It has been 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. And for the last 39 of them, opponents have gathered in Fort Wayne around the time of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Saturday, an estimated 1,700 gathered at the University of Saint Francis’ Performing Arts Center downtown, formerly the Scottish Rite, and then took to the streets in the annual Rally and March for Life.
They were addressed by a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor who told them they shouldn’t give up because their cause transcends politics.
“We are not for life because life is precious. We are for life because life is precious to God,” said the Rev. James I. Lamb, executive director of Lutherans for Life, a nationwide ministry based in Iowa.
“That’s what lifts this out of the political, even out of the moral, into the realm of the spiritual.”
Indeed, spiritual leaders were much in evidence during the program, sponsored by Allen County Right to Life.
The event featured Shepherds United, a newly formed clergy coalition that has pledged to speak out against abortion – as well as threats to religious freedom and traditional marriage.
About 40 clergy took the stage, and leaders read the group’s chartering document. Members are mostly from the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, although some are from Baptist and independent, nondenominational, evangelical Protestant congregations.
Audience members stood and applauded as the clergy they took their seats, and Lamb said Shepherds United was an example of spiritual leadership that he hopes will spread.
“I pray that it will spread across this country,” he said.
He said church leaders need “to call wrong things wrong,” even if it might ruffle feathers in the pews and elsewhere.
He made the point with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, who once lamented that slavery could not be called wrong in the North because it “was not there,” nor in the South, “because it was there.”
Politicians, Lincoln said, could not call slavery wrong because it was seen as a moral issue, and preachers could not call it wrong for fear of being seen as bringing politics into the pulpit.
Yet today, society recognizes how wrong it was, Lamb said, adding he hoped that would someday be true for abortion.
Rally attendees also heard short remarks by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, and a representative of Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.
Stutzman said if American society is serious about protecting every child, as President Obama advocated after the shooting last month of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., “we must stop funding Planned Parenthood with taxpayer dollars.”
The group gets more than $500 million a year, while providing about 900 abortions a day, he said.
Betty Cockrum, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, responded in a statement that the organization remains committed to “the need for continued access to safe and legal abortion if and when a woman needs to consider it.”
The statement added: “A majority of Americans support and respect the decision each woman must make about her own pregnancy and oppose efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.”