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Right to Life Southwest Indiana Holds Annual Banquet; Hosts VP Mike Pence

Touted as largest pro-life banquet in country, group pivots to change 'hearts and minds' about abortion

“Thank you thank you guys for coming. Thank you for coming. Support Trump.”

Mike Boatman of Evansville is waving a 160 square-foot flag that reads "Trump Won … Save America" outside the Old National Bank Events Plaza as hundreds of Right to Life Banquet attendees file past.

He said he wants to see Trump reelected, and abortion laws made more strict.

“They can still get abortions they go to different state, but we need to make it where they can't even go to a different state.”

Beside him with his sign that reads “Indiana: Where a virus has more rights than women” is Brian Liivak, also of Evansville. Unlike Boatman, his opinion is not popular here. Boatman receives hand shakes while a couple passersby share their distain for his signs.

“Women should have a choice about what they choose to do with their body and that it's their right and not the elected elected officials,” Liivak said.

Daley Atchison of Evansville held a “My Body, My Choice” sign.

“I think they're just missing the point that it's not a baby. It's a fetus and I'm the one carrying. The uterus-owners are the ones carrying babies.”

Boatman was the only anti-abortion demonstrator; there were several men and women there for abortion rights.

Inside the events plaza are more than 2,000 attendees of various ages and genders.

The banquet happens in a historical time as many anti-abortion laws in various states are taking effect.

Indiana voted to ban most abortions earlier this month, and will take effect in September.

Abortion is still legal in Michigan and Illinois and until fetal heartbeat in Ohio.

Former Vice President Mike Pence is the special guest, and keynote speaker is Abby Johnson CEO and Founder of And Then There Were None, her anti-abortion ministry organization.

Scenes from Right to Life SW Indiana Banquet.mp4

Mary Ellen Van Dyke is the Executive director of Right to Life of Southwest Indiana. She said the banquet funds activities such as outreach programs.

“We know that young moms will need help,” Van Dyke said. “And so we decided to launch a new program called the 'Go Mobile Clinic,' where essentially it's a pregnancy care center on wheels. So that the services that will be offered on that mobile unit are ultrasounds, and STI testing.”

She said this was part of the Right to Life post-Roe game plan — connect expecting mothers to services, run these mobile clinics and financially support pregnancy centers and and start up anti-abortion student groups in Indiana.

When asked what she might say to someone protesting outside, she said, “It's always very sad for me to say to see a young woman who's protesting the fact that more babies are going to live, I find that a very difficult thing to, to come to grips with … .”

Regarding bodily autonomy like Atchison mentioned, Van Dyke said, “The baby's body is separate from the mother's body at the moment of conception. The baby has its own DNA, which is completely separate from the mother and the father. It the baby is a complete and separate human being from the point of conception.”

Van Dyke says the next step is "changing hearts and minds" concerning abortion, and Former Vice President Mike Prence said much the same thing from the podium.

“Until we come to the day that abortion is not only illegal, but unthinkable to that and I submit to you, that we should we should work to pass laws that reflect the unborn are human beings owe the full protection and recognition of the laws of this country.”

In attendance was Indiana Senator Jim Tomes who voted to restrict abortion in Indiana. He said he’s happy to be a part of the change that’s happening across the country.

“I'm happy to be part of it. I'm happy to be part of that measure we had a few weeks ago at the State House, and it's also an opportunity to share my position on this critical issue of protecting babies’ lives.”

Lauren of Warrick County however, is angry.

“It's unbelievable. I've been marching since the ‘60s, and for all kinds of causes, but in particular for women and LGBT rights, and I never thought we'd be fighting the same battle again,” she said.

“I respect the church. And I respect other people to have that opinion. But it is not okay to push it off on all these women and the women that follow us in generations.”