By Matthew Von Pinnon
Nearly 1,000 pro-life supporters marched peacefully through downtown Fargo
Sunday en route to a prayer demonstration in front of North Dakota's only
The demonstration, sponsored by the Fargo Catholic Diocese, went on despite
criticism by Jane Bovard, the clinic's administrator, that it would be
"incredibly irresponsible" in light of the recent killings at a Pensacola, Fla.,
An abortion doctor and his escort were shot to death July 29 in Pensacola,
the second such shooting there involving an abortion doctor in the past two
But Bishop James S. Sullivan, who organized the Fargo "Walk with Christ for
Life," said it had been planned for months and was not intended to inflame the
recent situation surrounding abortion clinics.
"That such things as hatred and violence and hurting and killing, and all of
these things, will be eradicated from our society, that is our prayer and the
focus of this march," Sullivan told reporters before Sunday's procession began.
Asked whether he was concerned about the heightened possibility of violence
occurring as a result of the march, Sullivan said "I look at all my friends out
here and I don't think that any of us are very violent. However, I will say that
there is going to be violence out there, and that violence is within the
The Fargo Women's Health Organization, the only clinic in North Dakota where
abortions are performed, has been burned and vandalized in the past.
Sullivan said that those two acts of violence against the clinic were random
and caused by "unbalanced people" not associated with their organization. He
added "As for worrying about the problems out there, nothing could be more
violent than what's out there now."
Asked, why the prayer demonstration must be staged in front of the clinic and
not elsewhere, Sullivan said, "I think we need it for ourselves more than
anything else, just to remind us of this place. Whenever an unborn child is
being slaughtered, we will remember.
"We want to elevate the awareness of all the people to the evil that's taking
place, what's really happening there. We want change. We're asking God to give
us a miracle, if it takes that."
Fr. Frank Pavone, who, as the national director of Priests for Life, flew in
to Fargo from New York for Sunday's march, also spoke.
"I read the news reports that have been going around here recently and the
comments by the administrator of this abortion mill that it was irresponsible
for us to come out," he said.
"My response to that is, No. 1, it is irresponsible to kill children; and No.
2, knowing that children are being killed, it would be irresponsible for us not
to come out."
Bovard was unavailable for comment Sunday night. Also, a call to clinic
attorney William Kirschner was not returned Sunday.
The march began outside St. Mary's Cathedral shortly after 1 p.m. and
continued for 16 blocks to the Fargo Women's Health Organization. Marchers, who
sang as they walked, stopped for short periods along the way to pray as church
bells tolled in the distance.
Priests interspersed throughout the procession held walkie-talkies high above
their heads while leading marchers in prayer.
LeRoy Sly from Dilworth positioned himself along the route just to watch. "I
just came to see if I knew anyone, but I don't," he said. "I'm neutral in the
whole abortion debate. I don't want any part of either side."
Others along the route were more partisan.
Pat Schiele of Fargo, a pro-life supporter, rode his bike along the
procession instead of walking.
Dominic Reinsenhauser and Brent Muskravn, two other bicyclists from Fargo,
shook their heads as marchers walked by.
"We came to peacefully observe what's going on," Muskravn said as
Reinsenhauser added, "Obviously people know their stance on this, so why are
they out marching around?"
Reinsenhauser said he and Muskravn planned to follow the march and
demonstrate their pro-choice views in front of the clinic.
"I have a sign that says 'Our bodies, our choice,' that I'm going to hold up
when I get there," Reinsenhauser said. "We kind of feel they have the stance,
'Our bodies, their choice.' This country was supposedly founded on religious
freedom, and they're kind of persecuting everyone, just pushing their beliefs on
Fargo Police Officer Glen Hanson, one of two assigned to special detail at
the clinic, estimated the crowd at between 950 to 1,000. Fourteen Emergency
Vehicle Assistance Communications personnel assisted Fargo Police in traffic
Two federal marshals, stationed at the clinic since the day after the Florida
shootings, sat in their cars behind the building.
Sullivan led prayers in front of the clinic for about 20 minutes before the
crowd dispersed and was taken back to the cathedral in a number of buses.
Steve Reberg of Fargo, who participated in Sunday's march, said, "My
conviction is that life is sacred. I feel that what they're doing at the
abortion clinic is wrong." He added, "It's also kind of nice to be around people
with like views."
Asked whether he thought there was a potential for violence at Sunday's march
in light of the Pensacola shootings, Reberg said "I'm concerned about the
shootings in Pensacola. What happened there was wrong. But as far as what's
going on here and the fears that the abortionists have, they're unfounded."