OMAK About 60 pro-life activists walked quietly through the downtown area Wednesday afternoon, sporting signs with phrases like, “Abortion attacks God who is life,” and “Your mother was pro-life.”
People of all ages, from infants to the elderly, gathered first in Civic League Park for a prayer to kick off the annual March for Life. They protested the 41st anniversary of the passage of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country.
Some passing drivers honked their approval or rolled down their windows to give a thumbs-up.
When people yell, “it just makes you pray harder for them, because you don’t know what’s going on in their lives,” Julia Bucsko of Omak said.
Bucsko helped lead the event along with her six children and father-in-law, Al Bucsko, who started it several years ago.
Wednesday’s crowd was the biggest yet, she said.
“Every year, it seems like it increases a little more,” she said. “It really motivates you to not give up.”
The Bucskos are members of the Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Okanogan.
Daughter Jenna Bucsko, 14, said she has participated in anti-abortion protests with her family all her life. She said the protests will “hopefully show people that abortion is wrong, and they’ll regret it later on if they do make the decision.”
“If you can change one person’s life or save one baby in your whole life – one of God’s little lambs – that’s just awesome,” Julia Bucsko said.
The activists made one stop to pray in front of Okanogan Family Planning, 127 N. Juniper St.
Family Planning does not provide abortions, but gives referrals to clinics that do, according to Executive Director Bernardene Charley.
Referrals are part of a variety of services Family Planning offers for all aspects of reproductive health for women and men, from pregnancy counseling to sex education to testing for sexually transmitted diseases and general well-being exams.
Staff also provides information about adoption to women seeking pregnancy counseling, Charley said.
“All of the options are covered, which is referrals for prenatal care, referrals for adoption, referrals for abortion,” she said. “According to our data, a person receiving options counseling – it’s not very many. So it’s not like it’s happening a whole lot.”
About 1,400 people visited the clinic in 2012.
Of those, 1,100 visits were for sexually transmitted disease and HIV prevention. The clinic also administered 443 pregnancy tests and 497 tests for Chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Statistics for 2013 weren’t available.
Charley said new staff members at the non-profit clinic are cautioned about protests.
“We don’t react to it. Everybody has their right to their opinion,” she said. “Usually when they stop at our sign, it’s to offer prayer. We just let them do that and continue on with their day.”
Charley said she’d like to dispel any misconceptions about the services the clinic provides.
“That’s what we’re really endorsing here, is to take responsibility to plan your family, whether that be abstinence or birth control. We are 105 miles away from any kind of facility that does perform any abortions,” she said, noting that the closest clinics are in Spokane and Yakima.
“For a person to get an abortion who’s from Okanogan County, they would have to think of transportation, most likely spending the night somewhere – it’s not something that’s going to be taken lightly,” Charley said.
“Family Planning would just like to express our desire to always know that it’s a woman’s choice… and it’s a lot better than what they were doing prior to 41 years ago,” she said. “It’s a lot safer and we need it; whether people want to acknowledge it, we do need it.”
Julia Bucsko said she hopes to see abortion outlawed on a state and federal level, especially late-term abortions.
“I know a lot of people say, ‘Well that will drive women to the streets’ and this and that, but it’s kind of like drugs: If you make them readily available, people are going to have it as an option, but if you don’t make it readily available, people don’t have that option so they’ll have the baby whether they give it up for adoption or anything.
“At least you’re trying to save a life and you’re giving that baby a voice, and the mother, too. I don’t think a lot of women realize how much that takes from them and how they’ll never forget it.”
Oroville resident Georgia Minick, 60, was one of the women in attendance who have had abortions and regretted it. Minick has had three procedures, the first being in the early 1970s after Roe v. Wade legalized it.
“God wasn’t even in my mind when I made that decision,” she said. “What gets me is that people think it’s just a hunk of flesh, and once it’s gone it’s done and nobody thinks about it again. I know all three anniversaries. I think about these babies every year, and it just breaks my heart.”
Minick said she became a Christian at 48 years old, but the abortions had been bothering her long before then.
“It’s been 40 years, and I’m still packing that around,” she said. “To me, as a Christian now, that’s murder. I’ve repented of that and of course have been forgiven, but that’s still something I have to carry around.
“It’s hard for me to forgive me sometimes.”
Christie Whiteaker of Tonasket and her 7-year-old daughter, Alex, were among the marchers. She said they also participated in protests in front of the Spokane Planned Parenthood when her family lived there.
Whiteaker said these protests highlight the “importance of our most valuable resource, which is our children – it’s our future,” she said.
“I think it’s a necessity,” said first-time participant Gordon Adkins, who works as a substitute teacher in Omak.
Adkins pulled off his cowboy hat, which has a few pins affixed to the front – symbols of his faith and a pair of tiny feet.
“These are the size of a baby’s feet in a mother’s womb at six weeks,” he said. “It represents that at six weeks, that is a child in that mother’s womb. With an abortion, you’re killing a human being.
“We have killed more humans through abortions than we’ve ever lost in wars. Think of that.”