Drama on the Mall

The Register previews this year’s March for Life, which comes two days after the inauguration of what may be this country’s most pro-abortion president.

WASHINGTON — The week’s schedule seems ordained to draw attention to the greatest civil rights movements of our time.

On Jan. 19 comes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which commemorates the great civil rights leader famous for marching on Washington.

On Jan. 20, the mall will fill with well-wishers watching and celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama as America’s first black president.

Then, on Jan. 22, comes the March for Life, when an expected enormous crowd of pro-lifers will fill Washington to protest for the right to life. And not just Washington: San Francisco will see the fifth annual Walk for Life West Coast Jan. 24, and other cities will have similar events.

Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King and Priests for Life’s director of African-American outreach, will be speaking at the “Together for Life Annual Memorial for the Unborn” at the Georgia State Capitol Building.

“The accomplishment of an African-American holding the nation’s highest office will be of little value if the black community continues to be destroyed by the horrible plague of abortion,” she said.

Blackgenocide.org, the website of the Life Education and Resource Network northeast chapter, claims that although black women constitute only about 13% of the female population (age 15-44) in the United States, they underwent approximately 36% of the abortions.

Obama’s 100% rating from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America makes him the most consistent abortion-rights advocate ever elected to the presidency.

In this atmosphere, many pro-lifers — many of them Catholics — are stepping up their efforts to make the march’s impact more strongly felt. Many aspects of the march will look the same: Members of Congress will still speak to crowds gathered on the Mall; the Rose Dinner and Rally for Life will take place as usual.

Yet, observers will notice striking differences. At the grassroots level, new events and initiatives are cropping up around the March for Life to address the likely effects of the Obama administration’s policies. And these events and initiatives are wearing a younger, more feminine face, as more and more women and students become active in the pro-life movement.

No statistics exist on whether a higher turnout for this year’s March for Life is expected because of the inauguration. But many are watching to see what effect the looming Obama administration may have on attendance at the march. And some are making the trip to Washington, D.C., when they otherwise might not have, motivated by the desire to speak their minds to their new president.

Jennifer Theby, a young adult who plans to travel from St. Louis to attend the march, said in an e-mail interview, “On the advent of Obama’s inauguration and the potential passing of the ‘Freedom of Choice’ Act, I find it is my civic, not to mention Catholic, duty to speak up louder than ever that I cannot and will not support a bill or administration that revokes a person’s right to object to abortion on moral grounds.”

This year’s March for Life theme is “Equal Care With No Exceptions.” According to the March for Life’s official website, the theme calls on pro-lifers to recognize and meet the needs for care of both women and children. And according to full-time activists around the country, pro-lifers are already heeding the call.

On the legislative side, Concerned Women for America will offer education at the march on how citizens can voice opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). And on the crisis-pregnancy care side, Carole Buchanan, director of Birthright in Maryland, has noticed an uptick in “small but new” donations to Maryland pregnancy-resource centers like hers since the November election.

“I do think that it is a reaction,” Buchanan said. “I hope it continues.”

Other groups are working to reveal more fully the pro-woman, pro-life movement at events surrounding the march. Theresa Bonopartis of Lumina, an organization that supports post-abortion healing, is helping to arrange one such event. After undergoing a coerced abortion at age 17, Bonopartis says, her road to healing “was long because no one would acknowledge my pain. It took me years before I found the help I needed.”

Bonopartis is coordinating the “Afternoon of Prayerful Remembrance and Intercession.” It will be held in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the early afternoon of Jan. 21.

During the program, which is sponsored by Lumina, the Sisters of Life, the basilica and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, volunteers will read anonymous testimonials from those affected by abortion. Intercessory prayer, music, opportunities for the sacrament of penance and a period of Eucharistic adoration will follow, and Mass will conclude the afternoon.

This is the first event of its kind to take place on a national level. Bonopartis hopes it will draw large numbers, especially “those silently suffering from a personal loss … safeguarding their anonymity through the universal, communal prayer aspect.”

“We’ve been advertising all over the place, and certainly, we have been receiving a lot of phone calls and interest,” she said.

The annual Mass for Life will be held in the basilica that evening. It usually far exceeds the capacity of the 3,500-seat church.

Another prayer initiative is spearheaded by Missy Smith of Wake Up (Women Against the Killing and Exploitation of Unprotected Persons).

Smith and others have organized a “rosary crusade” in Washington. On the day before the march, the group will pray the Rosary in D.C.’s Lafayette Park and will continue meeting there to pray together on each of Obama’s first 100 days in office.

“Many pro-lifers are nervous and fearful about the future, but prayer and fasting are our strongest weapons,” Smith said.

In another woman-centered event, offered by Priests for Life, Silent No More Awareness (SilentNoMoreAwareness.org) co-founders Janet Morana and Georgette Forney will speak on the steps of the Supreme Court. Morana said that at the event both men and women will be giving testimony about abortions they regret having participated in.

“The campaign is important more now than ever,” Morana says, “because we’ve elected a president who has the opinion that abortion is a necessary thing. We want to say that abortion is not needed and that it hurts men, women and families. … Precisely because of their negative experiences with abortion, these men and women can speak this way. They know by experience that abortion did not solve their problem … but the good news is that they found healing and hope.

“We’re not going away,” Morana adds. “Now more than ever, our goal is to bring more people to healing. This new administration believes that abortion helps women and men, but we know it hurts them both. People are told that abortion is no big deal, so they think no one understands their pain. The more we can get our message out, the more it will resonate with people who have been thinking they were alone.”

Katy Carl is based in

Silver Spring, Maryland.

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