By Sean Gallagher
On July 26, president of Indiana Right to Life Mike Fichter stood before 1,200 pro-life Hoosiers packed in an atrium of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis and on two balconies rising above him.
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.’ ”
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 Senate Bill 1 (SB1), 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.
SB1 became possible after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned in June its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion across the country.
That historic move came in the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ruled that the Constitution allows states to regulate abortion.
‘We’re not on the sidelines anymore’
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 took 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. “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, Ind., 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.”
‘We stand for life. We love them both.’
Angela Minter was the rally’s keynote speaker. The founder and president of the Louisville, Ky.-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.
As she concluded her remarks, Minter had 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. 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.”
Some pro-life speakers at the rally expressed concerns about specific provisions in SB1 and advocated for changes to it. Among them were Senator Liz Brown, a Republican who represents a district in northeastern Indiana. In the end, she called on rally attendees to be steadfast in speaking up for life.
“Thank you all for being here today to stand for life,” said Brown. “Thank you so much for your prayers for women and babies. Until we have a signed bill, keep fighting, keep advocating and keep praying. Because we believe in life. We believe in the woman and the child. We believe in empowering women and protecting life because we love them both.”
‘Lead with love’
For Dr. Andrew Mullally, the joy that filled the cheers of the pro-life attendees of the July 26 rally stood in contrast to a Statehouse event held the previous day by abortions rights supporters opposed to SB1.
“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, Ind., 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.
Two teenage sisters who are members of St. Lawrence Parish in Lafayette, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, soaked in the positive approach of the Love Them Both rally as they stood on the top balcony of the Statehouse overlooking the floor packed with rally participants.
“The moment I walked in and saw everybody, I just started smiling,” said Regina Hoefer, 16. “It was incredible to be around so many other pro-life people.”
“I was up at the top and saw all these people wearing blue shirts,” said Helen Hoefer, 13. “They were all cheering for the same thing. It was amazing.”
Deacon Fred Everett and his wife Lisa Everett were at the Statehouse rally. They have been involved in the pro-life movement in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend since the mid-1980s.
After patiently promoting the cause of life so long under the restrictions of Roe, Deacon Everett said he almost “wanted to pinch myself” now that he and so many pro-life people can advocate for legal protection for unborn children.
“We’ve finally gotten here after all these years,” said Deacon Everett, who serves at Our Lady of Hungary Parish in South Bend, Ind. “In coming down here and letting our voice be heard, at least people will know that we stand for life.”
Lisa Everett, who ministers as the director for marriage and family ministry in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, was glad to stand alongside so many faith-filled pro-life advocates at the rally.
“We know that every life is created in God’s image and likeness,” she said. “That gives us even more motivation to stand up and protect those lives, and the life and dignity of women. We want our laws to offer robust support for women in crisis pregnancies.”
(Visit www.CriterionOnline.com for updates on SB1 and other pro-life legislation being considered in the Indiana General Assembly’s special session. To contact legislators about the legislation, visit indianacc.org/action-alerts.) †