CHEYENNE — The Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last June was the easy part.
For pro-life supporters, the real battle is making an impact at the state level, especially in Wyoming.
Saturday morning, more than 200 people gathered in the sun of the Cheyenne Depot Plaza before parading down Capitol Avenue as participants in the annual Celebrate Life March.
People young and old from Laramie County, surrounding counties and even northern Colorado held signs that read “Equality begins in the womb,” “Life, the first inalienable right,” “Flippity floppy, abortion must stoppity” and “Happy little accidents are still happy,” accompanied by the likeness of painter and TV personality Bob Ross.
Unlike most other marches, they weren’t headed for the state Capitol, but the Wyoming Supreme Court Building, where speakers emphasized the future of their cause will take place. While legislation is an important front in their fight, this is a cause that begins and ends with the effort of individuals.
“In a lot of ways, I think the work is now closer to home,” former Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne, said in a speech in front of the high court building. “It’s in our communities, our churches, our schools, social media, within our friendships, even within our own families.
“I think that’s the real grounds for the work. Because, if you think about it, the fight for life and human dignity didn’t actually begin with Roe v. Wade. It’s an old fight.”
Wilson, though addressing the crowd as a former lawmaker, spoke to the cultural status quo surrounding the morality of abortion.
Much of the conversation related to the ethics and legality of abortion focuses on the legislative side, like this year’s House Bill 117, which would repeal the “trigger ban” now on hold after being passed by the Legislature last year.
Wilson, instead, argues that there is a cultural turmoil surrounding this issue, where the true debate must live. Roe v. Wade required “winning the hearts” of six Supreme Court justices, but “winning the hearts” of a state population will be an uphill battle.
“We’re really in a fight between the culture of materialism and death versus the culture of creation and life,” Wilson said. “We live in a culture that thinks that human existence is just the sum total of our neurons firing. The culture on that side of the battle says if your life’s not happy, then we can fix it with pills or with a scalpel.”
One bill being presented in this year’s legislative session, Senate File 109, would prohibit the use of chemical abortion medications, like mifepristone and misoprostol, in Wyoming. Under the definition provided in the “Life is a Human Right Act,” House Bill 152, abortion would not be considered health care.
There are two Senate joint resolutions, however, that Secretary of State Chuck Gray emphasized are threatening to the pro-life cause — SJ 9 and SJ 10. Both resolutions intend to amend the Wyoming Constitution, the former in regard to residents’ right to privacy, while the latter, he said, is “trying to delete the provision” allowing the state to regulate health care.
“That’s a very troubling one,” Gray said about SJ 10. “I believe this is a watershed moment, both for our nation, but also for Wyoming. This is truly where Wyoming can shape its own destiny in protecting the most vulnerable among us — the unborn — and it will be defining.
“We can be a sanctuary state for the unborn.”
During his speech, he praised the residents of Wyoming for their resilience in regard to their support for the “trigger ban,” which he, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams and others wrote together.
Gray also connected the repeal of Roe v. Wade to the “Year of Jubilee,” as written in the book of Leviticus, chapter 25. Roe v. Wade was repealed after 50 years, which he likened to the seventh passing of seven Sabbath years, of which the following 50th year would be a “Jubilee.”
In Leviticus, the Sabbath was a year established to liberate poor Israelites from their lives of slavery and indentured servitude — where, rather than continue to work, they were to rest, be thankful for their land and crops and reconnect with their community. Gray said that the repealing of Roe v. Wade served as a “year of liberty” for those who advocated for the right to life for so long.
“It all starts at this level, where we band together,” Gray said. “The grass-roots folks that are willing to come out on a January day to raise awareness about the sanctity of human life and advocate for the unborn.
“In this year of Jubilee, let’s pray for guidance and discernment and success in our efforts.”
Yes, there is time to celebrate, but there is still a lot of work ahead, speakers said. Randy Rhodes, the president of Right to Life Laramie County, emphasized this point, as did participant Cheryl Goethals, who relocated to Cheyenne about eight months ago.
She had never attended a march like this, but this year, she felt compelled.
“If people don’t come out, it’s really easy for good people to sit back and let other people do the work, then bad things happen,” Goethals said. “I feel like it’s time for me to do my part.”