January 18 was the 37th annual March for Life. If you haven’t heard of the March before that’s because you are living under a rock intentionally placed there by the media. They’ve been studiously avoiding giving anything like substantial coverage to the largest, longest running civil rights demonstration in the world.
Every year, tens and usually hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers gather to advocate for the repeal of Roe v. Wade and an end to legalized abortion. They show up in January, braving whatever the weather brings to Washington D.C. in January, which can and has included blizzards. No other March can boast this kind of dedication. Yet, it goes virtually unnoticed.
This past March was my third time there. I first went just before the inauguration of President Obama. It was a deeply inspiring experience to see hundreds of thousands (estimates put that crowd at around 400,000) people marching to support unborn babies and their right to life. Even more inspiring was the fact that almost everyone there was college and high school age. Even then, I was one of the older people at the March. Whatever else happens in the country, there will be many in the coming generations to take up the torch.
A clear bonus was the vindication in my faith as I was still a very new Catholic at the time. Signs everywhere boasted groups from Catholic colleges, high schools, and parishes around the country. Not that other branches of Christianity weren’t represented as well. Many were, as were Jewish, and even secular groups.
Last year I returned, bringing some of my children with me and was inspired to return this year, again with my children. The experience has only gotten better. Despite it being colder this year, the crowd was bigger and more energetic than ever. Estimates put the March at possibly more than 600,000 this time around and it is as young and Catholic as ever. This in particular gives me hope given the many scandals that have rocked the Catholic world over the last year. Whatever the shortfalls of her leaders, the convictions of her youth remain strong.
The March for Life organization also pulled out all the stops this year when it came to the speakers. Most notable before going in was of course Ben Shapiro, the incredibly popular conservative talk show host who did a live episode of his podcast to get things going. I was curious whether or not many would know who he was. Chants of “we want Ben!” before the show started dispelled that worry very quickly.
Shapiro’s show was followed by a concert from Christian rock group Sidewalk Prophets. I’m unfamiliar with them but the kids from Overland Park, KS next to me clearly knew and liked them based on the singing along and actual crowd surfing going on. It’s been years since I’ve seen any show with that kind of energy and crowd participation. Shapiro returned to the stage, kicking off the speakers with a short but rousing speech that actually chided Republicans for their inaction on the issue and reminding us that it’s okay to be out of step with most of society because “righteousness doesn’t have to be popular. It just needs to be righteous.”
Other speakers included former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson, Alveda King and Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. If that wasn’t enough, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen dropped by for a surprise visit. While results are still lacking, I can say that seeing Vice President Pence at the March (his second in-person visit in three years) was very heartening, especially in light of the recent criticism of his wife and her new job as an art teacher at Emmanuel Christian College.
Another thing no one expected was the pledge of President Trump during a taped address to veto any pro-abortion legislation that crosses his desk. We’ll have to see what that means, especially as it regards funding for Planned Parenthood, but it is better than any pledge we’ve gotten from any other President.
The March itself was incredible. Unlike the previous Marches I had been to, we remained tightly packed from where we started on the Mall all the way up Constitution Ave. to the steps of the Supreme Court. Everywhere were banners proclaiming the origins of the marchers, as far away as Los Angeles and one group of Secular Pro-Life advocates. We happened to be near the front and turned quickly once we reached the end to go find something to eat. We followed the route in reverse, curious to see where the March ended. We almost got back to the starting point half way between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument before seeing the end. If anyone says only a few thousand showed up they have no idea what they are talking about.
What most struck me though was the tone. The March for Life is an overwhelmingly positive event. Despite protesting a decision that has led to the death of nearly 60 million babies and counting, the March is hopeful and optimistic. Despite being jaded by years of betrayal at the hands of politicians, we still show up, but not to rage at the injustice. Not to curse those who have let us down or to shout down the handful of counter protesters who show up. We March to celebrate life, to share the stories of those who have converted, who have survived abortion, to offer help to those searching for another way, to let them know that they and their children are loved. No one is turned away.
And so we will march again next year, and the year after with the same message on our lips, our hearts, and our signs, that no matter how small, how broken you are, you are loved by God and by us.
Image Source: Catalyst Catholic