National Pro-Life Men’s March Coming to Boston — ‘The Belly of the Beast’

The march is based on the idea that men have a role to play in the pro-life movement and an acknowledgment that many women who contemplate abortion have been driven to it by the actions or inactions of men.

Gabriel Vance of Columbus, Ohio, prays the Rosary, with his three young sons beside him, during the pro-life Men's March in Baltimore on Nov. 15, 2021.
Gabriel Vance of Columbus, Ohio, prays the Rosary, with his three young sons beside him, during the pro-life Men's March in Baltimore on Nov. 15, 2021. (photo: Shannon Mullen/CNA / EWTN)

BOSTON — Ed Laverty had been active in the pro-life movement for about six months when he confronted something he had suppressed in his memory.

Laverty, now 71, was raised in an Irish-Catholic home in Lawrence, Massachusetts. But as a teenager he drifted away from the faith. In 1975, two years after abortion was made legal nationwide by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, Laverty was training to be an anesthetist when he assisted a dilation-and-curettage procedure — an abortion — on a pregnant woman.

Though he justified it at the time, he also buried it in his mind — until 2003, when a seemingly innocent question about his past triggered a horrifying thought. By that time, he had come back to the Church and had become a pro-life activist, and he believes the recovered memory was an inspiration from the Holy Spirit to try to atone for it.

Laverty is planning to attend the pro-life “Men’s March” on Saturday in Boston, one of the most pro-abortion cities in America.

The Men’s March is based on the idea that men have a role to play in the pro-life movement that, to date, has often been muted, and an acknowledgment that many women who contemplate abortion have been driven to it by the actions or inactions of men.

“These women aren’t having a baby on their own. Someone is pushing it,” Laverty said in an interview with the Register. “Men haven’t stepped up to the plate. It’s time for men to step up to the plate.”


Radio Show Spawns Men’s March

The Men’s March, which has already taken place in Baltimore (November 2021), Tallahassee (June 2022) and Washington, D.C. (June 2021), grew out of a radio show hosted by Jim Havens called The Simple Truth, which is broadcast at 4pm by The Station of the Cross Catholic Media Network. (The network is an EWTN affiliate that produces many of its own shows; EWTN owns the Register.) 

Havens, 44, has a weekly segment on his podcast called “Testimony Tuesday,” during which a man describes his experiences with abortion. (Laverty was a guest on July 6, 2021.)

The message of the march is that everyone has a right to life, including at the fetal stage of human development.

“We simply want to proclaim that very basic truth … and stand up for our brothers and sisters in the womb,” Havens told the Register.

A public component of the movement is essential, he said.

“We just need to proclaim the moral truth and let the chips fall where they may. But someone has to be in the public square,” Havens said.

The co-founder of the march, Father Stephen Imbarrato, 70, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, now living in Florida. He co-hosts The Simple Truth radio show on Fridays.

He describes himself as a “great-grandpop priest,” stemming from his adoption of a son in 1987 (now deceased) who has grandchildren. He also describes himself as “post-abortive,” meaning he fathered unborn children who died as the result of abortion.

“Decades before I was a priest, my pro-life journey started with not standing up for my babies and not standing up for whom I call my Eve,” said Father Imbarrato, who was ordained at age 53, during a telephone interview with the Register.


Can ‘Personhood’ End Abortion?

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 and sent abortion law back to the states, most pro-life activists have focused on trying to persuade state legislators to prohibit abortion, restrict abortion, or refrain from encouraging abortion, depending on the leanings of the state.

Men’s March organizers say they’re thinking too small.

The event is formally called “The National Men’s March to Abolish Abortion and Rally for Personhood,” which reflects the founders’ belief that abortion can and should be declared illegal nationwide by the U.S. Supreme Court if the court recognizes the right to life of all “persons,” including unborn babies.

The argument stems from the country’s founding documents.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The 14th Amendment says no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Declaration of Independence, which is not legally binding but remains influential, says “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” are “unalienable Rights.”

On that basis, organizers of the Men’s March say, a majority of the justices on the federal Supreme Court could rule abortion illegal everywhere in the country by finding that an unborn child in the fetal stage of development is a person with a right to life, if the right case got before the court.

“Abortion is not going to end until we recognize constitutional personhood from the moment of conception. That’s what’s been lacking in the pro-life movement,” Father Imbarrato told the Register.

Father Imbarrato and fellow organizer Havens have also called on U.S. bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion, including during the November 2021 Men’s March in Baltimore, which coincided with the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Organizers are planning another Men’s March in Baltimore on Nov.14, which is the first day of the fall general assembly of the U.S. bishops.


Hostile Environment

The event in Boston on Saturday begins with a gathering at 11:30am at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility at 1055 Commonwealth Ave., about two-tenths of a mile from the western edge of the campus of Boston University, the city’s largest school of higher learning. After listening to speakers, participants at about 12:30pm are scheduled to walk more than 3 miles to the Massachusetts State House, where a rally is planned.

Participants are asked to wear suits — and clerics for clergy — to the event. Ties are optional.

The march route includes Boston Common, which in recent years has seen large left-wing demonstrations, including some that have attracted violence. Polls show Massachusetts is one of the most pro-abortion states in the country — a Pew Research Center poll in 2014 found that 74% of adults in Massachusetts think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, including 62% of Catholics. 

More recently, the state Legislature has expanded access to abortion twice since December 2020. A UMass Amherst poll in August 2022 found that 77% of Democrats and unenrolled voters (who make up more than 90% of registered voters in the state) support the state’s abortion-expansion measures.

Organizers say they have permits for the march and that police will accompany participants throughout. But those planning to go expect opposition on Saturday.

“Going to Boston, which is really the belly of the beast, I’m sure we’re going to have some protests and aggravation,” Laverty said.

Yet organizers say even vocal opposition is a chance for evangelization.

“You come into contact with people who maybe otherwise would never come into contact with people of faith, and they’ll see how we handle ourselves with love,” Havens said.


Unsupportive Archdiocese

Organizers of the Men’s March say they haven’t received a warm reception from the dioceses where they have put on marches so far, adding that the reaction by the Archdiocese of Boston has been the chilliest.

They say they contacted the archdiocese in August as a courtesy, didn’t hear back immediately, but later heard that the archdiocese was asking pastors not to make announcements about the march.

An archdiocesan official sent local pastors a written statement noting that Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, attends the March for Life in Washington every January, acknowledging the change in circumstances since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, and emphasizing that Cardinal O’Malley’s focus will continue to be the March for Life.

“The Cardinal has always believed that changing minds and hearts on the question of abortion is the deeper challenge beyond changing laws, valuable as that event has been,” states the letter, dated Aug.16, 2022.

It continues, “Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the abortion debate in the country has continued under new terms and conditions. There are events, marches and protests of all kinds being planned and scheduled.”

“The Archdiocese of Boston will focus all its attention and support on the March for Life in January 2023,” the statement says. “It is important this commitment be understood. Parishes and schools may be approached to publicize or support other marches, but these will not be endorsed by the Archdiocese, nor should they be supported by its institutions.”

C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts and a frequent critic of Cardinal O’Malley, said the response to the Men’s March reflects a lukewarm approach to the pro-life cause. Abortion opponents, Doyle said in a written statement, should “learn to work around the Archdiocese of Boston.”

“It is not an ally, but an obstacle to the pro-life movement in Massachusetts,” Doyle said.

Organizers of the event say they are disappointed with the archdiocese’s response.

“The Archdiocese of Boston has actually been actively putting roadblocks up for us,” Havens said.

“The Archdiocese of Boston is not just dormant, but has become an obstacle to men speaking up for preborn babies, in terms of this march,” Father Imbarrato said.

The Register asked a spokesman for the archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, for comment on the criticism. He provided a written statement the archdiocese sent to the organizers. It says in part:

“We recognize that there are events, marches, and protests of all kinds being planned and scheduled following the SCOTUS ruling. However, we are committed to the annual March and have advised our parishes, schools, and ministries as such. … I should point out that events which are scheduled and publicized in the Archdiocese without consultation with our teams make it difficult to participate, especially when we have existing programs already in place.”

The statement concludes, “We share a universal commitment to end abortion and to promote life and through our Pro-Life office and Archdiocesan ministries will continue the work.”

This story was updated after posting.

Thousands of pro-life demonstrators participate in the annual March for Life near the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2023.

Marching Forward

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: In the post-Roe era, there is a great need to coordinate and enhance our pro-life efforts at the national level and state level in order to convert hearts and minds to the pro-life cause.