ROGERS — Gray skies and frigid temperatures did not prevent marchers from joining to celebrate the annual Northwest Arkansas March for Life Jan. 29.
Around 520 participants of all ages and faiths attended the event in Rogers. This year, Northwest Arkansas Respect Life teamed up with Counteract USA for the first time to co-sponsor the 1.4-mile walk from St. Vincent de Paul Parish to First Baptist Church’s Olive Street campus.
The peaceful march began at 2 p.m., passing the Planned Parenthood facility and the Loving Choices pregnancy center, each situated across from one another on Poplar Street. The procession ended at the Baptist church, where participants gathered in the sanctuary for praise and worship music before beginning the Procession of Roses ceremony.
Sheila Pursell, director and president of the Northwest Arkansas Respect Life, said the march serves those who cannot make the trips to support the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., or the one at the state capitol in Little Rock.
“We combined two events this year because the Procession of Roses, in a dramatic way, puts into perspective what has happened in the last 50 years,” Pursell said, referring to the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision.
The Procession of Roses ceremony is a somber reminder of the 64 million abortions since the 1973 case was decided. For each year, an individual born that year carries a single white rose, representing innocence and purity, while the number of abortions performed that year is displayed behind them.
After they placed their rose in a vase, a single bell tolled to honor the many unborn lives lost each year until, finally, a pregnant woman carried up the final rose for 2023.
“Since 1973, over 240,000 unborn babies have been killed in the state of Arkansas,” Pursell, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Church, said.
Unlike years past, those attending the event this year marched in celebration of life after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade in June. Although Arkansas is one of 18 states that bans or restricts abortion, pastor Msgr. David LeSieur acknowledges much work is still to be done.
“We do know that abortions will continue through referrals to other states, and that is why we have to witness to the world that the Lord is the Lord of life,” he said.
Pursell said Arkansas doctors have made abortion referrals to Kansas.
“I have been told by respect life members there that the number of Arkansas residents going to Kansas is up 170 percent,” she said.
Denise McDonald, a teacher at Hellstern Middle School in Springdale and a parishioner at St. Joseph Parish in Tontitown, attended the march with her parents.
“I think it is important that we come together and show our support in a peaceful way for the march,” she said.
TCAPP, which stands for The Church at Planned Parenthood, also attended. Director David Vital said the chapter started in 2022 when Planned Parenthood opened its doors in Rogers. On the first Saturday of every month, the group of 15-20 members holds a non-denominational service with a pro-life message in front of Planned Parenthood. Often, Vital said pastors from different churches speak.
“One TCAPP member drives from as far away as Harrison to participate in these meetings,” Vital said. “Wherever there is a Planned Parenthood, TCAPP is working to be there.”
“This march draws Christians of all faiths together on an important issue. Our goal is to show people the opportunities they have to continue to help women and mothers through the organizations that were presenting at the march today.” Pursell said, “We are encouraged because where else do you have the body of Christ coming together like this?”
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