WASHINGTON — Major pro-life marches are taking place on the U.S. coasts in January to promote the dignity of human life and mark the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which, along with Doe v. Bolton, led to unfettered legal access to abortion in the United States.
The largest pro-life rally in the world, the 2015 national March for Life in Washington, takes place on Jan. 22. The national march is building upon last year’s efforts in energizing and training pro-life activists to bring their witness to Washington and back to their local communities.
Although pro-life marches are taking place throughout January, the week of Roe’s anniversary is packed with events from coast to coast, with marches and rallies in major cities like Dallas and Chicago and in state capitals like Little Rock, Ark., and Raleigh, N.C. Many other counties, cities and capitals across the Heartland will also host events.
Two websites, ProLifeEventsFinder.com and CalendarforLife.org, have listings of the local, state and national pro-life events taking place throughout the month.
“We have a lot happening this year,” said Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life (MarchforLife.org).
The national march’s theme this year is “Every Life a Gift,” with a particular focus on highlighting the dignity of human lives who are conceived with genetic conditions such as Down syndrome, Trisomy 13 and others.
“We want to stress that their lives are very much a gift, as any other life,” said Monahan, pointing out that children diagnosed in the womb with genetic conditions are extremely vulnerable to abortion. Monahan said that while “every life is a gift,” this is a particular issue they wanted to help the pro-life community respond to more fully.
“Because this group is disproportionately targeted, we wanted to do everything possible to educate the culture at large — and pro-lifers — about this important issue,” she said.
Monahan said they are bringing back a “new and improved” March for Life conference (Jan. 21) and expo (Jan. 21-22).
The conference is aimed at teaching pro-life activists how to “positively and actively” engage members of Congress on Capitol Hill, “whether [lawmakers] are pro-life or not,” Monahan said.
The activities also include a “law track,” where Notre Dame law professor Carter Sneed will give a presentation on Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court decisions affecting life issues.
Afternoon panels will tackle issues involving prenatal diagnosis, with Mark Bradford of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA presenting on Down syndrome and others testifying about their experiences.
During the march itself, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, will also speak about her own experience raising her young son Gunner, who has cystic fibrosis.
“She’s going to talk about what it is to live a very fulfilling life with her son,” Monahan said.
Other speakers include Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus — Monahan said the Knights have just donated their 500th ultrasound machine to pro-life pregnancy-resource centers around the country — as well as Kathleen Wilson, who runs Mary’s Shelter. Wilson will talk about the home she runs for expectant mothers.
“They take in trafficking victims, sex-trafficking victims, all sorts of people who have led pretty difficult lives, and it is just miraculous how that shelter continues and God blesses it,” Monahan said.
“We’re also hoping to have a handful of our powerful, new female pro-life legislators,” she added. Some of the yet-to-be-confirmed speakers include newly elected Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the youngest elected woman to the House of Representatives.
Monahan said the organizers want the march to be an event that helps “tool up the grassroots to continue marching year-round” and keeps them on top of the cutting-edge issues “in terms of really building up a culture of life.”
The march is also launching a “robust social-media campaign” throughout the month of January, with hashtags like #WhyWeMarch, to engage young people during the march as well as those who cannot physically be present with the marchers in Washington.
Los Angeles Rising
The national March for Life has two West Coast events flanking it that week: the new OneLife LA walk in Los Angeles (Jan. 17) and the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco (Jan. 24), now in its 11th year. EWTN will cover the Washington and San Francisco events live.
OneLife LA (OneLifeLA.org) is a first-of-its-kind initiative, spearheaded by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Office of Life, Justice and Peace, the Knights of Columbus, Right to Life League of Southern California and four other California Catholic dioceses.
The Los Angeles walk is expected to gather 10,000 people, but it takes a different approach than most pro-life marches by educating participants not just about the issue of abortion, but how to build a culture of life in its totality.
“We are celebrating the value and dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death,” said Kathleen Buckley Domingo, life coordinator for the L.A. archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace.
Domingo said the event is geared toward helping people engage in concrete action.
“It’s meant to be a catalyst for building a culture of life here in southern California,” she said.
The speakers featured are meant to highlight “everyday heroes” who have made “choices for life in a variety of ways,” including people adopted from foster care, a woman who struggled and chose life in her unplanned pregnancy and a woman rescued from human trafficking.
Domingo said the office has partnered with other community organizations whose exhibits will be explicitly geared toward inviting people to get involved in life-affirming activities right away: whether it be feeding the homeless, visiting the elderly, helping out at a pregnancy-resource center, witnessing with 40 Days for Life or volunteering with programs helping children of the incarcerated see their parents.
“We want everyone coming from OneLife LA knowing what their next step will be to create a culture of life,” she said.
More West-Coast Witness
In downtown San Francisco, the Walk for Life (WalkforLifeWC.com) is expected to see close to 60,000 people walking to show their support for a culture of life, according to Eva Muntean, co-founder and organizer. For an entire month, the downtown will have 50 banners highlighting the march, since Dec. 24 through Jan. 24, the day of the walk.
“It will be a very good witness for the downtown area,” she said.
Muntean said they are “very excited” about the variety of speakers at this year’s Walk for Life. Julia Holcomb, former girlfriend of frontman Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, will testify about her coerced abortion experience.
Muntean added that another woman will testify about how doctors helped her successfully reverse an RU-486 medical abortion of her unborn child. “It’s so unknown that these things can be reversed, so we wanted to make sure we had her [come], so that the word gets out that there are reversible procedures in place and that they are successfully saving babies whose mothers took the [abortion] pill,” Muntean said.
The walk’s speakers include EWTN’s Jim and Joy Pinto, Rev. Clenard Childress Jr., founder of BlackGenocide.org, and the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Viganò.
Muntean said the group is still finalizing a speaker for the Hispanic community, who will either deliver an address in Spanish or summarize speeches from the English speakers.
“We have people registering from Arizona and Oregon and buses [coming] from Nevada,” she said of the regional draw.
Muntean said she is excited that the witness to life is expanding on the West Coast: “The more people who get motivated to proclaim life, the better.”