The pro-life movement is emphasizing a new angle for this year's March for Life in…
March embraces science, Catholic roots
The March for Life in Washington, D.C., the largest annual pro-life event in the nation, was to be held Friday, Jan. 18, this year. The event was to begin with a noontime rally on the National Mall, followed by a walk up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court and Capitol Building. The event marks the 46th anniversary of the announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down the country’s anti-abortion laws. March participants hope and pray for a swift end to abortion.
“Our planning is going well, and we’re expecting another outstanding turnout this year,” Katrina Gallic of March for Life told Our Sunday Visitor. While estimates of crowd sizes in past years vary, Gallic said that the March for Life staff is confident that the crowd numbers at least 100,000 annually.
Speakers for the event this year were to include political commentator Ben Shapiro, former Planned Parenthood employee-turned-pro-lifer Abby Johnson and David Daleiden, known for his undercover videos of Planned Parenthood staff. Shapiro was to begin with a live podcast from the mall at 10 a.m., followed by a concert by the Sidewalk Prophets and the rally and march. After the march, people hurt by abortion were to deliver “Silent No More” testimonies outside the Supreme Court building.
In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence spoke in person at the rally. In 2018, Speaker Paul Ryan was there, and President Donald Trump called in to offer his support. More high-profile political figures were expected in 2019, said Gallic.
In addition to the rally and march, other related events will be held in conjunction with the event. On Thursday, Jan. 17, there was to be a March for Life educational conference; the evening of Friday, Jan. 18, a Rose Dinner was to conclude the march.
Each year, the March for Life picks a theme to highlight different aspects of the pro-life movement, Gallic said. In 2019, the theme is: “Unique from Day One: Pro-life is Pro-Science.” Many of the speakers at the march, Gallic said, were to emphasize that “the science is on our side in the abortion debate. Biology is clear that human life begins at conception.”
While the March for Life is a nonsectarian event, its Catholic roots and character are readily evident. Its founder, Nellie Gray (1924-2012) was Catholic, and the bulk of its marchers come from Catholic parishes, schools and religious communities.
The Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia, for example, brings a busload of 60 parishioners annually to participate. Among the regulars is Gertrude Creed, who attended the first March for Life in 1974 and many since. She told OSV, “As Catholics, we need to demonstrate our belief that human life is sacred from conception to natural death. If we fail to stand up for this belief, our society is in big trouble.”
Living in the Washington, D.C., area, she’s seen many angry, violent political protests over the years, which stand in stark contrast to the March for Life. “I wouldn’t have any part of an angry mob,” Creed said. “The March for Life is always peaceful, with many people praying as they walk.”
Monica Darnell, also a parishioner at the cathedral, was a stay-at-home mom for 16 years, and is now employed by the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life. Her parents first brought her to the march when she was age 10. She noted, “We are definitely drawing more people, and have developed a great spirit of enthusiasm. We’re going to win this battle.”
Working at the diocese has enabled her to see that more March for Life participants are getting involved in pro-life initiatives on the other 364 days of the year, including The Gabriel Project, which helps women with crisis pregnancies; Project Rachel, which promotes healing after abortion; and through parish respect life committees.
Darnell’s parents were active in the pro-life movement, a belief they’ve transmitted to her. She said, “The pro-life message is on my heart. It is important to stand up for the most vulnerable among us.”
She regularly goes to pray in front of abortion clinics, bringing her teenage children with her. “This has made a huge impact on how they see the importance of defending the unborn as a daily mission, not just once a year at the march,” Darnell said. “My teenagers will engage in debates with their friends on pro-life issues because they have seen the pain in the eyes of women who enter and exit an abortion clinic.”
Darnell looks forward to this year’s march: “I find it energizing and rewarding. It celebrates the work we do all year long.”
Germana Mitchell of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, has been a participant for more than 40 years. A group of 20 gather for the noon Mass at her parish, and then take the nearby public transit to the march. She said, “It’s been a long time, but we’ve managed to keep up the enthusiasm over the years.”
Her participation is an expression of her faith, but “you don’t have to be Catholic to see that killing babies is wrong.”
Mitchell is the mother of nine grown children, and still lives in the large house in which she raised them. Hence she has opened her home to 12 seminarians from out of the area so they can stay overnight at her house and attend the March for Life. She’s happy to help and looks forward to the march, but admitted, “Every year we hope it will be the last one.”
Peter Colevas, 17, a senior at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, is among the younger Catholics participating. He’ll be going with a group of 300 students.
He has been going to the March for Life since age 4. While it wasn’t his choice to go then, “My pro-life stances have become my own.” Seeing many young people at the march has made him believe “the future is pro-life,” and the march has become “ground zero for affirming our beliefs together as young people.”
While many at his school share his pro-life beliefs, in broader society Colevas has found a mixed bag. But, unlike many pro-choice older people he’s known, “younger people are more willing to talk about it without getting bitter or angry.”
His classmate, Emily Major, is a senior going to the March for Life for the second time. She was impressed by the “energy” of the crowd while attending the 2018 march. She compared it to the citywide enthusiasm this past June, when the Washington Capitals hockey team came home after winning the Stanley Cup. She said, “Everyone wanted to be there.”
Like Colevas, many of Major’s peers are pro-choice, but “they understand the gravity of what we’re talking about. It’s a human life.”
Jim Graves writes from California.