Pro-life advocates in Iowa City continue their journey

Lindsay Steele
Pro-life advocates attend the March for Life in Iowa City Jan. 21. The group marched from St. Wenceslaus Parish to the Emma Goldman Clinic.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

On the 50th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide, pro-life advocates in Iowa City took to the streets to promote the sanctity of life.

Although the Supreme Court overturned that decision last year, advocates say their work isn’t over — it has evolved. “We continue our outreach because abortions continue to happen in our community,” Johnson County Right to Life (JCRTL) Director Sheryl Schwager told the group of more than 100 pro-life advocates prior to the march. They marched one-half mile from St. Wenceslaus Parish to Emma Goldman Clinic, which provides abortions.

Abortion advocates are working to pass laws to make abortion legal at the federal and state level and two major pharmacies plan to seek certification to distribute RU-486, “the abortion pill,” where legally allowed, Schwager said. Abortion is still legal in Iowa.


“The struggle and the battle continues, but, of course, we do that with love and charity,” Schwager explained. This means educating the community about life-affirming alternatives and about abortion pill reversal. “We want to protect our pre-born brothers and sisters and their mothers. Your prayer, fasting, financial resources and witness for life matters in this post-Roe America. You can make a difference.”

Before marching to Emma Goldman Clinic, participants gathered in the St. Wenceslaus parking lot to pick up signs and hand warmers. Julie Tegtmeier bundled up her young children, Lorelai and John, and lifted them into a red wagon adorned with the pro-life message, “Love Them Both.”

Father Gary Beckman, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish, led the group in prayer. “May we, your servants, never cease to be thankful to you for the wonder of the gift of life. For we continue to seek your grace so that we may have the strength and courage to defend the sanctity of all human life, created in your likeness and image.” Asking for the intercession of St. Gerard Majella, Father Beckman prayed that “all expectant mothers will recognize and respect the gift of life, and that those who advocate for abortion will learn their error and learn to value life.” St. Majella is the patron saint of childbirth, children, pregnant women and mothers.

Many marchers, including William Jordan, brought diapers and other baby items for mothers in need. The overturn of Roe v Wade was a “big step,” but the work to protect the sanctity of life continues. Part of that is making sure women experiencing unplanned pregnancies feel supported and have the resources they need. “It’s a matter of supporting everyone,” said Jordan, a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish.

Fellow parishioner and longtime pro-life advocate Michelle Cain said she remains motivated to “stand for life and love, love for the unborn child and love for the mother.”

JCRTL founder honored
After the march, participants gathered in St. Wenceslaus parish hall to surprise longtime pro-life advocate Pat McTaggart with an honorary luncheon. McTaggart founded Johnson County Right to

Patti McTaggart
From left, Father Gary Beckman, Pat McTaggart and Richard and Mary Anderson enjoy a luncheon at St. Wenceslaus’ parish hall. McTaggart was honored as the founder of Johnson County Right to Life.

Life after the Roe v. Wade decision 50 years ago. “She was very upset” by the ruling and wanted to do something to help, her daughter, Patti McTaggart, told The Catholic Messenger. Patti McTaggart, who was 13 at the time, remembers her mother saying, “Something very terrible has happened in our country. I want you to fight it for the rest of your lives.”

The McTaggart family prayed in front of the abortion clinic and participated in prayer services. Pat and her husband, Bill, “took in pregnant women who needed somewhere to go,” Patti McTaggart recalled. While pro-life individuals are sometimes accused of caring only for unborn children, “in actuality, nothing is further from the truth. My mom has been a perfect example of that.”

Patti McTaggart said her mom received a lot of support in her efforts, especially from the priests serving the Iowa City area, her husband, and their family friend, Dick Davin. Several of those priests attended the luncheon. “She has been so grateful for them and their kindness,” Patti McTaggart said.

Pat McTaggart’s pro-life advocacy has been an inspiration to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who have followed in her footsteps, her daughter said. Pat McTaggart has also been an inspiration to other pro-life advocates, including Johnson County Right to Life Director Sheryl Schwager. “Pat has done so much for the pro-life community over the many years,” Schwager told The Catholic Messenger.

When Roe v Wade was overturned, Pat McTaggart “couldn’t believe it” and in some ways, still doesn’t, her daughter said. Pat McTaggart was in disbelief when she arrived at St. Wenceslaus for her honorary luncheon. “I don’t deserve any of this, she said. “The work is not done.”

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