Human Interest

Conceived in rape, Mark is grateful his birth mother chose life

rape, mark roepke

Mark Roepke always knew he was adopted. He also knew he was the son of a 14-year-old girl whom he later learned had become pregnant by rape at a Fourth of July party she had attended with her cousin in South Dakota.

Growing up on a farm in Iowa, Roepke spent a relatively normal childhood with his siblings, who were also adopted. He told Live Action News, “My parents had adopted four children to grow their family. When I was seven years old, they had a child of their own, then two more came later.”

Roepke was three years old when he suffered a tragedy. While his parents were playing tennis one day, he chased after a wayward tennis ball and slipped on the gravel going down a steep hill, landing with his leg stuck out in front. A car taking a shortcut through the parking lot ran over the protruding limb, crushing it.

“The man never stopped,” Roepke said. “We later learned he was in a hurry, late to work. Unfortunately, doctors couldn’t save my leg.” But Roepke never let his disability define him.

Working on the farm gave the young Roepke a sense of responsibility. He experienced animals giving birth to their offspring and came to see the miracle of life. One day, he overheard a group of high school girls discussing abortion. Wondering what the word meant, he went straight to his father to get an explanation.

“When my father told me what an abortion was, I was horrified,” said Roepke. “My parents had struggled for years to have children, so it was hard to grasp that people were killing their children out of convenience.”

A desire to uphold life was initiated as a young boy

That night, Roepke struggled to sleep, trying to make sense of why a mother would abort her child.

“Even before I knew about the circumstances of my birth, I understood how valuable life was,” Roepke said. 

At 15, Roepke gave his first pro-life speech in front of 2,000 attendees at the Iowa State Republican convention. He enrolled in college but eventually had to drop out due to medical issues, losing his scholarship funds as a result.

It was during this time, at 19, that Roepke began to search for his birth mother and the curtain was pulled back, offering him a glimpse of the circumstances surrounding his birth. 

“Because of my medical issues, I wanted to learn more about my biological background,” he said.

He filed an affidavit with the court and discovered that his birth mother had left a letter for him, requesting the adoption file be opened should he search for her.

READ: Doctors pressured us to abort at every visit, until one spoke words of hope we’d never forget

He learned she had gone to the adoption agency to get updates on her son, whom she had named Shane Adams, but wasn’t able to get any information on him after he turned three.

“It was a time before Roe and while her pregnancy caused so much trauma in her family, abortion was not an option for her,” Roepke said. “She went to a home for unwed mothers until my birth.”

The county adoption record listed his mother’s surname as “Schmidt.” Roepke went to the library and found a Sioux Falls phonebook. 

“I tried calling all the Schmidts, trying to connect with my mother,” he said. But, because he needed a job in order to pay the university, he needed to find a job. “So my search was put on the back burner.”

Learning the details of his birth solidified a desire to speak out in support of life

A few months later, Roepke went back to the adoption agency and found the name of his grandfather. Ironically, he had been the last “Schmidt” listed in the phone book. He called his grandfather, who was hard of hearing, so he passed the phone to Roepke’s grandmother.

“She knew immediately who I was,” Roepke said. “She connected me with my mother who arranged to meet me at a local mall. I discovered she worked as a medical assistant at a home for disabled children and that I had three half-siblings.”

After meeting him, Roepke’s birth mother, Cynthia Cathryn Schmidt, reached out to his birth father’s family, opening a Pandora’s Box.

Roepke explained, “He had denied all these years that I existed. But he agreed to meet me, and I was stunned at how much I resembled him. Still, he didn’t want to acknowledge me without a DNA test.”

He discovered his birth father owned casinos, and he thought Roepke was contacting him with the motive of acquiring money. The DNA test indicated Roepke was 99.99% a match to his biological father. Sadly, his relationship with his father continued to be tenuous until he passed.

Since his teen years, Roepke has been active in the pro-life movement in various ways. After he left college, he worked at the Iowa State House, supporting pro-life candidates. In 2009, he had traveled with the “Abortion Isn’t Healthcare” tour bus to rail against “Obamacare” which mandated taxpayer-funded abortions.

“I also coordinated the 40 Days for Life RV tour through 48 states,” Roepke said. “We traveled 16,000 miles and completed 126 events in 40 days.”

The first time he gave his compelling testimony, he was at the steps of the Supreme Court building with Students for Life on the day the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was handed down, overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Someone yelled that since I was a man, I should have no opinion,” he said. “I told the person that the circumstances of my birth do not determine my worth, that I was still a valuable human being, even being conceived in rape. I was then told I was an ‘abomination’ that should not exist.”

Ironically, the podium from which Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins proclaimed the death of Roe had been built by Roepke, inspired by an old preacher’s box used at a Lutheran Church.

“Pro-life activists from around the world have stood at that podium,” Roepke said. 

Roepke is forever grateful to his birth mother for choosing life. “She had it rough,” he said. “But she gave me the gift of life. When I first asked her if she was okay with me sharing our story, she told me if it saves one life, you keep telling our story — and I will.”

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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