Pro-lifers rally inside Indiana Statehouse for unborn babies, their mothers
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Mike Fichter, president of Indiana Right to Life, stood before 1,200 pro-lifers packed in an atrium of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis and on two balconies rising above him July 26.
They were all there to advocate for legislation that would ban most abortions in the state.
"Are you ready to make history in protecting life in Indiana?" Fichter asked rally attendees. "You are here representing all parts of Indiana to affirm that we value all life, including unborn children, and to affirm the pro-life movement's love and support for pregnant mothers.
"That's why the theme of this rally is ‘Love Them Both,'" he said.
The replying cheers of attendees, most of them wearing blue T-shirts emblazoned with the message "Love Them Both," echoed through the Statehouse halls.
The rally took place during a special session of the Indiana General Assembly and within earshot of a state Senate committee meeting on S.B.1, which would extend legal protection to most unborn babies in the state.
The Indiana General Assembly is the only state legislature that has convened in a special session to consider abortion legislation.
S.B.1 became possible after the U.S. Supreme Court June 24 overturned its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, in its decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case challenging Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks. The court upheld the state's ban in a 6-3 vote and overturned Roe in a 5-4 vote.
Mike and Lourdes Padilla were among those whose cheers filled the air of the Statehouse. Filipino immigrants to Indiana in the mid-1980s, they have been involved in the pro-life movement for some 25 years, first in their longtime spiritual home of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus and more recently as members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.
They have taken part in the annual March for Life in Washington more than 10 times.
Lourdes confessed that, in the past, she was not sure she would ever see Roe overturned.
"There were times when we'd say, ‘Will it ever happen?' " said Lourdes Padilla. "But we kept on going and trusted in God. And then, suddenly, it's here. But there's a lot more work to do."
As he stood in an atrium of the Statehouse packed with pro-life advocates, Mike Padilla said he had "goosebumps" just taking in the change in situation for those advocating for the protection of unborn life."
"We're not on the sidelines anymore," he said. "In the past, we were on the streets. Now, we're inside where the decisions are going to be made. But you realize that it's not any of us doing it. It must be the Holy Spirit. We could not have dreamed about this even last year."
Father Richard Holy said his longtime involvement in the pro-life movement has changed his life. It was a major factor in him discerning a call to the priesthood.
Now pastor of St. Edward Parish in Lowell, Indiana, in the Gary Diocese, and that's diocese's director of pro-life activities, Father Holy was glad to wake up early on July 26 to board a bus with an ecumenical group of people to take part in the rally in Indianapolis.
"It's a culmination of 50 years of hard work, prayer, efforts to get people elected at the national and local levels to get that unjust decision overturned," Father Holy said. "Now, the spirit is different. Now, we can actually help to bring about change and make Indiana a state that defends the unborn and stands with mothers who are in need."
Angela Minter was the rally's keynote speaker. The founder and president of the Louisville, Kentucky-based Sisters for Life pro-life ministry, Minter had two abortions as a teenager before experiencing a conversion and eventually taking up the mission to assist expectant mothers in need and to share the truth about abortion.
As a Black woman, she spoke from the heart to those present about how she had long been convinced that "the same God that overturned slavery would overturn Roe v. Wade."
A month after Roe was overturned and on the same day that an Indiana Senate committee was considering expansive protection for unborn children, Minter called out to her listeners.
"The same God that overturned Roe v. Wade is going to continue to call Indiana to be a shining light for the rest of the country to see," she shouted. "We stand for life. We love them both. We love the mother. We love the baby. We go even further than that. We love those who hate us and we bless those who curse us, because love never fails."
The cheers of Minter's listeners rose to a joyful fever pitch in response.
Minter concluded her remarks with advice for rally attendees.
"Be a good listener," she said. "It's time to enter into people's worlds. Listen to the mothers. Listen to the fathers. Listen to the families. Listen to those that are on the other side of life. You listen. And don't listen with your mind made up like you already have all the answers. Be an empathetic listener."
"Enter into their world and truly try to understand what they're saying and what they're going through," she continued. "And once you listen, then you speak the truth in love. You let them know that love never fails. We're always triumphant in Christ Jesus. Mothers, fathers, women and families deserve better than abortion."
For Dr. Andrew Mullally, the joy in the cheers of the pro-life attendees of the July 26 rally stood in contrast to a Statehouse event held the previous day by supporters of a right to abortion supporters opposed to S.B.1.
"The demeanor, tone and culture of the two competing rallies could not have been more different," said Mullally, director of the Indiana chapter of the Catholic Medical Association. "I haven't heard any obscenities or vulgarities. I can't say the same about yesterday."
A family physician in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mullally tries to take a positive approach when advocating for life.
"I always encourage people to lead with love, because we're on the side of the truth," he said.
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Gallagher is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.