Marchers in Washington challenge the definition of pro-life

One week after the streets around the National Mall were filled with protestors and inauguration attendees, activists and concerned citizens filed in once again for the 44th annual March for Life. Hundreds of thousands came to D.C. to carry signs, chant and pray for an end to abortion.   
  
Despite the interest of pro-life feminist groups, last weekend's Women’s March excluded pro-life groups from participating in the rally. With the additional attention brought to the issue of abortion by Saturday’s protest, this year’s March for Life felt particularly important. 


 
The theme of the march was “The Power of One.” Renowned speakers touched on this theme during the rally before the march, including, Cardinal Timothy Dolan; the senior counselor to President Donald J. Trump, Kellyanne Conway; and former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson. Vice President Mike Pence also made an appearance at the rally, a mark of unprecedented support for the March for Life from a presidential administration.
 
Marchers of all ages from across the country represented an array of pro-life perspectives, from adoption advocacy to pro-life feminism.
 
“It was so exciting on so many levels. There are so many people who are really the driving force of the pro-life movement,” Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, noted. “You see people from all walks of life here, all experiences, together. What is really great about the March for Life is that everybody’s unified. For this one day, no matter any of the other issues that come up, they’re all here for women and children.”
 
Kelley Hunnings marched to support adoption: “My husband and I have been blessed through adoption. Three and a half years ago our daughter was born, and her birth mother chose adoption instead of abortion, which the birth father encouraged her to do,” Ms. Hunnings added. “So I’m here today to support those birth mothers that are making that loving choice of adoption, and also for the women who haven’t made that choice but need support still.”
 
In addition to Feminists for Life, New Wave Feminists also attended the march. Cessilye Smith explained her group’s mission: “We believe in a consistent life ethic. A lot of times people believe pro-life is being pro-birth, and so we really want to change that narrative, understanding that all life is valuable from conception to natural death.”
 
Several of the march’s attendees challenged the traditional idea of what “pro-life” means. 
 
“A lot of people are blind to what pro-life actually means,” said Carla Rizkalla, a recent immigrant to the United States from the Netherlands. “They just think that you have to be radical, Christian and you like only Christians. [These are] untrue things about people who are pro-life, because as pro-life people, we respect everybody.”
 
“The dynamic has changed,” said Ms. Foster. “People can’t force us into a box anymore.”
 
Even a pro-life environmentalist attended the march. Harris Mills from Grand Marais, Minn., described his personal dilemma, saying that he felt politically torn between the Republican and Democratic parties.
 
“I’ve written and tried to make the statement that this is one issue about the protection of life,” Mr. Mills continued, “and I think Pope Francis and his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ has pointed that out very clearly.”
 
Over the years, the crowd at the March for Life has grown and become younger. Impressed and moved by the diverse crowd, Sharon Serratore of Feminists for Life, said, “It’s beautiful to see, and it’s beyond belief how many people we see.”
 
“I’ve been at least 30 years [to the march],” Margaret Van Sciver from Martha's Vineyard, Ma., enthusiastically remarked. “Every year we would go. The first few years…it declined a little bit, because it was supposed to be a settled law. But the movement started growing every year, and now I’m the old one. And there are these young people.”
 
Many marchers attributed the turnout to the pro-life efforts of Vice President Pence and the Trump administration.

“We are so delighted to have finally a president who is pro-life,” commented Ms. Van Sciver. “It makes such a difference.”
 
Ms. Rizkalla said, “I’m very proud of America, especially now that they support life.”
 
“You see a lot of anger or hate, whether coming from or headed out towards the administration itself,” said Isaac Meisenheimer of Portland, Ore. “But it’s good to see that a part of that administration supports something that promotes love and life.”
 
“Having a president who is pro-life or anti-abortion is exciting, and it’s kind of bolstered us a little bit,” Adam Ganucheau from Jackson, Miss., stated. “I would say, though, as excited as I am for the moment. I do know that there’s more to life than abortion. I’m still concerned about immigration, living wage, equal pay and the refugee situation.”
 
Many, including Ms. Foster, are optimistic about the attention brought to the pro-life movement by the new presidential administration: “To see all the secret service here and the tons of cameras.… It’s a really big difference, because I think now the pro-life movement’s going to get the coverage it deserves.” 

John Dahmus
1 month 3 weeks ago

I am horrified with the election of Donald Trump because of his hate-filled campaign and the chilling parallels between him and Adolf Hitler. In his first week as president, he has confirmed my worst fears. I am deeply saddened that 80% of evangelicals and 60% of white Catholics voted for him, many for no other reason than that he is supposedly pro-life. Mr. Trump is hardly pro-life since his position on abortion has waffled back and forth, and his treatment of women has been repugnant. In my opinion, just as the Republican party has done for years, he now says he is pro-life, but that support for life ends at birth. I believe strongly, on the other hand, that a true pro-life policy does not stop at birth; it must include appropriate care for that new human being for the rest of life, translated into government support for education and health care, voting rights and civil liberty protection for minorities, support for unions, care for the environment, outreach to other countries, support for the United Nations, and so forth. In my opinion a true pro-life attitude strives to make one's country and the world a better place. It is not America First; it does not build walls against the outside world. I see precious little of this kind of pro-life policy either in much of the Republican party policies or in the new administration. I think the pro-life movement has been tricked.

Tom Maher
1 month 3 weeks ago

This post contains a lot of welcomed details demonstrating the continued health and strength of the pro-life movement as the pro-life movement has always been commonly understood for the past 44 years. All people involved in the pro-life movement still want the unborn from conception to be protected from abortion today as they did 44 years ago after the 1973 Roe Supreme Court decision first legalized abortions. Other prospective of what pro-life while interesting are secondary to the continued urgent need to oppose abortion of the unborn and limiting the total number of abortions performed each year in the United States and discourage the promotion of abortions especially preventing the federal government from funding and promoting abortions.

It is good to see so many people in the pro-life movement appreciated the impact of Donald Trump's November, 2016 election victory had on limiting abortions. The Democrat Presidential party platform had planned the repeal the Hyde amendment and thereby for the first time to allow the federal funding of abortions by federal government. But further the Democratic platform advocated "Abortion on Demand" allow federally funded abortions to everyone -- free federally funded abortions on request. And of course a Democratic President but especially Hillary Clinton would appoint pro-abortion justices who would radically extend the application of federal abortion law. By not electing a Democrat President these extremely disruptive plans were avoided.

It was also good to see the new Trump Administration represented by Vice President Pence and Trump's senior counselor Kellyanne Conway came and spoke at the Pro-life march, the highest political and government officials to ever do so. It was interesting to find out that both Vice-President Pence and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway are both Catholics and pro-life and said so very publically .

The post did not say so but there must have been numerous evangelical Protestants as individuals and as part of groups who are part of the pro-life movement. Trump main political supporter from the outset supported Trump from the beginning because of Trump elaborate campaign promises to appoint pro-life justices. Evangelicals leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Farwell are strong supporters of the pro-life movement who supported Trump early on for his pro-life stands which as President Trump is now fulfilling to the delight of all pro-life voters. It is very note worthy that the pro-life movement is no only Catholics but people of numerous other religions such as evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Jews who vote and politically support pro-life officials such as President Donald Trump.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

Pence is not a Catholic. He was raised as one but left the Church while in college. It is not quite sure just what he is but he does not attend a Catholic Church but refers to himself as an Evangelical Catholic and has belonged to a Protestant Evangelical mega church. His ideas seem to be in consort with most Catholic doctrine. However, after reading what many Catholics on the America Magazine site say, it is not quite clear what it means when someone says they are a Catholic.

The post did not say so but there must have been numerous evangelical Protestants as individuals and as part of groups who are part of the pro-life movement.

Evangelical Protestants are much more ardent supporters of pro-life policies than a lot of Catholics. Just read this site to see that.

Roe-Wade had a lot to do with the movement of Evangelicals from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

Tom Maher
1 month 3 weeks ago

Thanks for the correction. It is important in showing where the "pro-life" movement gets its support from which is often very unexpected personal experience rather than formal church indoctrination or influence. I repeated something I read forgetting the "Evangelical Catholic" which I took to be another personal variation that I with my secular high school and college education did not have the exotic details on. (I did know some people at my local parish church who had attended some kind of charismatic services held at some other Catholic Churches. The word "evangelical" is use in the Catholic Church all the time and could be though to as a special movement rather than a separate religion. Of course in America so many terms of the Catholic Church wind up being the names of separate religions such as Baptists.)

I was very surprised and pleased to read somewhere that two of the highest level administration officials where Catholics and had attended and spoke at this years March for Life. I did not know that Kellyanne Conway was Catholic and pro-life. That was way more than I expected.

It is very interesting to me that both Vice President Pence and Kellyanne Conway did not go to Catholic colleges yet they are pro-life as is my experience.

I just read the several paragraphs you added which I very much agree with. Evangelical Protestants may be the backbone of the pro-life movement. As of the 1970s Evangelical left the Democrat party over the Pro-life issues and went in mass and became a very large part of the Republican party as was demonstrated once again with the election of Donald Trump whom evangelicals very strongly supported from the very beginning of the Presidential race. Evangelical leadership has shown themselves very skilled leaders in engineering the continued support of a candidate that would very critically appoint Supreme Court justice(s) who would better protect the unborn.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

Kellyann Conway went to Trinity College in Washington, DC which once was considered one of the best Catholic colleges in the US. I don't know what its current reputation is. She also went to Catholic high school in New Jersey in suburban Philadelphia.

She is a proud Catholic and probably the most powerful woman in the United States at the moment. You would think a Catholic magazine might be interested in her story but probably her politics are not correct enough for many.

RoseAnne Cleary
1 month 3 weeks ago

I'm reading this on what might possibly be the busiest day of my life, but that's not what is making my head spin. Because I CAN NOT believe what these writers are saying, I'm going to return to them later today with the hope that I've misinterpreted them in my haste. In the meantime, I am startled and saddened.

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