Peaceful pro-life marches protesting the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision striking down the nation’s anti-abortion laws will be held in major U.S. cities across the country — both begun by and largely populated by Catholic marchers.
The March for Life in Washington (MarchforLife.org) is the biggest and oldest of the marches, dating back to 1974. It was begun by the late Catholic convert Nellie Gray. The march will be held Jan. 18, with a noon rally on the National Mall, followed by a 1pm march up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court Building. Featured speakers include Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who has since become pro-life and converted to Catholicism, and political pundit Ben Shapiro, who is an Orthodox Jew.
There will be a variety of companion events before and after the march. At 3pm on Jan. 18, for example, there will be “Silent No More” testimonies on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court: Those adversely affected by abortion will share their experiences. The day before the march there will be a March for Life Conference and Expo at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Downtown Hotel, with featured speaker David Daleiden. Daleiden made the national news for his undercover videos of Planned Parenthood staff.
March organizers expect a turnout of 100,000 marchers or more. Katrina Gallic, a spokeswoman for the march, noted this year’s theme is “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life Is Pro Science” “because we want to emphasize that science indicates that life begins at conception.” She added that she expects Shapiro, who will host a live podcast at the National Mall 10-11am on march day, will emphasize the importance of considering science in the pro-life debate.
Gallic also noted that she expected prominent political figures to play a role on march day, saying that the march will be making official announcements of who they are in the days leading up to the event.
The Walk for Life West Coast (WalkforLifeWC.com) is the March for Life’s San Francisco counterpart. The 15th-annual walk will be held Jan. 26, drawing 50,000 pro-lifers. Its founders include Catholic Eva Muntean, who said, “We’re expecting a strong turnout this year, especially considering the contentious political environment in which we live. We also expect a few more protesters, but every year the San Francisco Police Department does a great job keeping everyone safe.”
Speakers include Patricia Sandoval, also a former Planned Parenthood employee who became pro-life; Baptist preacher Walter Hoye; and Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International. The walk will begin with a 12:30pm rally at the San Francisco Civic Center, followed by a 1:30pm walk up Market Street. There are a variety of companion events before and after the West Coast walk.
Companion events include Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral at 9:30am on Saturday, celebrated by San Francisco Archbishop Salvadore Cordileone. Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco, led by Father Joseph Illo, will have a contingent of 60 or 70 parishioners walking and will host a “Wok for Life” Asian cuisine dinner, followed by an all-night “Adoration for Life” event. Star of the Sea is also helping to facilitate the participation of high-school students in the walk, allowing 200 young people from out of the area to sleep in the parish hall overnight.
The Celebrate Life Rally and March in downtown Denver (RespectLifeDenver.org) is a newer march presented by the Archdiocese of Denver’s Respect Life Office; the fifth-annual event will be held on the steps of the Denver State Capitol Jan. 12. A rally begins at 1pm and will be emceed by David Bereit, a Catholic convert and co-founder and former CEO of 40 Days for Life. Featured speakers include Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who has long made the pro-life cause a focus of his ministry.
The march begins at 2pm, with participants circling a nearby park and returning to the capitol steps. At the conclusion of the march, the St. John Vianney Seminary choir will sing a medley of patriotic songs.
The march is growing steadily in size, and last year, it drew 5,000 participants. Its founder is Lynn Grandon, program director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office. “We’ve grown a lot from our first march, and we’re drawing people from a variety of our Catholic communities,” Grandon said. “In addition to our Anglo Catholics, we have a large number of people who come from our Hispanic community and from our Vietnamese population, as well.”
A special guest speaker this year, she continued, will be Elias Moo, the new superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, to address the Hispanic community in Spanish.
Also featured this year will be a local family, the McGarritys, who have four children of their own and who have adopted four children with Down syndrome. As Grandon noted, “It’s a beautiful example of living out the pro-life message.”
Another major pro-life march will be the March for Life Chicago (MarchforLife-Chicago.org), which will be held Jan. 13, from 2 to 4pm at Federal Plaza. Featured speakers include Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life in Washington, and Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation. About 6,000 pro-lifers are expected to attend.
Related events include a “Youth Rally for Life” at 8am at Holy Name Cathedral and an 11am “Archdiocesan Mass for Life” celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich, both on the day of the March for Life Chicago.
The Chicago march shares the same “Unique From Day One” theme as this year’s Washington march. Dawn Fitzpatrick, of the board of directors of the Chicago march, explained, “Being pro-life is not in opposition to science. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Medical and technological advancements continue to reaffirm the science behind the pro-life cause — that life begins at fertilization, or Day One, when egg meets sperm and a new, unique human embryo is created.”
Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.