LINCOLN — Genny Johnson of Omaha shivered Saturday as she waved a sign reading, “Lord, Forgive Us and Our Nation” at the 40th annual Nebraska Walk for Life.
At one point, she got so cold that she danced to stay warm.
An estimated 3,000 gathered with her Saturday morning in front of the State Capitol to protest legal abortion. Elected officials, including Gov. Dave Heineman, U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and some state senators, called for more restrictive abortion laws.
The Walk for Life began in 1974, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion.
Saturday's crowd marched from the Capitol to the Nebraska Student Union on the UNL campus for remarks by Emily Horne of Texas Right to Life.
“My generation survived Roe,” Horne said to applause, “but with God's help, we are not going to let it survive us.”
Horne shared memories of Texas' abortion fight last summer, when legislator Wendy Davis staged a nearly 11-hour filibuster in an attempt to block proposed abortion legislation.
The controversial measure, which includes a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and tougher standards for clinics that perform the procedure, passed in July.
Julie Schmit-Albin, the director of Nebraska Right to Life, said in an interview Saturday that she looks to Texas as a model of the kind of change that can be achieved on the state level.
She said a Democratic president and Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate are sure to block federal anti-abortion legislation.
“We look to Texas because they successfully defunded the abortion industry,” Schmit-Albin said. “We'd like to learn and see how that can be done here.”
Abortions after 20 weeks have been banned in Nebraska since 2010, when lawmakers passed the first fetal pain legislation in the country.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we are the strongest pro-life state in America thanks to all of you,” Heineman said from the steps of the Capitol.
Some speakers at the Capitol saluted a group of nine male students from Lincoln Pius X High School. They stood shirtless in the cold with their chests painted pink, spelling out “WE (heart) BABIES.”
“It feels very cold,” said Thomas Hoefener, 16. “It feels good, though, standing up for the rights of babies.”