Thousands of Nebraskans braved freezing temperatures Saturday to attend the 49th annual Walk for Life organized by Nebraska Right to Life.
Local and state officials, including Gov. Jim Pillen, Sens. Deb Fischer and Pete Ricketts, and Reps. Don Bacon and Mike Flood, spoke at the event. They shared excitement over the overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer.
In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that abortion is not a constitutional right, leaving the legality of abortion to individual states to decide.
"Dobbs was a tremendous victory," Fischer said. "It was the result of hard work, heart and commitment to a noble movement."
The annual rally came just weeks after state Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston proposed a bill that would ban abortions in Nebraska after six weeks. In response, Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha has introduced two bills that would expand abortion access in the state.
"If it has a heartbeat, it's not going to be aborted in Nebraska," Albrecht told the crowd.
Participants marched from the Capitol to the Nebraska Union, where speaker Dr. John Bruchalski greeted them.
Bruchalski is an OB-GYN who once performed abortions, but now leads Tepeyac OB-GYN, one of the largest pro-life medical practices in the nation.
"It was your prayer, it was your witness, that helped me change my heart on performing abortions to converting to life-affirming medicine," Bruchalski told the crowd.
Bruchalski grew up in a Catholic home before graduating from the South Alabama College of Medicine. He spoke about how during his residency, he was attending church, and performing abortions during his on-call hours.
He told the story of how a fellow doctor told him to treat a case as two patients, instead of just one, after an unsuccessful abortion.
"I had to call in a neonatologist. An abortion, a baby, a fetus, ended up squeaking and crying in my hands."
The neonatologist explained to Bruchalski how he had treated the baby like something to be gotten rid of, not a person needing taken care of.
After that experience, Bruchalski says his eyes were opened, and that experience is what prompted his memoir "Two Patients: My Conversion from Abortion to Life-Affirming Medicine."
Bruchalski also called the younger members of the crowd to action.
"You are the future," he said. "All these young men and women in the high schools and the colleges, it's you."
Before his closing remarks, Bruchalski heralded how Nebraska was fighting against abortion and thanked the march participants.
"Your walk today mattered. Your presence today mattered."
A group of counterprotesters gathered outside the Nebraska Union.
Among them was Maghie Miller-Jenkins, who said she was offended that the Walk for Life rally took place a day after body camera footage was released of Tyre Nichols’ death at the hands of the Memphis Police.
"I don't like calling it pro-choice, because, when they hijack pro-life, I'm actually pro-lives, actual lives," Miller-Jenkins said. "I think it is horrifically disrespectful that they are out here the day after the video of Tyre Nichols, fighting for lives while we're dying in the streets."