FORT MADISON — More than 100 people carrying signs plastered with slogans such as “Smile, your mom chose life” and “Babes are a miracle” marched through downtown Fort Madison Saturday morning.

The participants, many of them local Catholics, were marching in the annual Right To Life March — a tradition that goes back before some of the marchers were born.

“Our first one was 40 years ago,” said Sue Dunlay, chief organizer of the march. “I was pregnant with twins.”

Dunlay has been marching to protest the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion since it was enacted. She never imagined she would be marching for so long.

“I thought, ‘We won’t have to do this again next year. They’ll have this figured out. Boy was I wrong,” Dunlay said with a laugh.

The march came on the heels of the March for Life anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. It takes plce the Saturday closest to that event each year.

“When this Roe v. Wade first came out, there was a bracelet that I had sent for to wear. I was going to wear it until this (legalized abortion) ended. But do you think I could find it today?” said Houghton resident Shirley Hunhold.

Hunhold didn’t let a missing bracelet stop her. She had been meaning to join the march of years and was delighted to finally make it there Saturday. It was her first march.

“The loss of a child is hard. I cannot imagine anyone deliberately eliminating their child,” she said.

Having lost her second child due to complications from a premature birth, Hunhold understands a mother’s pain more than most.

“I just think how hard it is to lose a little one. I sympathize with the women who make that choice (abortion). I haven’t had to make that choice, so I can’t be in their shoes,” she said.

Many of the marchers were children, and some felt as strongly about the issue as their parents. Michael Hollister, 11, of Fort Madison kept a steady beat for the march by continually banging on a snare drum wrapped around his waist.

He did the same thing last year and the year before, and has come to take pride in leading the march. A sea of pro-life signs signs constructed by Holy Trinity Catholic School students bobbed up and down behind him.

“Although (babies) may not look okay when they first come out, a life is a life. To be honest, everyone should be able to live one. Whether it’s someone you don’t want, or not. If you don’t want them, give them up for adoption,” he said.

The march wound through downtown Fort Madison without incident, snaking it’s way from Central Park across Avenue G and back again.

“In the image of almighty God, (babies) are a gift to creation,” said Ruth Coffey of Wever.

Coffey was walking arm in arm with one of her best friends, Twila Peitz of Fort Madison. They’ve been marching together for at least decade. Probably longer.

"To think that a mother would feel the only option is to kill her baby, is just unthinkable," Peitz said.

Many showed unity for the pro-life movement by bringing out their entire families. Alan and Jessica Menke of Fort Madison were marching alongside their four daughters, ranging in age from 2 to 7.

“We just love kids, and we want to support the cause,” Alan said.