WASHINGTON — Organizers for the 2014 March for Life have placed a greater focus on turning the energy from this year’s pro-life march into positive pro-life action at home throughout the year.
The 2014 March for Life begins on Wednesday, Jan. 22, with an 11:30am pre-rally warm-up and live concert. The rally begins at noon, with U.S. Catholic and Orthodox bishops offering the opening prayers. The march itself will begin at 1pm and end at the U.S. Supreme Court building.
The event will be televised live on EWTN.
This year, March for Life organizers have directed marchers to take their protest from the U.S. Supreme Court right into the offices of their elected federal officials.
“It was Nellie’s first intent to have that day as a lobbying day, where people could come and try to speak to their members of Congress or, if not, to their offices,” said Tom McClusky, executive director of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, of the late founder of the march, Nellie Gray.
McClusky told the Register the March staffers are planning a “huge push” for New Jersey pro-life Rep. Chris Smith’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. He said March for Life volunteers will be stationed at various points along the route, passing out background materials on Smith’s pro-life legislation and how to lobby elected representatives in D.C.
Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, told the Register that the bishops have urged “all Catholics and people of goodwill to participate in the political process and advocate for the most just laws possible for the protection of human life from conception to natural death.” She pointed out that the law is a teacher, and many people have been hurt by Roe v. Wade’s and Doe v. Bolton’s “false lesson” that abortion is not wrong.
“Every opportunity that we have to witness to the dignity of human life and advocate for the most just laws possible is a great opportunity and a great privilege we have,” she said, adding that the U.S. bishops have also called on Catholics to lobby for the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.
The theme for this year’s March for Life is “Adoption: a Noble Decision.”
This year sees the first-ever March for Life Law Conference on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which the march is co-sponsoring with Americans United for Life and Ave Maria School of Law.
The March for Life Exhibitor Show takes place at the Hyatt Jan. 21-22. Tickets sold out in advance for the Tuesday March for Life youth rally at the Hyatt.
The second annual Nellie Gray 5K Run/Walk also begins the morning of the march: Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 8am, at East Potomac Park.
Ryan Bomberger, founder of The Radiance Foundation, is the keynote speaker for the 2014 Rose Dinner. Bomberger is a pro-life advocate and adoptive father, who himself was conceived in rape; his biological mother chose life by giving him up for adoption instead of having an abortion.
March for Life organizers are also focused more than ever on maximizing engagement with this year’s marchers, especially youth, through technology.
“Social media is certainly going to be a huge tool in our tool box,” McClusky said. March organizers have rapidly increased the organization’s Facebook audience to more than 20,000 fans. The group is also seeking to keep in touch with pro-life marchers through text messages. McClusky said a March for Life app is also in the works.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said the march organizers were headed in the right direction.
“Our movement has to go where the young people are,” she said. “Quite honestly, that’s social media and the Internet.”
Hawkins said social media can help the whole of the pro-life movement engage with the Jan. 22 march, not just the marchers in D.C.
Creating a Year-Round Force
McClusky said the March for Life has a vision to help pro-life marchers turn the reinvigorating energy of the march into a year-round force.
“We want to give them activities to do throughout the year, both nationally and with pro-life groups and causes on the local level as well,” he said.
Hawkins said that Students for Life was “very excited” about this move, adding that SFLA is also unveiling at the march a pro-life unity website of various organizations and activities people can get involved in.
She said, “Coming to the march is a great opportunity and a great shot in the arm for you, but, really, what matters is what you do when you get home.”
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer.