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March for Life takes to the streets of Brainerd

Brainerd was privy to a host of bundled faces and neon signs Monday as marchers took to the streets to protest legalized abortion on the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

About 300 marchers headed north Monday on South Sixth Street in Brainerd marking the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The event, sponsored by the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, ended at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse for a program of songs, prayers and speeches. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video and Gallery
About 300 marchers headed north Monday on South Sixth Street in Brainerd marking the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The event, sponsored by the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, ended at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse for a program of songs, prayers and speeches. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video and Gallery

Brainerd was privy to a host of bundled faces and neon signs Monday as marchers took to the streets to protest legalized abortion on the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Roughly 300 marchers met at Giovanni's Pizza off Oak Street at 11:30 a.m. Monday-many of whom were members of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. Escorted by police squad car, the procession made its way down South Sixth Street and onto Laurel Street before packing into the central atrium of the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse.

There, a bevy of speakers-which included county Commissioner Paul Thiede, Rev. Paul Strommer and Rep. Josh Heintzeman-reaffirmed their belief in the value of life as well as their staunch opposition to abortion, the legalization of which represented to them one of the worst crises of human rights.

Multiple marchers noted this year's iteration was larger than last year's march. It was a moment of encouragement, as well as a time to resteel her resolve, said Mary Dischinger, march organizer and chairman of the local chapter of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

"This gathering, specifically today, and the numbers shows me that the pro-life movement is not dead," Dischinger said. "It's growing and we're going to keep working until we save more babies."

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During the march, Bernie Roberts, a resident of Nisswa, said protecting the lives of the unborn represents a fundamental and foundational part of his humanistic ethics.

"If we don't protect life, if we don't value life, what other values should we have?" Roberts said, marching along in a suit and tie as he took to the streets of Brainerd with other members of the March for Life. "If we have people in this world we want to protect, don't we protect the people who come into this world?"

Roberts said he was an illegitimate child who never knew his father. His mother decided to keep Roberts and raise him despite having the option to get an abortion at the time-although, he noted, his mother had a strong support system of family and friends behind her. This experience taught him that caring for people, from conception to natural death, is an intrinsic part of being pro-life.

Julienne Loney, a resident of Brainerd, said she was encouraged by the turnout. More than that, however, it was the number of unfamiliar faces and young people that impressed her at this year's march.

"We need to stand up for life from conception til death. Not only babies, but adults, too," Loney said, standing shoulder to shoulder with other marchers in the main atrium of the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse. "It's just murder. It's pretty simple, black and white for me. We're missing a whole generation because of the deaths of abortion."

Heintzeman took part in the march and spoke to the marchers. The Republican from Nisswa said Monday's march is part of a robust and growing anti-abortion movement-based on what he's seen from his and neighboring constituencies-and that this signals an inevitable repeal of Roe v. Wade.

"There's maybe not a renewed interest, but a hopeful interest. I think that people are more optimistic that this issue can be revisited at the court level, and then it's, 'How do we handle that?'" Heintzman said. "How are we going to continue to work on this issue? We're going to chip away, continue to push for reasonable legislation when it comes to clinics and facilities."

Heintzeman said there's been a generational shift in multiple ways.

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On one side, he said longtime opponents to Roe v. Wade-many of whom have been fighting the ruling since its beginnings-often seemed to march as if in mourning, while younger marchers are more optimistic.

On the other hand, Heintzeman said the issue of abortion is more of a national talking point now than when he was young (Heintzeman was born in 1977). As such, through advocacy campaigns and the spread of information, he said, repealing Roe v. Wade is becoming an increasingly realistic possibility.

"Forty-five years ago, if we probably talked to an average person if (abortion would be legalized), I doubt they would have said 'Oh yeah, this could happen,'" Heintzeman said. "I think it was a big surprise when it came from the Supreme Court and people really weren't keyed into what that even meant. And 45 years later we know exactly what it is."

According to the latest poll conducted by Gallup, in which respondents were queried between May 3-7, 2017:

• 29 percent of Americans approved of legalized abortion under any circumstances.

• 50 percent of Americans approved of legalized abortion only under certain circumstances.

• 18 percent of Americans responded they rejected legalized abortion under any circumstances.

For a photo gallery of the march go to " target="_blank">bit.ly/2aOfOER.

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