The March for Life Must Be Only the Beginning

Participants leave the March ready to fight the forces of evil. What can we do to help them?

Pro-life advocates gather at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2018.
Pro-life advocates gather at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2018. (photo: Jonah McKeown/CNA)

As my wife and I walked in the March for Life on Friday, she noted the potential for the power of witness. A Catholic convert, she commented that recitation of Rosaries or other prayers by 100,000-plus marchers would be a tremendous chance for conversion of those who see the March.

A March, after all, isn’t a place for debating the science of life. It’s not a good time for convincing others through theology, natural law or any other method. It’s a political, media and cultural event that is intended to inspire participants and show the swell of opposition to abortion. And March organizers do a good job of using far-flung religious and other alliances to show the breadth of the movement — from politicians to pastors, from women who regret their abortion to groups that help women in crisis pregnancies.

But with media coverage of the March scant, and all participants already against abortion, would there be any market for conversions?

 

Target Audiences

One hundred thousand people praying the Rosary would be amazing. But we’re Catholic — of course we find it amazing. Not everyone is ready for the Word of God; while the vast majority of the pro-life movement and the March’s participants are Catholic, there are secular, feminist, and Protestant pro-life groups and individuals who make up the anti-abortion army.

Would a Rosary-filled March bring the Truth of God’s Church to those participants and potential pro-life advocates, or alienate them because of its overt Catholic message?

The challenges facing conversions of Marchers and potential Marchers alike are many. We can’t count on the media to spread the word; coverage of the March for Life rally and March is paltry and misrepresentative. The many events leading up to the March, including several Masses, panels, and prayer events, get even less attention.

We also can’t count on politicians. Many “pro-life” politicians won’t take a stand on Planned Parenthood funding, stopping abortions when a heartbeat is detected, etc. when it really matters. Some will speak, but then we run into the media representation challenge mentioned above.

We also can’t count on some pro-life groups. Strategic and tactical differences mean that the pro-life movement is not always on the same page, diluting our power at the March and elsewhere. And there are some pro-life groups that are simply harmful to the goal of stopping abortion.

Additionally, many pro-life advocates don’t understand the fullness of being “pro-life.” How many Marchers use contraception or engage in pre-marital sex?

 

Conversion of self

It is this latter point which provides an opportunity for key witness — not at the March, which will never get the media coverage it deserves, but afterward. March organizers and their allies rightly use the March and its lead-up events to educate participants on meeting with Members of Congress, and organize those visits. Several Masses are held throughout the District of Columbia, and other events have valuable panel discussions on the science of life, abortion regret and other important topics.

The March and its preceding rally bring people from all over America. What better way to educate and empower the lifelong witness of pro-life advocates than to have the rally be a one-stop shop for what it means to be pro-life? What if participants understood the physical, spiritual, and familial harms of contraception and sex outside of marriage? What if they went home armed with knowledge of how IVF treats people like chattel? Teaching participants natural law arguments, the extensive science of unborn life and what the pro-life movement does to help women in crisis pregnancies would be invaluable.

Inspiration has its place, and the March’s rally has plenty of it. The March’s organizers do an excellent job of getting speakers like Pam Tebow, who rejected advice to abort her son. Many pro-life advocates were excited that President Donald Trump became the first sitting president to address the March. Emphatic and loud were heard, and a representative of the Sisters of Life spoke on the main stage.

My wife pointed out, though, that Marchers — many of whom have traveled significant distances at personal financial cost, and who anticipate being very cold — are not likely to be heavily influenced by a band or a powerful speech. They come to, and leave, the March ready to fight the forces of evil.

What can those of us in the movement do to ensure they are best-armed to provide witness to the truth of life, and the truth of the Author of Life?