Fonticulus Fides

Monday, February 06, 2006

Nebraska March for Life Draws Thousands

This is the article I submitted for the local Catholic paper, which was published 2/3/06. I had some great photos, too, but I've forgotten how to post them.

Despite a chilly breeze and steady drizzle, thousands of Nebraskans met on Saturday, January 28, to participate in the annual Walk for Life, sponsored by Nebraska Right to Life.

The peaceful pro-life demonstration began on the west side of the State Capitol with a prayer from Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. State politicians, including Gov. Dave Heineman, Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Tom Osborne, and state senator Mike Foley, offered encouraging words before hundreds of pink and blue helium balloons were released in memory of unborn children whose lives have been lost to abortion.

Then the eight-block walk began, heading north to the University of Nebraska student union, where keynote speaker Bobby Schindler of the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation was welcomed with a standing ovation.

Several pro-life organizations had information booths set up at the union. Nebraska Right to Life distributed “Will to Live” packets (a pro-life alternative to advanced directives) and information on bills going before the state legislature regarding ethical stem cell research.

Julie Schmidt-Albin, director of Nebraska Right to Life, estimated the crowd to number 3,000, roughly one-third of which crammed into a student union meeting room for the keynote address.

“I thought it was a great turn-out,” she said. “A lot bigger than last year.”

The participants varied in age from a tiny month-old baby to people well into their golden years. Some came with their entire families, Others came with groups of friends. Several local religious orders were represented, and a number of participants were priests. Each one had a reason for walking.

Daryl Vagts of Saint Mary parish in Denton came for multiple reasons. “For one,” he said, “I should have a 26- or 27-year old son or daughter I don’t have and didn’t find out about until weeks afterward.” Mr. Vagts has also experienced the joy that adoption brings to families through his brother, who adopted three children.

When he became disabled and in need of a wheelchair about six years ago, Mr. Vagts suddenly found himself with time to put action to his pro-life convictions. He began accompanying a friend to pray outside Lincoln’s abortion clinic and also attends the annual Walk for Life.

Wanda Hall, who attends Emmanuel Lutheran church in York, got up early to drive into Lincoln, arriving hours before the event. She took a seat close to the podium so she could get a good view of Bobby Schindler.

She felt a great deal of compassion for the Schindler family as their daughter and sister, Terri Schindler-Schiavo, was ordered to death via starvation and dehydration last year, thanks to the right-to-die movement. Mrs. Hall understands the pressure of euthanasia, because her son Josh died of a brain tumor in 2004 at the age of 13.

“What people though was an unproductive life, wasn’t,” she recalled. “He had a great day with God every day.”

In his keynote address, Mr. Schindler urged the Walk participants to support all pro-life causes, including protecting the rights of the disabled and opposition to euthanasia.

He spoke a great deal about his sister, Terri Schindler-Schiavo, and how he believed that the diagnosis of “persistent vegetative state” (PVS) exists for a sole purpose: “To make it easy to kill the disabled. Anyone who is not able to speak can be diagnosed with PVS.” He noted that there are many different definitions of PVS and that it is misapplied approximately half the time.

Mr. Schindler believes that pro-life people should not accept or use the term PVS. “We have to stop recognizing or describing people as PVS. We need to remove it from our vocabularies, because it does nothing but dehumanize people.”

He continued, “What upset me so much was that Terri had to prove she was worthy of life.” Quoting Father Pavone, he added, “We do not have to pass a test to qualify for human life.”

The audience answered with vigorous applause.

It’s not too late for anyone to take a stand for the Right to Life. Mrs. Schmidt-Albin said that the information packets on bioethical research and state legislature bills 437 and 750 are still available from the Nebraska Right to Life office, as are the “Will to Live” documents. Videos and DVDs of Bobby Schindler’s speech are also available to borrow or purchase. For more information, visit the organization’s web site at or call 438-4802.


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