BEMIDJI-Nearly 100 people of all ages gathered Saturday for the annual March For Life in downtown Bemidji, taking a stand to end abortion.
The group began at the Beltrami County Courthouse and then made their way down Beltrami Avenue before turning on Third Street, walking up Bemidji Avenue and ending at St. Philip's Catholic Church. The local version of the march has been going for approximately 20 years and is held in conjunction with other marches across the country.
At the start of the march, Bryan Kujawa of St. Philip's Church led the group in a prayer in front of the Beltrami County Courthouse.
"We pray that you would convert hearts as we march here and as we share in the movement across the country to end abortion," Kujawa said during his prayer. "We pray for all mothers who are considering an abortion. We pray, father, that you would transform their hearts and that you would provide for them a different way-a way to choose life."
Following the march, the group gathered for lunch and a small presentation in the church. Dan Voss, one of the organizers, briefly spoke about the number of abortions that have taken place both in Minnesota, as well as across the country. The national March for Life was held Friday in Washington, D.C.
The march is also held in conjunction with the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. Since then, more than 600,000 abortions have been conducted in Minnesota. Of that total, 43 percent were paid for with taxpayer funding, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
"A lot's still taking place' the numbers are coming down from the peak still." Voss said. "We did see a slight uptick this year. But, of course, we're working on that."
Following Voss, Mel Heltemes of the Northwoods Pregnancy Center told of her personal story struggling with an unplanned pregnancy. She said she wanted to share what it's like for the women who so often have to make the decision to keep or terminate their pregnancy during difficult times in their lives.
"After going through all of this, I began to have a deep desire to help other women: to build them up; to encourage them; to let them know that life has meaning and a purpose."