By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — “Everyone Deserves a Birthday” was the theme for the 27th annual Louisiana Life March in downtown Lake Charles on January 22, 2023, on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. More than 100 people braved the cold wind with one message in mind: Every life matters at every stage of life.
This year’s march — the first one since last summer’s overturning of the constitutional right to abortion — made its way from the Veterans’ Memorial Park at the Lake Charles Civic Center to the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse downtown for a candlelight prayer vigil.
The Very Rev. Ruben J. Buller, Vicar General for the Diocese of Lake Charles, led the opening prayer reminding all that the Catholic Church always stands with the pro-life movement.
Tabitha Dugas, Executive Director of New Life Counseling Pregnancy Center, said it is uplifting to gather as pro-life men and women for the sanctity and dignity of human life.
“For the past 27 years, we have gathered on the steps of this courthouse to pray, light candles, and sings songs of worship. Seven months ago on June 24, 2022, our Father in Heaven answered our prayers,” said Dugas. “Roe v. Wade, the terrible court ruling allowing abortion for any reason during any point in pregnancy was overturned, turning the decision back to the states.”
For Louisiana, this meant the three abortion facilities in the state had to close their doors.
“Thousands of women and babies have been spared of the lie of abortion over these past seven months,” Dugas said, “however, we know that with victory comes much responsibility. Our work is not done.”
Dugas pointed out the alarming fact that Louisiana is leading every other state in online requests for abortion pills.
“The landscape of abortion is much different. We must remember our mission of making abortion unthinkable and unwanted,” she added.
Mayor Nic Hunter said the abortion issue transcends politics.
“This topic, that we are all here together in solidarity, should not be a Republican or Democrat issue. It is a human issue. It is a spiritual issue,” Mayor Hunter said as he presented a challenge to everyone.
“On a state level and on a local level, let’s pour our prayers and our financial support to those agencies that need it,” he said. “There are so many local agencies — New Life Counseling, ABC Pregnancy Center, Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana, United Way. I could name a dozen other ones. Government does have a role to play … but the greatest things come from the community, especially our faith-based community.”
Ben Clapper, Director of Louisiana Right to Life, estimated that more than 3,950 babies since Roe v. Wade has been overturned have been legally protected in Louisiana.
“It is even more important now that we stand up and make our voices heard,” said Clapper. “We must keep Louisiana pro-life. The country is looking to us to see what we will do in the next few months.”
Clapper encouraged people to sign a petition asking legislators to oppose any legislation that would legalize the destruction of human life through abortion. The petition can be found on the Louisiana Right to Life website at https://prolifelouisiana.org/keeplaprolife#join-us.
Marcia Schexnider, Director of Life After Choice, introduced the featured speaker, Jessica “Jess” Theriot, who shared her abortion experience — from 15 years ago — publicly for the first time. She was 22 years old and had been living with her then 34-year-old fiancé for the majority of their eight-month relationship.
“I’ll never forget the night everything changed,” Theriot recalled when she thinks back to the “slip-up.” She and her boyfriend had agreed to wait five years and after they were married to have children. When she found out she was pregnant, everything changed.
“I don’t remember thinking. I just did as I was told. He called the clinic in Beaumont. He made the appointment. He picked out my clothes. He even told me what to say to my boss,” Theriot said. “He handed me $400 cash and kissed me goodbye as he went off to work that day.”
While sobbing, Theriot said she remembers thinking that $400 was too small a price to pay for her baby’s life.
“There’s a lot I can’t remember, but I will never forget the sound of her heart beating in the monitor in my right ear and how I badly wished this wasn’t happening,” she continued. “I remember opting out of the pain medicine because I felt like I deserved every bit of pain as my baby passed.”
Theriot encouraged those who oppose abortion to get involved, to support and pray for those who are hurting in the aftermath of their mistakes.
“You really can’t know how wonderful it is to feel loved and accepted while facing such a life-altering regret,” she said.
Among those marching for the sanctity of life was Reed Rougeau, a member of Cowboy Catholics at McNeese State University, who said it is important to walk for the millions of lives who have been lost and will never be able to take those first steps.
“This is the first local March for Life since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We get to walk with joy and celebrating that while also fighting for the remaining states where abortion is still legal,” Rougeau said. “We remember those who have gone before us asking for the intercession of these unborn babies while praying for the overturn of the remaining states.”
Becky Girola, Director of ABC Pregnancy Resource Center, offered a few closing remarks as candles were lit to honor every life that has been lost. Rev. Josh Bigwood, pastor of Church of the King led the closing prayer.
As she waited for her candle to extinguish at the end of the vigil, Dale DeSonier said one of the reasons she attended is because of her own daughter Ainsley who has battled more than 50 surgeries to be alive. Ainsley was born with cloverleaf syndrome, also referred to as Pfeiffer syndrome Type 2.
“Ainsley is one of those people who deserves a birthday. She will be 44 years old on April 12,” said Dale who, with her husband, Dr. Keith DeSonier, has done whatever is possible to always choose life for Ainsley.
“One of the things God dropped into my spirit early on after Ainsley’s first two surgeries at less than two weeks old was that because she had so many impairments, she needed the world, but that the world needed Ainsley. The world needs to see and know that she is loved.”
To view more photos from the 27th annual Louisiana Life March in Lake Charles, visit the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles Facebook page.