Jubilant crowd gathers in Washington for annual March for Life

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Carol Zimmermann

thousands of pro-lifers filled the grounds near the Washington Monument and
marched up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27 as both a protest
of legalized abortion and a celebration of successful pro-life efforts across
the country.

In years past, the March for Life — which takes place on or
near Jan. 22 to mark the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized
abortion virtually on demand — has been almost a battle cry for the uphill and constant fight faced by those in the pro-life movement hoping for more abortion restrictions and ultimately an end to abortion.

year’s March for Life, under mostly sunny skies and 40-degree temperatures, was decidedly
more upbeat, in part because one of the first speakers was Vice President Mike
Pence: the first time a vice president attended the rally.

Pence, who has marched at the event before as a
participant and addressed it as a congressman, repeatedly told the crowd — huddled together in winter coats and
hats in front of the stage — that “life is winning” and assured them the Trump administration was behind them.

Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump,
and the first on the speakers’ list to address the group — holding aloft placards but none of the usual
giant banners, which were banned for security reasons — similarly got plenty of
cheers when she said: “This is a new day, a new dawn for life.”

The scheduled presence of the vice president, only
announced the day before, required the rally perimeter to be fenced in and the crowd
to enter through long lines that had formed at security checks. Participants seemed
unfazed by the required wait, taking it in stride with the day. Some pulled out
their pre-packed lunches and started eating, others prayed the rosary. These
marchers are used to plenty of hardships from weather conditions alone at the
annual march.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, noted that
the group has been marching in all types of bad weather over the years. She
also pointed out that amid recent discussion about crowd size at events in
Washington, it was hard to measure the number of people that day or for the total who
have come out for the annual march over the past four decades. “The only
number we care about is the 58 million” lost to abortion since it was
legalized, she said.

As in years past, the crowd was primarily young, with a lot of high school and college-age groups. It was something the speakers took
note of, saying this generation would not only keep the pro-life movement going but
bring about changes.

Mary Ann Vann, a retiree who made the trip from
Trussville, Alabama, for her sixth march, said the most exciting thing for her
each time she has taken part is seeing the young people.

Vann, a parishioner at Holy Infant of Prague Parish
in Trussville, said she hoped the energy at the march could be channeled into
everyday support for the pro-life movement, something she is involved with on a
regular basis with sidewalk counseling, volunteering at crisis pregnancy
centers and helping young mothers with basic needs. She also said she is
disheartened by hearing those who say pro-lifers are only concerned about
babies because she and her fellow volunteers not only bring pregnant women to
their doctor’s appointments but also help pay their medical costs.

Jim Klarsch, a member of St. Clement Parish in
St. Louis, who came with a busload of eighth-graders, also is involved with
pro-life work with the Knights of Columbus at his parish. In Washington on his second
march, he said the experience was “empowering.”

Standing alongside Constitution Avenue waiting for
the march to begin, he said the crowd, which was already filling the street to
each side and behind him as far as the eye could see, reinforced his feeling
that “this is not just a day but a lifelong mission.”

“You’re part of a pilgrimage. You take that experience
home and you live it,” he added.

Most in the crowd wore matching hats to keep together
and chaperones were frequently counting hats to be sure they were all together.
Although the crowd enthusiastically applauded Pence’s mention of Trump’s
support, only a few of his presidential campaign’s red “Make America Great” hats were

Some noted that the march had a distinctly different
tone than the Women’s March on Washington six days before. Two sisters
who stood on the sidelines with some of the few handmade signs at the march,
described themselves as feminists and said they found the pro-life march more
positive and less angry.

“This is a message of love,” said Bridget
Donofrio, from Washington, holding aloft a poster-board sign with words written with a black
marker: “Respect all women born and unborn.”

Many of the march signs were pre-made placards with
messages such as “I am pro abundant life” or “Defund Planned
Parenthood” and “I am the pro-life generation.”

The city of Washington, fresh from the inauguration
crowd and the women’s march held the next day, seemed prepared for this march.

On the Metro, when two older women asked a young
woman for directions and pointed to the group with signs that they wanted to join, the woman looked up from her phone and asked if there was a protest

“It’s the March for Life,” one woman said.
A few seconds later she added: “It’s not a protest; it’s more of a

– – –

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Original Article