Arkansas "March for Life" draws thousands, weeks before abortion ban ruling is expected

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Thousands marched on the Arkansas state capitol on Sunday for the 36th annual March for Life.{} The rally in favor of anti-abortion laws comes just weeks before a federal court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of Arkansas's stringent abortion ban passed in March 2013.

There was no chanting, just silence, as countless people made their way to the front steps of the capitol in support of the Arkansas Right to Life organization.

"We all meet together peacefully, quietly, reverently, silently," said Wayne Mays, president of Arkansas Right to Life.{} "We just want to speak for the unborn."

The number of people marching on Sunday, more than 5,000, said more than a chant could.{} It was evident by the droves of pro-lifers at the rally that the people are proud to live in what was ranked the third most pro-life state in the nation by a survey conducted by Americans United for Life.

"To me it translates into basically one thing," said Mays, regarding Arkansas's pro-life ranking.

"The majority of citizens who live in Arkansas believe that only God gives life and only he should it away.{} They believe in the sanctity of life; they believe that unborn children should be protected until they are born."

Rita Sklar, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said she too believes in the sanctity of life but she mentioned she also believes in a woman's choice.

"While we can all agree we have very strong feeling about what we would do or what we would want our sisters or mothers or daughters to do, hopefully we can all agree that the government does not have a place in that room."

Sklar believes if anti-abortion supporters believe in the sanctity of life, they should be more concerned with the lives of children already living.

"We have one of the highest infant mortality rates, child malnutrition here, child poverty," said Sklar.{}

"We have really much more important things to talk about if we want protect children and women's health than the government to interfere in whether a woman terminates her pregnancy."

That's why Sklar and the ACLU have been on the front line fighting the state's ban on abortions performed after 12 weeks.{} They were able to get a federal judge to put a hold on the ban until its constitutionality is decided.{} Sklar is confident a judge will end up striking down the ban.

"It is so beyond the pale in comparison to what the Supreme Court has said is allowable," said Sklar.{} "A twelve-week fetus is not even close to viable."

But Sklar's opinion on whether a twelve-week fetus is alive and a viable life is something those marching in Sunday's rally for life don't necessarily agree with.

"It is our goal to save some lives that are being lost every year because improperly, incorrectly, abortion is legal in this country," said Mays.

January 22nd will mark 41 years since the decision of Roe v. Wade, a decision that still has Arkansans picking sides.