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Thousands of Utahns join pro-life rally on anniversary of Roe v. Wade ruling

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Gemma Wellwerts holds a flag during the March for Life rally outside of the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — About 3,000 Utahns came to the state Capitol to join in the March for Life and advocate against abortions and for an abortion-free state on Saturday.

"Right at conception … that fetus has so much ability, it has so much potential, and so just taking that away, it doesn't seem right," said Ava Hill, one of the attendees.

Hill came to the march with two of her sisters, Lia and Dru; all three are teenagers. Dru said that it was empowering to see different people that share their values and think similarly about abortion.

Ava Hill said that she has varying opinions on most political issues, but that she is firmly against abortion, and believes that life begins when something is able to grow. She said she has lost friends because of this political stance.

This March for Life marks 49 years since abortion was legalized in the United States through the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision announced Jan. 22, 1973. It was the seventh annual march in Utah, Mary Taylor, president of Pro-Life Utah, said in a speech.

"The winds of change seem to be blowing through the Supreme Court right now. There are strong hints from the Supreme Court that they may uphold the Mississippi 15-week ban or maybe even overturn Roe," Taylor said.

"Roe v. Wade may not see its 50th birthday."

She talked about how a Supreme Court decision could affect Utah. She said a 2019 Utah law prohibiting abortions after 18 weeks would go into effect if the Mississipi ban being considered by the court is upheld and a 2020 Utah law would ban abortions in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the court.

She said to the marchers, however, that there is still work to be done in Utah.

"We need all hands on deck more than ever now if we want to ensure an abortion-free state. At Pro-Life Utah, we believe the way to do that is to offer women in crisis pregnancies our love, our support and our assistance," Taylor said.

She said that almost 3,000 babies lost their lives in the state of Utah to abortion over the last year. Pro-Life Utah was able to save 19 babies through its life grant program, Taylor said, but it could do more with more volunteers and donations.

"We are honored by the support of the many, many Utahns who joined us in publicly standing up for the littlest ones among us. We have sent a powerful message to our state legislators, and I urge Utah representatives to pay attention to what their constituents came here to say today," Taylor said in a press release after the event.

The keynote speaker at the event was Nick Vujicic, a man who was born without any arms or legs. He said that his mother was considering abortion, but had an ultrasound through a pro-life organization and after seeing him she choose life instead.

"The same universal truth rings throughout the world. That every single human being, no matter who we are, no matter where we're from, no matter how we look, no matter what disabilities we have, that God never makes junk. And there is viability for every single baby," Vujicic said.

He encouraged those at the Capitol to talk about their pro-life stance and views on chastity before marriage in their families and in churches. Vujicic suggested praying over people at the Planned Parenthood buildings.

"There is power in prayer, there is power in action. ... Let us become firm, and continue to do all we can to defend every single unborn child in America," Vujicic said.

He said that he thinks the Supreme Court may make a neutral stance on abortion and leave the decision of abortion up to the states. He said that federal laws and rules can be fought by states, including Utah.

Clara Cook, who marched at the event as part of Utah State University's chapter of Students for Life, said she learned from listening to Vujicic that people can learn from their disabilities, and that it is important to not discount someone's potential because of any disability. She said this is the second march she has attended, and agreed that it was an optimistic atmosphere.

"I think that if you want to make a difference you have to be optimistic about the future," Cook said.

Jill Kasper, another marcher said that hearing Vujicic made her feel like she could make a difference. She commented about the peaceful nature of the protest, saying everyone was cheerful and respectful, no one was angry.

One marcher, Sue Robertson, adopted a baby 22 years ago and said that it has been a good experience for her. She said that her daughter's birth mom has been involved in their lives and sat at the parents' table at her daughter's wedding.

"(Adoption) doesn't need to be this awful thing that people make it out to be, it can be a really beautiful thing because we're all working together for the good of that child," Robertson said.

Deanna Holland, executive director of Pro-Life Utah, said this is the largest group they have had at a March for Life in Utah. She said these yearly marches are uplifting and joyful, and that this year was not any different. The group said it arrived at its attendance total of approximately 3,000 people by using clickers to count as well as using above-crowd views to estimate.

"Pro-Life Utah is always uplifting and positive and supportive. We have so many women in our organization that are post-abortive, and we know what abortion does to a woman," Holland said. "A lot of women walking into the clinic are in a heightened state of stress and fear. … And we like to take that away, pull them back off the cliff, and then let them figure out what they want to do. Almost all of our moms keep their babies."

The organization has a mobile clinic which offers free ultrasounds and encourages people going to abortion clinics to consider other options. Holland said 92% of women who accept a free ultrasound and are offered aid choose not to have an abortion.

She said that the organization is currently helping 12 moms who were planning to get abortions. They try to find what is leading the moms to seek an abortion and solve their problems — they find housing, fix cars, drive moms to doctor's appointments, donate baby products and help with immigration.

Holland said that she hopes people who came to the march get engaged, and volunteer in their sidewalk advocacy programs and to help moms in the program.

Other marches like this one occurred around the country, including a rally and car-parade that happened in St. George at the same time.

Eric Moutsos, the keynote speaker at that event, talked about why men should be involved in the pro-life movement.

"Men not only have a duty, but an obligation to protect life. Did God create women to be the front line of defense for the most vulnerable among us? Without voices of men on the topic of abortion, the battle lines are very weak and the enemy knows it," Moutsos said in a press release after the event.

Sen. Mike Lee spoke at the United States Senate celebrating the March for Life this week, and shared a message online to the marchers in Utah and around the country. He said that the rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness begin in the womb.

"Tragically, under Roe and its devastating aftermath, the promise of life is denied to far too many babies of both genders, every race and varying physical ability. Each life has unlimited potential and value. I pray that this is the last March for Life under Roe. I pray that we might see each precious baby as a gift from God to be loved and nurtured. I pray that each life will be valued for what it is, equal, because equality begins in the womb," Lee said.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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