Pro-Lifers March On: Plans for Major National Events Modified for 2021

Roundup of what is taking place across the country, including virtual gatherings.

Crowds at past pro-life events in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington will look a bit different this year, due to the pandemic, but the effort to support the unborn is undimmed.
Crowds at past pro-life events in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington will look a bit different this year, due to the pandemic, but the effort to support the unborn is undimmed. (photo: Courtesy of event committees)

In recent years, a growing enthusiasm for the pro-life cause, combined with a U.S. presidential administration friendly to the movement, has led to a plethora of pro-life marches in major U.S. cities on and around the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision striking down the nation’s anti-abortion laws.  

The events are typically organized and dominated by Catholics, with many marches sponsored by Catholic dioceses with their bishops, diocesan parishioners and schoolchildren in attendance.  

Last year, on Jan. 24, President Donald Trump addressed 100,000 marchers at the March for Life (MarchforLife.org) in Washington, D.C.

But what a difference a year makes: Due to COVID-19, some 2021 marches have been canceled in lieu of virtual events that are likely to have low turnout, while others have been significantly modified and scaled back. Additionally, many pro-lifers are concerned about major legal and legislative setbacks to the cause due to the possibility of an abortion-friendly Biden administration coming in to office on Jan. 20, 2021.

This year, the March for Life, will be virtual on Jan. 29, according to a Jan. 15 statement by March for Life President Jeanne Mancini; annual indoor components, such as its annual Rose Dinner, will be virtual or canceled entirely. 

 

San Francisco

The Walk for Life West Coast (online at WalkforLifeWC.com) in San Francisco has drawn about 50,000 participants in previous years. Walkers would gather for a rally at the city’s civic center and then walk nearly two miles through downtown San Francisco.  Like the Washington event, the Walk for Life has drawn many prominent speakers.

The 2021 walk will go on, asserted organizer Eva Muntean. “We felt it was important to keep it going. If Joe Biden assumes office, we will need to work harder to keep the pro-life message front and center.”

Although the walk will happen, an inability to secure permits from the city will make it a scaled-down event. 

There will be no rally, few talks or testimonials and no information booths. Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press, chaplain and annual participant, will deliver remarks on the back of a flatbed truck, as will Rev. Clenard Childress of the initiative BlackGenocide.org. The large balloon arch and mariachi band that were regular features in previous years will be eliminated.

 The walk is scheduled to begin at 12:30pm Jan. 23. (Visit WalkforLifeWC.com for details.) 

Muntean anticipates a smaller turnout and added that organizers are prepared to cancel the event last-minute should any safety issues arise.

 

Denver

The Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Denver has canceled its Celebrate Life Rally and March  by downtown Denver’s state Capitol building, which in January 2020 drew 8,000 people

The city has a 175-person limit for outdoor gatherings, explained organizer Lynn Grandon, and in order to maintain good relations with city officials, the archdiocese agreed to cancel the event.

Instead, on Jan. 23, individual parishes have been encouraged to celebrate a Respect Life Mass and have a Holy Hour and a Eucharistic procession at their individual locations. Twenty have agreed to so far, with Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila leading one of the prayer events.

Additionally, young Catholics are being invited to participate in a social-media campaign, creating memes and videos with the theme “Celebrate Life.”

Colorado has long been an abortion-friendly state, noted Grandon. It was the first state in the U.S. to liberalize its abortion laws in 1967, six years before the Roe v. Wade decision was announced. Denver’s Stapleton Planned Parenthood, Grandon noted, is the second-largest Planned Parenthood abortion facility in the country (after Houston). 

And, most recently, Colorado voters defeated Proposition 115, a measure to end late-term abortions, by a 59%-41% margin in November, despite the efforts of the archdiocese in support of the measure.

She, too, is concerned about the possibility of a Biden administration, as he is “lining up anti-life people” for key positions, she noted. “There are dark days ahead, but as Christians, the darker it gets, the brighter our lights will shine,” she said. “We will persevere and stand up for what is right.”

 

Los Angeles and Chicago

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ OneLife LA (OneLifeLA.org) walk through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, which drew 25,000 last January, has been canceled and converted into a virtual event. 

On Jan. 23, at noon, virtual participants are invited to log onto the ministry’s Facebook page or YouTube channel to listen to speakers such as Karen Gaffney, a swimmer with Down syndrome; Christopher Duffley, a singer who is blind; and Rick Smith of Hope Story, which helps families of children with Down syndrome.

The event’s theme is “The Joy of Life,” said organizer Kathleen Domingo, and even though participants will not be leaving their homes, they are still encouraged to wear OneLife LA hats and shirts and display OneLife LA yard signs in front of their homes.

The March for Life Chicago (online at MarchforLifeChicago.org), which on Jan. 11, 2020, drew 9,000 walkers, has been transformed into a six-stop road trip of smaller rallies in Illinois and the surrounding states, reported Kevin Grillot, the Chicago march’s director.  

The first stop was to be Madison, Wisconsin, on Jan. 2; the final stop will be Chicago, on Jan. 23.  Featured speakers along the way include Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, local elected officials, medical professionals and other inspirational speakers. Grillot said the event was taken on the road this year because, with the pandemic and lockdowns, many of the parishes and schools in the region that had previously chartered buses to participate in a single event were canceling. He explained, “We’re doing it this way to give as many people as possible a chance to participate.”
People who register but are unable to attend in person have the option of participating via livestream.

Despite the restrictions, walk organizers encourage Catholics to turn out to events, either in person or virtually.  

As Jeanne Mancini concluded, “This year, more than ever, it is important to remember what brings us all together: life. We welcome all to join us in building a culture of life.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated after posting. EWTN will not be airing the West Coast Walk for Life; it can be viewed online.

More than 100,000 people attended a march for life in Madrid, Spain, on June 26, 2022.

More Than 100,000 March for Life in Spain

The reform of the abortion law was approved on May 17 by Spain’s Council of Ministers. Among other things, the bill would allow girls ages 16 and 17 to get an abortion without parental consent.

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.'