By SHEILA OJENDYK
COLUMBIA — Catholic and Protestant South Carolinians put their theological differences aside to stand together as Christians for the sanctity of human life. The occasion was the annual Stand Up for Life March and Rally on Jan. 12, sponsored by South Carolina Citizens for Life and University of South Carolina Students for Life.
Hundreds of people assembled in front of the USC Russell House. Some came as singles, others as church and youth groups, still others as families. The Knights of Columbus led the procession to the South Carolina Statehouse. When they marched, they were two lanes wide and two blocks long.
As the marchers turned the corner to the Statehouse, they were greeted in song by the choir and orchestra from the Florence Baptist Temple. Seated on a landing in front of the choir were dignitaries including Bishop Baker, state legislators, state and local government officials, and individuals who have been active in the pro-life organization.
The theme of the rally was “Without the right to life, there are no other rights.” Lisa Van Riper, president of the South Carolina Citizens for Life, began the rally with a quote from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
She exhorted, “We must call upon our government to return this trust … return the inalienable right to life!”
Bishop Robert J. Baker gave the opening prayer, asking God’s help to “eradicate the terrible form of violence which is abortion.”
Van Riper thanked the Knights of Columbus for their help in organizing the march and thanked Bishop Baker and the Diocese of Charleston for always supporting the sanctity of life.
Van Riper said there is a lot to celebrate in South Carolina. In the last 10 years, abortions have dropped 47 percent in South Carolina and 17 percent in the United States.
She said the United States took a big step backward as a nation with Roe vs. Wade in 1973, but citizens can make a difference by voting for pro-life candidates, becoming involved in pro-life activities, and donating to pro-life causes.
Van Riper defined the three components to the pro-life movement. The first is moral education, and the second is the ministry of crisis pregnancy and abortion recovery. The third is working with the government to change the laws. Van Riper urged the audience to communicate with government officials about pro-life issues and learn how they vote. Nine recent pro-life bills have passed, and one is pending.
Van Riper introduced the dignitaries and told the story of one of them, Dennis Yeo. He has long been active in the pro-life movement. When the doctor who ran the abortion clinic in Columbia died several years ago, the property ended up on the auction block. Yeo purchased the property because he wanted to use it for Christian ministry. Today that property houses the offices of South Carolina Citizens for Life.
South Carolina Citizens for Life is run entirely by volunteers, and several outstanding volunteers were honored. The Volunteer of the Year award was given to Wayne Cockfield. Cockfield, a retired Marine, is a combat veteran of the Vietnam conflict who lost both legs. He told Van Riper his reason for joining the pro-life movement. “One day if we don’t do something, they’re going to come to us with a needle and say our life isn’t worth anything.” Cockfield devotes much of his time to speaking and raising money.
Deborah Bian-Lingle, the first president of South Carolina Citizens for Life, was given a plaque in honor of her many accomplishments.
Kathy Schmugge was given the Outstanding Journalist Award for consistent excellence in writing about pro-life causes. Schmugge is a freelance writer and Midlands correspondent for The New Catholic Miscellany.
Van Riper thanked Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler and Attorney General Charlie Condon for their help in passing a Choose Life auto license plate. The official license plate itself is not yet available, but front plates may be purchased from South Carolina Citizens for Life.
The keynote speaker was Wanda Franz, Ph.D., president of the National Right to Life Committee. Franz is a developmental psychologist and professor of child development at West Virginia University. She is recognized internationally for her work on post-abortion syndrome and has spoken on pro-life issues all over the United States and in many other countries.
Franz told the crowd that our culture is changing for the better. We have a new appreciation for right versus wrong since Sept. 11, a day we came face to face with willful evil. She stressed that we need to replace the culture of death with a culture of life. Abortion separates mother and child and undermines love. We must turn to God to overcome the evil of abortion.
“I’ve seen miracles,” she said. “I’ve seen women damaged by abortion find healing … children damaged by abortion find joy … and people separated by differences find unity.”
Franz spoke about cloning and explained how each person carries a unique combination of two sets of chromosomes, one from the mother and one from the father. There are two kinds of cloning in the news today. One is reproductive cloning, which would create a child who is the genetic twin of somebody else. People in the biotech industries and university researchers consider reproductive cloning a bad practice but want instead to pursue therapeutic cloning to end disease. Franz emphasized that cloning is still cloning and called it diabolical. With therapeutic cloning, an embryo would be created for the sole purpose of harvesting its stem cells; then it would be killed. There is no need for therapeutic cloning because adult stem cells can be harvested from bone marrow.
The House of Representatives has banned all human cloning, including human embryos, by an overwhelming majority. The bill, now S.R 790, has moved to the Senate. South Carolinians were encouraged to contact their senators, Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings, about supporting this bill.
Senator Diane Feinstein and co-sponsoring senators Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton have introduced a “clone and kill” bill that would outlaw reproductive cloning but allow therapeutic cloning.
U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham was a sponsor of the Unborn Victims Bill, which recently passed in the House of Representatives. This bill calls for prosecution of anybody who causes harm to an unborn child or kills a pregnant woman. Pro-abortion forces fought this bill because it endangers a woman’s right to choose. Franz urged the crowd to be aware of the deceptive rhetoric coming from pro-abortion forces.
Franz emphasized the importance of sustained effort in the fight to preserve the sanctity of life. “Our charge is not to succeed but to try.” She spoke of the parable about the last workers hired in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-7). She said many workers for pro-life are idle, like the later groups of workers brought to the vineyard, but emphasized that it is not too late to start. There is much to do, and people should work according to their abilities.
Lynn Smith, a nurse from Charleston, spoke briefly about Nurses for Life and warned other nurses not to be misled by a group with a similar name that opposes a ban on partial birth abortion. Nearly two-thirds of nurses contacted in a recent survey believe that partial-birth abortion should be banned.
The closing benediction was given by Oliver Massey, an elder at Church of the Cross in Harbison. Massey and his wife, Shelia, are active in African-Americans for Life.
South Carolina Citizens for Life can be contacted at 1141 Barnwell Street, Suite 3, Columbia, SC 29201.