Iowa’s largest pro-life organization celebrated the many contributions made by its volunteers and supporters over the years during a gathering at New Hope Assembly of God Church in Urbandale on Thursday. The event also served to inspire attendees to get more involved in the movement.
“We’re doing this so that we can save babies from the grips of an excruciating death,” Iowa Right to Life President Marlys Popma said.
Kendra Burger, a sophomore at Simpson College, is the president of the school’s Students for Life group. Burger was one of the many volunteers who attended Thursday’s gathering. She has several spent hours praying outside of Planned Parenthood clinics, as part of the 40 Days for Life program.
Burger relayed a story about a pregnant couple that stopped to talk with her during a vigil outside of a Des Moines clinic. The couple was considering aborting the baby, but Burger informed them about the many programs available to help allay the costs of having a child and spoke about the pregnancy as a blessing. Her words helped convince the couple to keep the baby.
“To have experienced that save that day was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had so far,” Burger said. “It’s one thing to sit and talk about it in our meeting and it’s another thing to sit in your church and pray about it or sit in your home and pray about it. But it’s another thing to stand outside on the street and put yourself out there to complete strangers…It’s really important to get out there and actually do instead of say.”
The media and Democrats love to depict pro-lifers as hateful lunatics who are conducting a “war on women”. That is the opposite of the approach Iowa Right to Life takes.
‘Everything we do has to be cloaked in the spirit of love,” IRTL President Marlys Popma said. “We will not attract someone who doesn’t know the Lord, who doesn’t believe what we believe, who has scales on their eyes, we will not attract them with anger and hostility and judgment. They need to see in our eyes the love and blessing of Christ.”
Iowa’s pro-life community has become fractured over the past two years. Popma referenced the late-term abortion bill Republicans in the Iowa Legislature attempted to pass in 2011. The bill was specifically designed to prevent the nation’s most notorious late-term abortionist, Leroy Carhart, from setting up a clinic in Iowa.
However, a few House Republicans and some Iowa conservatives lashed out against supporters of the bill due to some of the language in it and because it did not ban all abortions. That all-or-nothing approach left us with nothing.
“Iowa Right to Life believes that all unborn children deserve a right to life, and Iowa Right to Life will fight until the day that all unborn children are saved,” said Marlys Popma, Iowa Right to Life president. “And along the way, we will save every single one that we can in every single way that we can.”
There have been other recent political setbacks for the pro-life movement. The reelection of Barack Obama is one of them. He used his position to advocate for Planned Parenthood, even to the point of being dishonest about services they provide. Pastor Terry Amann, who is a volunteer for Iowa Right to Life, says it is time to stop relying on a political solution to the life issue.
“The reality is, the politicians cannot do it. They can’t do it,” Amann said. “It’s time for churches to link arms and stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough and this holocaust that’s happening on my watch needs to stop.’ When we do that, we’re going to start to see our country turn back around.”
Although Right to Life is known primarily as an anti-abortion group, the organization believes all life is sacred, from conception to natural death. They advocate for the value of human life and that each individual should be treated with dignity and respect.
“We are fighting for the only thing created in the image of God,” said IRTL Executive Director Jenifer Bowen. “We’re fighting for the unborn. We’re fighting for the Terry Schiavos. We’re fighting for my grandmother and your grandmother.”
Despite some setbacks at the ballot box, there have been some positive developments for Iowa pro-lifers in 2012. Steve King’s defeat of abortion activist Christie Vilsack in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District was one of them. Four of the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics have closed since March. Three of them performed tele-med abortions. Three of those clinics were also the sites of the 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is also struggling financially.
Meanwhile, pro-life groups are becoming more prominent on Iowa’s college campuses and new ones forming in Iowa communities, including a Central Iowa Right to Life organization. Kendra Burger says there are 43 members of the Simpson College Students for Life group and many more prospects with the incoming freshman class.
The only way for the pro-life movement to be successful is to win hearts and minds. Iowa Right to Life has been fighting to do that for 40 years. Bob Dopf, the chairman of Iowa Right to Life, passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. He was there from the beginning of the organization, volunteering his time. Iowa Right to Life vows to continue with Dopf’s mission to protect all life.
There is also an important message that Marlys Popma relayed Thursday night. Speaking as someone who dealt with an unexpected pregnancy, Popma hopes anyone who creates a live will heed her words.
“If you’re pregnant, no matter what decision you make, it will change your life forever,” Popma said. “If you decide to have an abortion, it’s going to change your life forever. If you decide to be a single parent, it will change your life forever. If you decide to get married and have a baby, it’s going to change your life forever. Choose something you can live with.”
*UPDATE: Pastor Terry Amann is a volunteer, not a board member for Iowa Right to Life. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.
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