By Margie Wuebker
ST. HENRY -- Two charter buses filled to capacity rolled out of town Sunday night bound for the 33rd annual March For Life today in Washington, D.C.
The 110-member delegation, led by Dave Kaiser, included adults as well as teenagers from throughout Mercer County.
Speakers during the sendoff rally at St. Henry Catholic Church urged supporters at home and marchers headed to the nation's capital to remain vigilant.
Kevin Hess, outgoing president of Mercer County Right to Life, noted national abortion statistics are down 3 percent. However, the rates for county residents undergoing the medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy have increased 100 percent.
According to Hess, the numbers increased from 17 to 36 between 2003 and 2004. The 2005 figures have not been released as yet. Hess shared the three main reasons a mother-to-be has an abortion: they say having a baby would interfere with school, career etc.; they cannot afford to raise a baby; and they do not want to be a single parent or fear a baby would add more pressure to a relationship already in trouble.
He noted the lives of more than a million unborn babies have been lost since the passage of Roe versus Wade 33 years ago. The legislation, passed in January 1973, legalized abortion.
"You will be part of a larger crowd in Washington," Hess told participants. "You will be taking part in a marathon and the prize is human life."
He shared a vignette regarding an experience his daughter had while stationed outside an abortion clinic in Kettering. She shared with passers-by and new arrivals what was taking place inside the building. She recognized an acquaintance from Coldwater who approached with a friend.
"The friend was there for a checkup following an abortion," Hess said. "Friends should not let friends have an abortion."
State Rep. Keith Faber earned applause when he told prospective marchers and others in the audience, "We are winning the battle. This is the first time we are seeing a shift."
With a new chief justice on the Supreme Court and another justice seeking confirmation, he noted there is a likelihood that the 1973 legislation could be overturned given each man's strong pro-life background.
Faber has introduced a bill in the statehouse that would ban abortions on demand. He said such legislation is needed because abortions would continue in Ohio even if Roe vs. Wade was overturned. He believes the fight needs to be waged on the state level.
Faber also noted that legislation will be reintroduced soon giving pharmacists the same right as other medical professional in refusing to dispense "destructive abortive agents."
New Knoxville-area resident Matt Dwenger spoke about a prolife decision his pregnant wife made when faced with the news of stage four breast cancer that had metastasized to the liver, spine and kidneys.
Beth Dwenger, nearly 23 weeks pregnant at the time, chose chemotherapy and not an abortion after doctors assured her the chosen drug protocol would not harm her baby. Labor commenced 121Ú2 weeks ahead of schedule and the baby survived. The brave mother succumbed to cancer shortly before he was released from a Columbus hospital.
"Beth valued life as precious," he said. "Everyone has a purpose in life. Her purpose in life was to be a mom and to stay home and raise her children. You can find purpose in life whether you have five days or 50 years ahead."
Following the march and dinner later today, the 110-member delegation will reboard buses en route back to Mercer County. Their homecoming is set for 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.