WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
About 300 people took part in the annual Alberta March for Life.
Carrying placards and banners, people from across Alberta marched throughout downtown Edmonton to honour the baby in the womb.
Nearly 300 people, many of them young people and mothers pushing strollers, marched through the streets demanding protection for the unborn, the handicapped and other defenceless members of society.
The Alberta bishops were absent from this year's march, which may account for the low numbers at the event. The estimated attendance last year was 1,400.
Participants met at the Legislature for a rally with various speakers before walking under sunny skies to City Hall and then back.
The Knights of Columbus led the march, which was held in conjunction with similar demonstrations in Ottawa and cities across Canada.
"I'm here because I believe in life and not abortion," said participant Lisa Dodman. "We want to bring awareness to the politicians and to the public that abortion is wrong."
Due to the lack of laws to protect the unborn, more than 100,000 children are denied life every year in Canada, noted Edmonton writer Ted Byfield.
"If you do the math you will find that well over four million Canadians have not been allowed to live in the past 42 years," he said. "If they themselves had been allowed to have children, we are missing approximately six million Canadians."
To fill the void, Canada brings people from other cultures, many of whom do not share Canadian values, Byfield said.
"I think we are going to find within 10 years that one of the most critical and demanding things that we need is kids," he said, urging the crowd to have more babies. "Anybody that denies a kid life, is denying this country's survival."
"I would never have dreamed that we would one day have to have marches and rallies to defend the unborn," declared Jerri Marple, who came onto the stage with her husband Chuck and their 12-year-old daughter Mary, who is severely handicapped.
"It just seems so outrageous to me to think that anyone would think it would be the right thing to do by having an abortion."
The Marples, who have raised eight children, including Mary, say being open to new life has resulted in many sacrifices but nothing they regret.
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Chuck Marple assists his daughter Mary while Jerri Marple speaks at the March for Life.
When Mary was born, she was given a 50 per cent chance to live. At two days old, she developed an extensive brain bleed, which reduced her chances of survival to five per cent. One doctor even suggested the Marples pull her tubes because she would not have a productive life and would be a burden on them.
"We have never thought of Mary as a burden; she's brought more blessings than we can count by her presence in our family," Jerri told the pro-life crowd.
"In her silent way, she has made a very profound witness to us and others on the dignity and importance of all human life. That's why it is so important to stand up for all the infirm, the elderly, the handicapped, those in the womb and all those who can't speak for themselves."
Denis Nawrocki, a Saskatchewan pharmacist who no longer dispenses birth control pills or the morning after pill, said, "Protecting life from conception until our natural death is a basic human right and it is worth fighting for."
Francine Moses Turner, a young mother of two with a third baby on the way, said she still regrets the abortion she was forced to have at age 26. The abortion devastated her.
"I cried for weeks and weeks on end and I was depressed. I couldn't function. The guilt and the condemnation were so heavy," Turner said at the rally.
"I'm here today to let you know that (abortion) is a real issue. It's a silent holocaust that's killing hundreds of thousands of little babies every single day. We need to speak up and do whatever we can to stop this."
University of Alberta student Kleah Zara, 19, said as a Catholic she felt compelled to attend the march.
"I don't believe in abortion or anything like that. I believe that life is sacred and should be valued," Zara said. "We don't have the right to take away life because only God has that power."
Several members of the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform joined the March for Life with large graphic placards displaying dead fetuses.
The Alberta bishops did not participate in this year's march because of those placards. They say the presence of images of aborted fetuses at the event is not consistent with the message they want to portray about the dignity of human life.