Multiple speakers, including Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, greeted the crowd of bundled-up attendees at the state Capitol on Saturday morning with the same message: "Good morning, pro-life Nebraskans."

They were part of the 45th annual Nebraska Walk for Life, an anti-abortion event that according to organizers drew a crowd of nearly 4,000. It began with speeches from politicians at the Capitol before participants marched to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student union for a speech by former Planned Parenthood employee Catherine Adair.

“The Walk for Life is the largest, longest-running First Amendment demonstration in the state, and I expect that will always continue, until we win this battle one day," said Sandy Danek, president of Nebraska Right to Life and one of the event's organizers.

The event came a week after the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and has been held since 1974, the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which decriminalized abortion.

Saturday's event came just days after New York passed laws in favor of abortion.

That state's decision was met with boos from the crowd when mentioned by the speakers. Ricketts called the legislation "horrific."

"It is utterly depraved what (New York) did this past week," he said. "That's why it’s so important that you are all here today to help stand up for the unborn and the mothers, because we've got to let the world know how important it is we change the culture here in our country."

Sen. Ben Sasse echoed Ricketts' remarks, calling the decision "dastardly."

"This (anti-abortion) movement is the way of the future," he said. "The movement of death in New York that we saw this week, it is going to end up on the dustbin of history."

Many of those in the crowd held signs with messages against abortion. Andrew Watson of Lincoln held a giant banner depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe, who he said was a patroness of the anti-abortion movement.

"The hope is that through her intercession and through turning hearts towards a greater piety, towards our mother, that through the power of prayer and her procession, we might bring an end to abortion in this country," he said.

Danek, who has helped organize the Walk for Life for about 20 years, said she was compelled to be a stronger part of the anti-abortion movement after losing three of her children within the second trimester of her pregnancy, particularly her daughter.

"Just being with her, seeing her little body so perfect as it was, caused me to say that this is wrong, that we are destroying these precious children that are healthy and could live otherwise if they were just left to progress in the womb and just get stronger and able to live on their own," she said. "So it was a personal thing, but I think my faith also guides me."

Kathy Beran of Lincoln was there with her husband, Mike, and their three sons.

"I believe that every life is precious, and the babies that don't get to be born don't have a voice," Beran said. "So I want to stand and be a voice for them."

Janice Christensen of Norfolk said although this wasn't her first walk, she hadn't been able to attend in recent years.

"I believe that a baby is a human when they’re conceived, and I have a strong love for the mothers who are in crisis pregnancies and in need of help," she said. "And I just want them to know that people love them and will support them."

The walk was also met with counter-protesters, who stood across the street from the Capitol.

"I think it's important to understand a lot of the folks out here at this march think they have a monopoly on morality and passion on this question," said Jackson Meredith of Lincoln, who has organized the counter-protest for about a decade. "But it's important to remember that 50 percent of Nebraskans are pro-choice. We are here representing the half of the state that does believe in reproductive freedom."

A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 50 percent of adult Nebraskans believe abortion should be legal in either all or most cases.

One message that was brought up by multiple speakers was the rising presence of the younger generation in the anti-abortion movement. Courtney Dreifurst, 21, who is from the York area, said she's attended the walks for as long as she can remember.

"I was raised pro-life, and we are a family full of babies, and we just couldn't imagine not having all of them," she said.

Another topic of discussion was LB209, which would require that a woman having a chemical abortion be made aware of how to reverse the process in the next few days if she changes her mind.

Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, who introduced the bill, expressed her hopes for the bill and asked the crowd to pray for its success.

"Every prayer is well-intended and for the right reasons, to pray for both the pro-life advocates, but also those who may be on the fence and not quite there yet," she said. "To all the little babies out there, we have to be their voice."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or cspilinek@journalstar.com.


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Fall semester newsroom intern at the Journal Star.

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