Respect Life events in the Diocese of Little Rock and across the country will take on a different meaning this year. Participants will mournfully remember the millions of babies lost to abortion on this 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States in 1973, but they will also celebrate the court’s surprise overturning of Roe, last June, the fulfillment of a half-century of prayers to end federal legal protection for abortions.
The court’s ruling pushed the issue back to the states, with 18, including Arkansas, banning or restricting the procedure while others have made or are making access to abortions codified.
In 2019, Arkansas was the fifth state to pass a “trigger law,” which would put forth a total ban on abortion in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned. During a press conference June 24, the day of the court’s ruling, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge certified the law, making abortion illegal in Arkansas.
“There is this sense of, ‘Yay! We accomplished this change in legislation that we had been working for, praying for,’” said Catherine Phillips, director of the Diocese of Little Rock’s Respect Life Office. “We can give thanks to God for the fact that abortion is illegal in Arkansas, but also recognize what we need to do, how we need to support life in every stage, in every circumstance.
“There's a renewed sense of call to action,” she said. “How can we better support people? This is the one opportunity that everyone in Arkansas, all Catholics and our guests, have to come together and give thanks to God for the gift of life, to celebrate life and to pray about how we can build a culture of life together.”
Thursday, Jan. 19 – Friday, Jan. 27
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities is sponsoring the Nine Days for Life campaign, a novena for the respect and protection of all human life. Each day’s intention is accompanied by a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a culture of life. Participants can download the novena or sign up to receive the daily prayers, in English or Spanish, accompanied by a short reflection, suggested actions, and related information via email or text message at respectlife.org/9-days-signup.
“It's designed to call attention to a consistent ethic of life, that we believe that every single person's life should be respected, protected and cherished, across the lifespan in all circumstances,” Phillips said. “You can get the novena of prayers on the USCCB’s social media, directly to your email inbox, and of course, we promote them on our diocesan website.”
Saturday, Jan. 21, 5-8 p.m.
St. John Center, Little Rock
The evening before the Mass for Life, a free, pro-life conference for adults will be held at St. John Center. It will include dinner and guest speaker Jennifer Briselden, a former campus minister at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith and director of youth ministry at Christ the King Church in Fort Smith who now lives in Atlanta.
“It's a free event, and it includes a taco bar supper,” Phillips said. “We are really excited to talk about how we embrace the challenge of being pro-life post-Roe in Arkansas and how we can be more sensitive and responsive to the needs of others.”
Overnight accommodations, which include breakfast, are available for out-of-town guests at the St. John Center for $25 a person.
Saturday, Jan. 21 – Sunday, Jan. 22
DoubleTree Hotel, Little Rock
The overnight "lock-in" event for high school students, sponsored by the diocesan Catholic Youth Ministry Office, focuses on right-to-life issues through a teen perspective and includes praise and worship music, prayer, skits and a dance. This year’s featured speaker is Julia Misley, who, in 1973, as a 16-year-old became a girlfriend and ward of Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler. During their relationship, she became pregnant, but he convinced her to have an abortion. Afterward, she converted to Catholicism and became an pro-life activist. Misley is currently suing the rockstar for alleged sexual assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“We still have to keep young people aware of right to life issues,” said Liz Tingquist, director of the Catholic Youth Ministry Office. “I still think the right to life movement should be womb to tomb. It should be the seamless thread of what it is to be pro-life. So, in that regard, we have a whole heck of a lot of work to do.”
For more information on the Weekend for Life, call the Catholic Youth Ministry Office, at (501) 664-0340.
Sunday, Jan. 22, 10 a.m.
DoubleTree Hotel, Little Rock
The Eucharistic Procession for Life will begin at 10 a.m. on the plaza in front of the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Little Rock, process through Riverfront Park and finish at the Statehouse Convention Center where the Mass for Life will be celebrated at noon.
“All are invited to walk with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and give witness to the Real Presence of our Lord who brings light to the dark corners of our world,” Phillips said. “The Weekend for Life youth will be joining us for the Eucharistic procession. We come back to the convention center, we'll have time for adoration, some music, and we'll pray a rosary.”
Sunday, Jan. 22, noon
Statehouse Convention Center, Little Rock
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor will celebrate the annual Mass for Life Sunday, Jan. 22 in the Wally Allen Ballroom at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
“We want to celebrate the gift of life and the human dignity of every person and remember the millions of babies lost to abortion on this 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision,” Phillips said. “Sadly, abortion still happens here in Arkansas with people leaving (the state) to have abortions elsewhere or obtaining abortion pills. We still have a lot of work to do to support people who find themselves in very challenging pregnancies or difficult circumstances. Even a child who's diagnosed in utero with a profound disability is still a gift. God still has a plan for that baby. There are other answers besides abortion.”
Sunday, Jan. 22, 2 p.m.
Downtown Little Rock
On the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States, Arkansas Right to Life is sponsoring the 45th annual March for Life in downtown Little Rock. This year the march will follow a longer route, beginning at Capitol Avenue and State Street and proceeding eight blocks to the state Capitol. Abortion survivor Gianna Jessen will be the keynote speaker.
Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, expects many of the state’s elected officials to join thousands of Arkansans in the peaceful and prayerful march dedicated to protecting all human beings threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.
“The demand for abortion has not changed in Arkansas or in any other state,” Mimms said. “Today it's illegal in Arkansas. What will be tomorrow? There's already plans in the General Assembly to weaken the law by adding exceptions, and then there's those forces out there that want to flip us completely back to abortion on demand. So, it's a constant battle. We're going to have to fight to keep our state abortion free.
“We're looking forward to it. We draw several thousand people from all over the state, and I expect our numbers will be higher this year just because everybody is very happy that we're not killing babies in Arkansas anymore.”
While there were some whispers that this might be the final March for Life in Little Rock, Mimms said that’s not the case.
“As long as the Arkansas Right to Life board wants a March for Life in January, there'll be a March for Life in January,” she said.
For more information on the March for Life or to volunteer, call (501) 663-4237 or email .
For more information on diocesan respect life events, contact the Respect Life Office at (501) 664-0340.
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