Beverly McLaughlin said that had she followed the advice of others, her daughter Rebekah McLaughlin wouldn’t have been with her Sunday. They were two of the more than 50 people who gathered at a busy Joplin intersection as part of a 33-year-old campaign to end abortion.
Beverly said she was carrying twins in the mid-1980s, but the pregnancy was making her sick. She said the doctor told her the kidneys on the fetuses were not developing the way they should, creating conditions that put the lives of all three at risk. The recommendation was for an abortion. Rebekah was born healthy, but doctors learned her twin had died before childbirth, probably of the kidney problem.
“My twin ended up dying, but me and my mom survived,” said Rebekah, coordinator of the Life Chain rally on Sunday. “If she had followed through with the doctor, I wouldn't be here today, so I’m thankful that even though she was pushed from every angle to get an abortion, she chose not to. This hits home for me.”
“I said, 'No, it’s not up to me; it’s up to Jesus,” Beverly recalled. “When Rebekah was born, the first thing she did was pee. The doctor said, 'Well, I guess we don’t have a problem here.' Rebekah was born perfect. Her dad was elated that Rebekah turned out well.”
Life Chains have been happening nationally every year since the first one started in 1987 in California. They are normally held on the first Sunday of October, and many rallies were held in other cities but, citing COVID-19, the first Sunday in November was set aside as an optional date.
The Joplin rally was held at Seventh Street and Range Line Road, which has also been the scene of several Joplin for Justice rallies this spring and summer, demonstrating against racial injustice and police brutality.
Rebekah said she and the other organizers of this year's Joplin Life Chain couldn’t get together in October, so they decided to come out on Sunday.
“We’re basically having a big prayer rally, praying against abortion, praying that women who had abortions can heal and those that might be considering the procedure can hear his (Jesus') voice,” Rebekah said. “Abortion touches so many lives. I know people who have had abortions, you sit there and pray on them and love on them, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about judging people, it’s not about criticizing, it’s about sharing God’s love even in the best and worst of times.”
She also said the rally was not a political event and instructed others at the gathering to leave political signs already placed at the intersection alone, no matter which side they promoted.
Johnnie Niswonger, of Neosho, one of those who came out for the event, said he believes opposition to abortion crosses party lines.
“I think we need to bring awareness to this and it’s a good time to bring awareness, but this is not necessarily political because I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel the way we feel,” Niswonger said. “I think it’s something that cuts across everyone’s heart strings. I’m a grandparent now, and that’s what it means to me. It is political, but it’s not.”