Archdiocese Local Parishes Schools Youth & young adult

Pre-march rally ‘ignited’ by survivor’s story

David Scotton, whose mother had a last-second change of heart and decided not to abort him, tells his story to the 1,200 people gathered for the Ignite rally Jan. 22 in Topeka. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

TOPEKA — If David Scotton’s birth mother hadn’t undergone a last-second change of heart, he would have just been another statistic — one of the 61 million lives ended by abortions performed in the United States since 1973.

Scotton tells his story in a documentary titled “I Lived on Parker Avenue.”

The film was shown to approximately 1,200 Catholic middle schoolers, high school students, college students and home-schoolers from the state’s four Catholic dioceses during this year’s Ignite rally. 

Sponsored by the archdiocese and held Jan. 22 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, the event was just one of several activities held throughout the day in the capital city to commemorate the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion throughout the United States. 

“Today marks the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton,” said archdiocesan pro-life consultant Debra Niesen, beginning the rally. “[Those decisions] essentially legalized abortion through the nine months of pregnancy for essentially any reason, and these decisions that happened resulted in over 60 million innocent babies’ lives taken in their mothers’ wombs since 1973.”

“That’s a staggering number, but you know what? That doesn’t even count all the other lives impacted by abortion,” she said, adding there are countless men and women affected by their decisions to abort.

“Your generation is the pro-life generation,” she said. “We ask that you always share the truth about life and that you share it with love and compassion because only love is going to change hearts.”

In “I Lived on Parker Avenue,” Scotton’s birth mother Melissa Coles tearfully describes going to an abortion clinic in Indianapolis and being shielded from seeing pro-life advocates praying in front of the clinic. Clinic staff placed a blanket over her head and blasted music. Yet, in the midst of the commotion, Coles heard someone say, “That baby has 10 fingers and 10 toes, and you’re going to kill it.”

As she waited for the abortion to begin, a gown-clad Coles sat in a room. Surrounded by medical equipment, she kept thinking about what that person outside had said. 

“Right as [the abortion doctor] went to touch me, ‘I said I can’t do this,’” she said.

Coles walked out, never to return.

That was in 1993. In 2013, Scotton, along with his adoptive parents Jimmy and Susan Scotton met Coles and his birth father, Brian Nicholas. 

Scotton gave a scrapbook titled “Grateful,” a collection of thank-you letters written by his friends and family members, to Coles and Nicholas, thanking the two of them for making the choice to place Scotton for adoption instead of going through with the abortion.

And gratitude, not hatred or anger, Scotton said, is all he feels for his birth parents.

“I’ll always be grateful to her for walking out that door and giving me the life I’ve had,” Scotton said near the film’s end.

“What you gave to David was life. He has now taken that opportunity and is sharing his gifts with the world,” read a letter shared by one of Scotton’s former teachers.

After the film, Scotton, currently a third-year law school student at Louisiana State University, shared a brief history of his life and the film’s inception. During the Q&A period that followed, nearly two dozen students asked him questions focusing on how to spread the pro-life message, the best way to share their own adoption stories and whether he plans to adopt children in the future. 

“This film has a been a labor of love for so many years,” Scotton said. 

“It’s been a humbling blessing and mission for our family to be able to share the adoption message in this way,” he added.

It wasn’t something he was always comfortable sharing with others. 

It was not until he was enrolled in a Catholic high school in New Orleans and, at the recommendation of his mother Susan, joined the pro-life club, that over time he “began to feel a calling to share this story.”

Shortly after entering a pro-life contest sponsored by Louisiana Right to Life, Scotton received a letter from his birth mother through the legal firm that handled his adoption. She wanted to know if he would be interested in meeting. Scotton admits it took him and his family much time and prayer to agree to the meeting, but filming the meeting wasn’t on his radar.

Through his work with Louisiana Right to Life, he was approached about the possibility of filming the meeting with his birth parents. Released in March 2018, “I Lived on Parker Avenue,”  has led Scotton coast to coast.

“God has really allowed this message — and this mission — to get out there, and we’re really thankful for that,” he said.

The Ignite rally was not the only event marking the anniversary in the Kansas capital. The state’s four bishops — Bishop John Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City, Bishop Jerry Vincke of the Diocese of Salina, Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann —along with priests from across Kansas celebrated Mass to pray for an end to abortion. 

In his homily, Bishop Brungardt named three practical ways everyone can foster a culture of life.

“We are focusing today on our little brothers and sisters in the womb,” he said. But pro-life Christians should not forget to visit the elderly and the sick, care for the poor, welcome the immigrant, celebrate those with disabilities and reach out to those who feel alienated and alone. 

Secondly, he said, everyone can practice the virtue of chastity and use the gift of human sexuality only within Christian marriage, as God designed it.

The third way to be pro-life in today’s world, the bishop said, is to discern one’s particular vocation in life and to live that vocation in holiness.“We are called to be saints. We are called to holiness,” he said. “That’s going to help us with all the above. If we don’t experience that call to holiness, if we don’t strive for holiness, this all is going to be lacking.”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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