January 25, 2024 // National

National March for Life Pledges Solidarity with Moms, Children

(OSV News) – Against gray skies and falling snow, thousands of people flocked to the nation’s capital on Friday, January 19, for the national March for Life, gathering under the theme “With every woman, for every child,” showing their resolve amid the piercing cold to make abortion eventually “unthinkable” in the United States.

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” Miguel Ángel Leyva, 21, a Catholic and third-year college student from Detroit, told OSV News.

A pro-life demonstrator take part in the 51st annual March for Life rally amid a snowstorm in Washington Jan. 19, 2024. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

The March for Life began in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which once legalized abortion nationwide, and gathers pro-life advocates from across the U.S. This year’s march – its second year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022 – took place as winter weather put much of the U.S. in a deep freeze, snarling transportation and canceling flights.

While the crowd appeared smaller than in years past, this year’s march showed a movement eager to up its game to help American society embrace a culture that affirms and supports the dignity of all human life, and not just for the unborn.

Levya said the presence of so many people amid the punishing weather conditions “shows there are many who are willing to serve God and stand up for what is right.”

Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, and others emphasized during the March for Life Rally that not only was the national march there to stay, but pro-life marches would be multiplying throughout all 50 states in the coming years.

“We will keep marching every year at the national level, as well as in our states, until our nation’s laws reflect the basic truth that all human life is created equal and is worthy of protection,” Mancini told the thousands gathered on the National Mall.

Nuns take part in the 51st annual March for Life rally amid a snowstorm in Washington Jan. 19, 2024. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

Speaker after speaker at the rally emphasized its theme of making abortion “unthinkable” by emphasizing the culture-changing and life-saving work of pregnancy resource centers and related efforts.

Aisha Taylor, author of “Navigating the Impossible: A Survival Guide for Single Moms,” took to the rally stage and reminded the crowd, “It was people like you who helped people like me to choose life for my unborn twins.”

“I am eternally grateful for that pregnancy center,” she said, adding that her presence among them was part of her pledge to “pay it forward” for all the support she had received to choose life.

Benjamin Watson, a former NFL tight end, said pro-life advocates must embark on “a new fight for life” that also addresses the factors behind abortion, and he connected those efforts to the wider struggle for peace and justice in society.

Roe is done, but we still live in a culture that knows not how to care for life,” Watson said.

On Thursday, January 18, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, preached to a crowd of 7,000 gathered for a vigil Mass that was followed by a National Holy Hour for Life.

In states where “there are victories to be won,” Bishop Burbidge said, the pro-life movement “must continue to be strategic. … Where states have acted to enshrine extreme abortion policies into law, we must not lose hope. Even in the darkest places, we can be a light.”

“It is not enough to reserve our message for those who will readily receive it, and to pursue victories only in those places where we are likely to win,” he said. “We must persist in those places where our message is rejected. We must bring light to the darkest corners. … Every life is worth the effort.”

At the morning Mass in the basilica on Friday, January 19, Bishop Earl K. Fernandes of Columbus, Ohio, encouraged Catholics not to get discouraged by setbacks in the pro-life movement but to recall how Jesus Christ “fell three times under the weight of His cross but He got back up.”

“Even after defeats we get back up and we march for life in radical solidarity with women and children,” he said.

Sarai Gonzalez, 18, a public school student from Detroit who was attending the national march for the second time, said she was touched by Bishop Fernandes’ homily during the Mass, calling it inspirational and moving.

“I felt at peace and loved. I felt the fire of the Holy Spirit within me,” she said.

Braving the freezing temperatures of the early morning were nearly 6,000 youth and adults who joined the March for Life Rally coming from the second annual Life Fest at the D.C. Armory, where they had fortified themselves listening to inspiring music and personal testimonies, and engaged in Eucharistic adoration and Mass.

As the snow continued to fall, thousands of marchers took to the streets to march between the Capitol and the Supreme Court buildings as the song “God bless America” rang out through the loudspeakers.

Before she went to the rally stage and on to march, Mancini told OSV News what she hoped people take away from the March for Life. “I hope that they take away that the pro-life movement is about the full flourishing of both mom and baby,” she said.

Peter Jesserer Smith is the National News and Features Editor for OSV News.

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