Scroll  down for slideshow from the 2017 March for Life

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Tens of 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.

This 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.

Allison O’Brien, director of the Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, called the march “a truly powerful and new moment in history… to the steps of the White House and throughout the land, the dignity of the human person united peoples of all faiths and races, people of all ages, people from all over the nation.”

The diocesan Respect Life office registered 38 buses for this year’s March for Life, totaling almost 2000 people, O’Brien said. ”Parishes and schools made the journey again this year but it was a year unlike others. The March for Life theme of ‘The Power of One’ personally engaged each participant in a unique and special way.”

“Those who have attended year after year, to those attending for the first time were united in the right to life but also united with the same mission to help women and mothers struggling in their community with unexpected and unplanned pregnancies,” she added.

“We ask all to learn about resources and programs available to support this mission.”

The Diocese of Rockville Centre has implemented comprehensive pregnancy support through Catholic Health Services for anyone in need of pregnancy support including counseling, medical supportive care, housing and  those suffering abortion loss regardless of resources or immigration status. “This info needs to be shared meaningfully in a non-judgemental, compassionate way, ” O’Brien said. “Each of us can spread this through our parishes, schools and communities.” Information is available on the Respect Life Office website, www.respectlife.drvc.org. The information and help line for pregnancy support services is 1-855-301- 4CHS.

 

At the March for Life, Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, and the first on the speakers’ list to address the group  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.

  • Gregory A. Shemitz photographed many people from Long Island as they marched with the distinctive green signs distributed by the Respect Life Office or with their school colors on display. He also caught up with diocesan pilgrims at St. Joseph’s Church on Capitol Hill where Bishop Nelson Perez prayed with and blessed them before they traveled home.  News story continues below slideshow.

 

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.

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 today.

“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 celebration.”

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