What I Saw at the March for Life

COMMENTARY: More than anything else, the pro-life movement is incredibly young. And it filled me with hope.

Pro-lifers attend the March for Life rally on the National Mall on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.
Pro-lifers attend the March for Life rally on the National Mall on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C. (photo: Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

I’d never been to the March for Life until last Friday. For decades, I’ve watched the massive annual Washington, D.C., protest from the other side of the country, where I live. What I’ve seen from afar has always inspired me: Hundreds of thousands of people show up every year, committed to ending abortion on demand and protecting unborn life.

But I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in person. More than anything else, I saw that the pro-life movement is incredibly young. The average age couldn’t have been more than 30, maybe 35 at the most.

It filled me with hope: The fight to protect life will continue and even grow stronger. That’s true regardless of whether the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this year. Either way, there’s a generation of determined young leaders prepared to keep the fight for life going. They’ll always be there, whether the debate is happening in state capitols or still in D.C.

This realization swept over me from the moment I set foot on the National Mall, where the March for Life takes place. I was surrounded by tour buses from all over the country, and as each one opened its doors, an army of teens, 20-somethings, and 30-somethings usually poured out. As each bus pulled away, another one took its place, offloading more young women and men who know abortion is wrong and the right to life should be restored.

Where were they coming from? Many, if not most, came from colleges. Their coats, scarves and winter caps were emblazoned with at least 150 university or college names, and those were just the ones I could see and count in the huge crowd. Hundreds of others came from churches, synagogues and different houses of worship, including some from as far away as my home state of California. Whether part of teenage youth groups or young-adult groups, they speak to a massive number of millennials and Gen Z’ers committed to this cause.

I don’t know why I didn’t expect to see this. As a man who has been part of this movement my entire life, I’ve often heard phrases like the “pro-life generation.” But hearing it is one thing; seeing it is another. In the back of my mind, I guess I pictured the March for Life filled with middle-aged priests and pastors, aging monks and nuns, and people like me — old culture warriors who have been fighting the good fight since Roe v. Wade was forced on an unsuspecting country.

To be sure, these kinds of people were there, as evidenced by me. Yet, overall, the priests and pastors were younger than I expected — and almost always younger than me. Most of the monks and nuns looked like they weren’t long out of college themselves. And for every old culture warrior I marched with (including longtime pro-life leader Sen. Rick Santorum) I was surrounded by two or more who were half my age, at least.

Keep in mind: The March for Life is only one event on one day. While tens if not hundreds of thousands of young pro-life advocates showed up, there are tens of millions more spread across the country. They may not be the majority of their generations, as polls tend to show, but I’d wager they’re far more passionate about this issue than their peers. After all, I don’t know of a pro-abortion event that consistently mobilizes so many people in the dead of winter. Only the pro-life movement achieves that feat, year after year.

And what starts on the National Mall doesn’t stop there. The same young women and men who come out for the March for Life will be hard at work if the Supreme Court ends the Roe era in the Dobbs case, which could happen between now and summer. If the abortion issue is returned to the states, they’ll bring the same youthful energy to local marches and legislative fights. They’ll push for state laws that reflect the national consensus: America deserves better than abortion on demand — and unborn children deserve more protections than they have right now.

Even if Roe somehow survives at the Supreme Court, the crowd I saw at the March for Life will keep coming back. The teenagers, 20-somethings, and 30-somethings I saw will continue to call for a country that once again respects the right to life. They’ll keep up the fight as they grow older. And someday, like I am today, they’ll be impressed and inspired by the new generations that carry on this noble cause.

A pro-life ad at a bus stop in Spain.

Thousands March for Life in Madrid

The organizers stressed that with demonstrations like this they intend to 'show the greatness of the culture of life, which is generous, welcoming, constructive, joyful, heals wounds and doesn’t give up.'

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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