When the Lord begins tugging at your heart, it is difficult to ignore His calling. For Maria and Eric Wanchic of St. Mary’s parish in Bismarck, this tugging led them to support the pro-life cause in North Dakota. Over the Memorial Day weekend this year, the Wanchic family planted approximately 66,000 flags on the Bismarck capitol grounds to represent the 66,000 abortions that have happened in the state since the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe V. Wade that legalized abortion in the U.S.
The idea came to Maria and Eric shortly before memorial weekend. The couple had been involved in pro-life ministry during their teen years when they attended Bismarck High School. Maria specifically was involved in North Dakota Teens for Life, a youth movement that supports the pro-life cause in the state. As the two of them got older, got married and had kids, they had less time to be involved with the pro-life movement. This changed, however, when North Dakota passed a number of important bills limiting abortion in the state. Feeling urged to get involved, Maria began testifying on behalf of the bills. When many of the bills passed, she was pleased and excited for what the future would bring. “It was this feeling of ‘We won a victory…what’s next?’” said Maria.
After the passage of the pro-life bills, and still feeling urged to support the pro-life cause, Maria and Eric began to see a need to take the pro-life movement beyond politics and onto an even bigger battlefield: the heart.
Eric and Maria wanted to find an inexpensive way to show just how many human lives are lost in North Dakota because of abortion and let others begin to see just how far-reaching the damage was. They came up with the idea of the flags at the Bismarck capitol, one for every aborted child, pink for girls and blue for boys. In three weeks, the Wanchic family had rounded up all the supplies and volunteers necessary for the project, and the flags were set up for all to see.
After the success of the flags on the capitol grounds, Maria and Eric were quickly encouraged to take the flags to other cities around North Dakota. “I didn’t think about doing it around the state until someone came up to me and told me it’d be a waste to just throw away all the flags,” Maria explained.
The Wanchics then took the flags to Jamestown over the fourth of July holiday. Afterwards, the family went to Valley City, Belcourt, Grand Forks and Fargo. The flags will soon travel to Minot and Dickinson, and then end their road trip with a second showing in Bismarck on October 4.
“The first time was really rushed, so we didn’t have a lot of time to talk about what we were doing,” Maria said. “A lot of people found out later and said they wanted to participate.” For the second round in Bismarck, Maria and Eric plan on spreading groups of 1,000 flags around the city, making them more visible to the community.
Beyond providing a visual reminder of the number of abortions in N.D., Maria and Eric hope to extend an invitation for healing towards those affected by abortion.
“66,000 abortions in our state is the total. A lot of women in our state are suffering in silence,” said Maria. “Not just the women, though; whole families, including siblings and grandparents. There’s a lot of hurt out there that needs healing.”
With their busy schedules, Maria and Eric aren’t sure if this will become an annual event for their family, although they would be very glad to allow others to set up the flags in the future. They would like to work towards getting a permanent memorial approved and built in Bismarck recognizing the unborn lost to abortion. The couple has set up a website, namethem.org, where women who have had abortions can confidentially post the name of their child. That name will then eventually be put on the memorial. The website also directs women towards post-abortion healing organizations, in the hope of helping them find grace and goodness amid their pain. In the future, the Wanchics hope to develop a directory for N.D. that will help women in need of post-abortion healing find a counselor near them.
Those interested in supporting the flag ministry via donations, offering a location to plant flags, or wanting to assist with planting the flags can reach the Wanchic family on Facebook at www.facebook.com/66ksinceroevwade or at 701-255-3161.