Tens of thousands of pro-life people of varied faiths and backgrounds braved the snow in Washington, D.C., on January 19 for the 51st annual March for Life, the second such demonstration to be held since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022.
College students from Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, held a massive red-and-white banner at the head of the march. Rows upon rows of participants young and old made their way around the National Mall to the Supreme Court, many holding homemade pro-life signs, in a continuous procession that lasted some three and a half hours.
One man carried a life-sized cross; spontaneous renditions of “Ave Maria” could be heard; and boisterous pro-life chants broke out with some frequency.
The 2024 March for Life proved to be one of the snowiest in recent years — at least since 2016 when a blizzard ultimately dumped about two feet of snow on Washington beginning shortly after the march’s start. Snow fell heavily on the crowds before and during the march this year but despite freezing temperatures, little precipitation stuck to the ground.
Two religious Sisters of Life — Sister Maris Stella and Sister Veritas — told CNA that the fact that thousands of participants showed up despite the dismal weather provided a unified testament to the pro-life position.
“It’s cold out, it’s snowing … [but] hundreds of thousands of people are here. It’s because your life matters. Every human life matters. You’re important to the heart of God. No one can replace you,” Sister Veritas said.
Marchers, unified in their support for life, came to Washington from a wide range of destinations and included adults, young people, and even children and babies.
Alejandro Macias and his girlfriend, Angelique Clark — who sells pro-life gear through her business, Life Dress — came from sunny Las Vegas for the march.
“If we don’t value life, we’re not going to get along on anything,” Macias told CNA. “We’re not going to see eye to eye on any other issue. So everything comes down to valuing life at its earliest stages.”
Bernadette Patel, a pro-life activist from New York City, arrived in Washington, D.C., after carpooling with her friends on Thursday. She said the seven-hour drive with some unexpected stops on the way was “worth it” to stand for life.
She said she believes it is important to continue to march for life in the nation’s capital, even after the fall of Roe v. Wade, because abortion remains legal and widely accessible in several states, including her home state of New York.
“New York City has one of the worst abortion laws, probably on the face of the earth. The mayor of New York City [Eric Adams] has an abortion pill service where he just sends it to women. I know many women who have suffered abortions and their pain is real, and they deserve better,” Patel said.
Joey Lamorte, a medical student at Uniformed Services University in Maryland, said that he has been to the march a couple of times before, but never in the snow.
“I did do some marches pre-the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and it’s nice that now we’re marching more in celebration while still acknowledging the lengths we still have to go through. But it’s definitely different than before Roe v. Wade overturned,” he said.
Bella Martino, a senior at Providence College and member of the group Feminists for Life, told CNA that she considers abortion to be a “reflection that society has failed women.”
“I think the biggest way that we can be pro-life and help end abortion is by offering women the help and resources and support they need,” Martino said.
“I don’t want any woman to ever feel that she has to get an abortion or that abortion is her only choice because that’s not feminist, and that’s not empowering women.”
Mallory Finch, a pro-life activist and podcaster from North Carolina, expressed a similar rejection of the common cultural narratives surrounding abortion.
“Planned Parenthood and movies and so many other things are telling us that abortion is empowerment, that it is health care. But when it really comes down to it … our bodies were designed to be a safe home, a safe space for our children. And it’s a complete and total lie to be told that you’re not able to do it,” Finch said.
Speakers Emphasize Support for Women and Children
Taking the stage at a rally on the National Mall immediately before the march began, keynote speakers strongly leaned into this year’s theme of “With Every Woman, For Every Child” by promoting the lifesaving work of nearly 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers across the country.
Jean-Marie Davis, executive director of Branches Pregnancy Resource Center in Vermont, told the crowds about how scared and alone she felt when she discovered she was pregnant with her now 8-year-old son, Jonah. A survivor of human trafficking who spent more than 25 years being bought and sold, Davis sought help at a pregnancy resource center in New Hampshire where a woman befriended and assisted her. Throughout Davis’ pregnancy and the birth of her son, her friend introduced her to Christ.
Now, as executive director of the pregnancy center, Davis helps numerous women and fathers in Vermont who are in a similar situation she once was in. Following her speech, Davis later cheered on her fellow pro-life activists near the U.S. Supreme Court, where the march finished.
Following Davis on the podium was Aisha Taylor, who told her story about how she became pregnant unexpectedly with twins. Desperate, she picked up the phone to call an abortion provider.
“Thank God, they did not answer the phone. I never made the appointment,” she said.
“But do you know who did answer the phone when I needed them? My local pregnancy center,” she continued, to cheers. “The woman listened to me cry and reassured me that everything was going to be OK. It was just what I needed to hear to come to that appointment instead of trying to call the abortion center again. And so I am eternally grateful that I found the pregnancy center.”
Also appearing on the stage was Antonio de Mello, a Brazilian pro-life father of 46 adopted children, all of whom are survivors of failed abortion attempts. He spoke to the crowds with the help of a translator and garnered strong applause.
Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines football team, also made a surprise appearance, introducing keynote speaker Benjamin Watson, a former NFL player.
Lawmakers Tout Pro-Life Initiatives
Perhaps unsurprisingly, political action was one of the defining themes of the march as lawmakers took the stage to promote pro-life policies and urge people of all faiths to continue to vote pro-life, especially in the face of numerous state initiatives aiming to expand abortion access in 2024.
Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, noted in her speech that despite Roe v. Wade being overturned, pro-life people need to remain committed to promoting pro-life policies, not only at the national level but also in the various states where they live. Since 2018, the March for Life has been promoting state-level marches, and at least 16 states now hold them annually.
“Make no mistake, we will march until abortion is unthinkable,” she said.
Rep. Chris Smith, a longtime pro-life advocate in Congress, spoke before the keynotes, emphasizing the work that pro-life members of Congress are doing to attempt to counter the various pro-abortion policies pushed by the administration of President Joe Biden. He acknowledged the fact that many pro-abortion initiatives introduced in the states since the fall of Roe have passed, with more coming later this year.
“We’ll have a setback here and there — every human rights struggle does,” he said.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson in his speech praised his fellow representatives for passing a resolution Thursday to maintain funding for pro-life pregnancy resource centers, amid efforts within President Joe Biden’s administration to deny the facilities funding under a federal assistance program.
“Who could be opposed to that?” he asked, referring to the assistance that pro-life pregnancy centers provide across the country.
(Reporting from Washington, D.C., Joe Bukuras, Peter Pinedo, Tyler Arnold, and photographer Jeffrey Bruno contributed to this report.)
By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency