WASHINGTON (OSV News) — This year, the national March for Life in Washington Jan. 19 promises to empower women facing unexpected pregnancies with the message that they are not alone — and that the pro-life movement is ready and waiting to help them choose life for their baby.
“When a woman is facing an unexpected pregnancy, what she most needs to hear is, ‘You can do this. You’ve got this. And I’m going to help you,'” March for Life’s president, Jeanne Mancini, said in November, ahead of the pro-life rally that regularly draws tens of thousands to the nation’s capital each January.
The March for Life, which calls itself the “largest annual human rights demonstration in the world,” began in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which once legalized abortion nationwide. This year’s event is the 51st March for Life and marks the second march since the Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022.
The 2024 event, which challenges abortion and champions the beauty of life from the moment of conception, centers on the theme “Pro-Life: With Every Woman, For Every Child.” It highlights, among other things, the pregnancy centers and maternity homes that support women and families in need during and after pregnancy.
The 2024 march comes during an election year when abortion promises to be a major issue in politics and the courts. For its part, the March for Life is focusing on the culture.
“We have not yet built a culture of life in America, with well over 900,000 abortions each year and so much confusion over this issue; we continue to have our work cut out for us,” Mancini told OSV News about the importance of the national march. “In short, we are not yet done. We will march until abortion is unthinkable.”
Each year, the daylong event — bursting with pro-life slogans, music and prayer amid colorful banners and handmade signs — attracts pro-life people from across the country who brave the winter weather on or around the anniversary of Roe.
The march unites a diverse crowd: Young and old, women and men, and people of various ethnicities and different political affiliations attend the march and related events to advocate for life and remember the more than 60 million babies destroyed by abortion since Roe.
Ahead of the march, on Jan. 19, the March for Life team holds a pre-rally concert from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by a March for Life rally from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on the National Mall by the Smithsonian Castle, between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.
Danny Gokey, an American Idol finalist and Grammy nominee, will perform during the concert and sing the national anthem.
Scheduled speakers at the noon rally include Benjamin Watson, former NFL tight end; U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.; Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.; Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family; Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship with his wife, Cathe; Bishop John Abdalah, Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America; Antonio de Mello, Community of the Child Jesus (Brazil); Jean Davis, executive director of Branches Pregnancy Resource Center; Aisha Taylor, author of “Navigating the ‘Impossible’: A Survival Guide for Single Moms From Pregnancy Through the First Year of Motherhood”; and Dominick Tolentino, Penn State University senior and president of its Students for Life club.
“This year’s speakers will address the 2024 theme,” Mancini said in a press release announcing the lineup. “We will also celebrate the heroic work of Pregnancy Care Centers and Maternity Homes, while offering a roadmap to how we will truly achieve a life-affirming culture that respects the inherent dignity of all human life.”
The march itself starts around 1 p.m. It begins between 12th and 14th Streets, continues up Constitution Avenue and ends between the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court.
Afterward, organizers encourage marchers to listen to “Silent No More” testimonies of women and men harmed by abortion outside the Supreme Court or visit their political representatives.
The March for Life is also seeking to expand state marches throughout the year. Currently, the March for Life has (or is helping to organize) marches in 16 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Within five years, the March for Life hopes to organize a march in every state, Dawn Fitzpatrick, executive director of March for Life, told the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper last year, now that the Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has returned abortion policy to state legislatures.
In 2022, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont and Kansas voters either rejected restrictions on abortion or expanded legal protections for it. And, in 2023, Ohio voters passed a measure to codify abortion access in the state’s constitution.
This year, Maryland and New York will vote to amend their constitutions to include abortion while several other states have ongoing efforts to put abortion on the ballot.
At the same time, 24 states have pro-life protections restricting abortion, according to a tracker by national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
The courts also are considering abortion cases. Most notably, the Supreme Court decided in December to take up its first major case involving abortion since Dobbs that centers on the abortion pill.
During this election year, Republican presidential candidates have discussed the topic repeatedly. For his part, Democratic President Joe Biden, a Catholic, will consider restoring Roe as his top priority if reelected, his deputy campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, said Jan. 7 during NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
During the 2024 March for Life theme reveal, Mancini took a more personal approach to abortion by emphasizing that pregnant women deserve to know all of their options, including the love and resources provided by a “vast pro-life safety net.”
Mancini counted 3,400 maternity homes and pregnancy care centers nationwide that offer a range of services at little to no cost, from counseling and medical care to baby supplies, educational classes, and housing and legal assistance.
The march’s focus on pregnancy centers comes after the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, released a report finding that 2,750 U.S. pregnancy centers provided an estimated total value of services and goods adding up to more than $358 million in 2022.
As a part of this year’s march, the March for Life team invites pro-lifers to “march” with women facing unexpected pregnancies by participating in their Pregnancy Help Donation Drive.
Other related pro-life events in Washington include the 2024 National Prayer Vigil for Life Jan. 18-19 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It opens with a 5 p.m. Mass Jan. 18 celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, which is followed by a Holy Hour for Life. The event concludes with an 8 a.m. Mass Jan. 19 celebrated by Bishop Earl K. Fernandes of Columbus, Ohio.
A live television broadcast Jan. 18 from 5-8 p.m. and Jan. 19 from 8-9 a.m. will be provided by the Eternal Word Television Network and will be available via livestream on the basilica website, nationalshrine.org/mass.
Life Fest, a morning rally hosted Jan. 19 by the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus at the D.C. Armory, will feature speakers, music, Mass and Eucharistic adoration. Attendees also have the opportunity to venerate relics of the Blessed Ulma family.
The day after the march, on Jan. 20, Students for Life of America, with other pro-life and conservative groups, hosts its annual National Pro-Life Summit. The 25th annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference for Life also takes place the same day at Georgetown University.
Katie Yoder writes for OSV News from Washington. She is a contributing editor for the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.