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.”