad that we’ve lost over 50 million babies in this country,” Dunlay said. “We need to protect every human life from the very beginning.”
The first Right to Life March was organized in 1974 to protest the decision, but the event disappeared for several years until Dunlay helped revive it 10 years ago.
Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, this year’s march attracted nearly twice as many people as last year.
“The sun is shining. It’s a beautiful day to celebrate life, and that’s what we’re all about,” Dunlay said.
The 25-minute march looped through the downtown area down Avenue E, Avenue G and Sixth Street without incident, coming only a few days after the March for Life Monday in Washington, D.C. Dunlay was disappointed by the lack of national news coverage for the event.
“There were thousands and thousands of people marching,” she said.
The sun was shining on quite a few new marchers this year, like Lanorah Boyle of Fort Madison. She was inspired to attend the march after watching the documentary “180,” produced by Living Waters Publications. Living Waters is an evangelism resource and training site that helps Christians share their faith, and “180” deals specifically with abortion.
“I think all the young people should watch that video, especially girls,” Boyle said. “It compares Hitler’s killings to abortion. The video really makes you think, and I’m excited to share it with everybody I can think of. It really makes you think about how you want to vote.”
Mary Fickel of Burlington also participated in the march for the first time. She’s a big fan of the Catholic-based channel EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) and decided to quit standing on the sidelines after seeing so many other people make a difference.
“I’ve always been a Catholic, but I haven’t got involved. Now is the time to do it,” she said.
There were plenty of veteran marchers as well, like Donna Gengenbacher of Fort Madison. She’s been a part of the march for eight years.
“We have ‘Save the Whales,’ and yet we kill babies. I believe those embryos are babies,” she said.
After a period of substantial decline, the global abortion rate has stalled, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO). Between 1995 and 2003, the overall number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years) dropped from 35 to 29. According to the new study, the global abortion rate in 2008 was unchanged, at 28 per 1,000. This plateau coincides with a slowdown, documented by the United Nations, in contraceptive uptake, which has been especially marked in developing countries.