by Andrea F. Phillips
Three thousand strong marched in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on January 12, its third annual Life March. People came from every corner of the state with young people making up two thirds of the vibrant crowd who assembled behind the Old State Capitol, a castle-like structure, which is now a historic site.
Several leaders from Louisiana pro-life groups opened the March, including Kandace Landreneau of Louisiana Students for Life, Charlotte Bergeron and Mary Nadeau of 40 Days for Life Baton Rouge, Chris Davis from 40 Days for Life Shreveport, Cindy Collins who serves as Louisiana State Director and as a member of the National Advisory Board of Operation Outcry, a division of The Justice Foundation.
Kandace delivered a stirring speech calling upon the youth of Louisiana to rally and hold high the banner for life and to pass it on, Charlotte and Mary gave impressive statistics from Forty Days showing that it is present in eighty cities around the country and 6,700 children are alive today because of their efforts. Chris Davis spoke of Shreveport’s commitment to starting its own March next spring and Cindy Collins called on Louisiana “to be a healer for our nation… Let Louisiana be a place where the agreement with death will not stand.” She added that a contingent from Australia is interested in coming to Louisiana to learn about pro-life work.
As the mile-march to the New Capitol began, banners and placards were held high. This year the March was peppered with signs that read “Forty Years Too Many”, and “40 Years Have Gone: 55 Million Lives Are Gone. Stand Strong. March On.” Among those who participated were members of America Needs Fatima who carried two large banners and distributed literature to marchers. ANF member Brian Phillips was interviewed by Baton Rouge’s The Advocate, and his personal sign, “American Politicians, by your lives and laws bear witness to the Holy Name of Jesus,” was quoted in full.
As men and women from Operation Outcry and Silent No More flanked the podium at the New Capitol, several civil and religious leaders addressed the crowd, among them State Representative Valarie Hodges, Benjamin Clapper of Louisiana Right to Life, Senator David Vitter, Most Reverend Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans and Gene Mills of Louisiana Family Forum. Senator David Vitter thanked everyone for their presence, especially the youth “for going against the grain.” He said that of all fifty states, Louisiana is the most pro-life, so recognized by the state’s governing bodies. He called for a show of hands from everyone under twenty-one, and as countless hands shot up, he said “That’s what reassures me that we will ultimately win this struggle!” He called for an abortion-free Louisiana and America.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans mentioned that 55 million lives had been sacrificed to abortion and he commended them to God. He encouraged kind, persuasive conversation with those who uphold abortion and applauded all those standing by him with signs “I regret my abortion” — the crowd broke out into applause. He added that Louisiana is the most pro-life state in America, but we are not finished, we must fight on. Though it was his generation that introduced abortion, it is the present generation that will turn the tide.
Together with her son Brennan, Jeanie McAndrew of Silent No More gave a tearful testimony of how twenty-two years ago she could never have imagined herself at a pro-life podium. Living the life of free alcohol and free “love,” she unfortunately had two abortions. The experiences left her traumatized, “to this day I cannot hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner…” Turning her life around, she sought to bear a child as reparation for the lives she had taken. She was stunned when the doctor gave her the due date for her baby as January 27, the day of her first abortion. Following her good example, her son is a passionate pro-life leader at his college.
The Louisiana Life March 2013 in Baton Rouge was encouraging to all present and a worthy testimony that the pro-life movement is thriving in Louisiana.