By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — Louisiana Right to Life brought its “Keep Louisiana Pro-Life RV Tour” to Lake Charles and Sulphur on Monday, March 13, with a message that every life matters for babies and mothers.
The two one-hour stops took place from noon to 1:00 p.m. at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church and 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church.
Despite the blustery cold weather, the RV tour at Our Lady Queen of Heaven drew a crowd of approximately 100 pro-life supporters, including State Rep. Phillip Tarver, former State Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish; Tabitha Dugas, Executive Director of New Life Counseling; Becky Girola, Executive Director of ABC Pregnancy Resource Center; Mary Wilkinson, Right to Life Billboard Outreach Coordinator; and a group of OLQH seventh-graders.
Showing their support at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish were Sen. Jeremy Stine, Rep. Les Farnum, Rep. Troy Romero, and Tarver.
According to Ben Clapper, Executive Director for Louisiana Right to Life, the main message of the tour is to protect babies, to help moms, and keep Louisiana pro-life.
The tour began on February 27 in the New Orleans region and is making its way around the state ahead of the upcoming legislative session that kicks off on April 10.
“Since we had this great success last summer with Roe v. Wade being overturned, abortion facilities in Louisiana have been shut down and babies are being protected,” said Clapper.
He warned that it only takes one legislative session for the laws in Louisiana to go from being pro-life to allowing abortion, something Clapper said that pro-life supporters cannot allow.
“What we don’t want to happen is for a silence in the pro-life movement in any way seem like we are saying to our elected officials that we can go back,” he continued. “We want to go forward in Louisiana and let our legislators know that the pro-life movement is here, and we are always going to protect life.”
Clapper praised the Southwest Louisiana community for the resources available to moms in need of support.
“You are blessed right here in Lake Charles with two of the best pro-life pregnancy centers in the state with both New Life Counseling Center and ABC Pregnancy Resource Center,” said Clapper. “A lot of efforts in the community are also church-based such as the Gabriel Project in the Diocese of Lake Charles.”
The highlight of each one-hour stop was the testimony of Dustin Bertrand, who is driving the Right to Life RV on the tour. Bertrand is living proof that every life matters no matter the circumstances in how one is conceived.
“I am a tangible witness that we should keep Louisiana pro-life from the womb to the tomb, continue to support our women and protect the lives of unborn babies,” said Bertrand, who was conceived as the result of rape when his mother was 25 years old.
It was in high school when Bertrand began to realize that he was being judged for something that was out of his control. For the first time, he said he knew he was different than his surrounding family.
He still recalls with detail the conversation he had with his mother when he learned of the story behind her pregnancy.
“It happened in Abbeville, south of the airport on a green picnic table over some gravel rocks next to a gray Lincoln owned by my grandmother on a Saturday in August,” Bertrand described vividly.
It was during the paperwork process for open heart surgery when Bertrand was 20 years old that he began asking about his biological father.
“My mom started to cry and apologize to me that she could not give me the information I was seeking,” he said, but still looks up to her as a hero for choosing his life during an unfortunate situation.
Bertrand admits that he never thought he would be part of the pro-life movement in the capacity that he is now but is traveling the state to spread the message that every life matters.
“The pain of abortion cannot erase the pain of rape. My mother realized that I should have life despite the horrific actions of my biological father,” Bertrand said. “It wasn’t easy for her, it wasn’t planned, but she loved me unconditionally.”
Before the RV left for its next stop in Sulphur, a delicious jambalaya lunch prepared by Chris Habetz and Jay Wilkinson was served.
Those attending the event had the opportunity to sign a Keep Louisiana Pro-Life Petition, also available at www.KeepLaProLife.org.
A group of pro-life supporters gather in front of the “Keep Louisiana Pro-Life” RV at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in Lake Charles on Monday, March 13. The RV is touring the state of Louisiana to collect signatures to help Keep Louisiana pro-life. The RV also made a stop at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Sulphur. (Morris LeBleu / Diocese of Lake Charles)