March for Life is ‘a powerful public stand’

First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
Previous Next

Life - not yet born in a mother's womb; small and holding onto Dad's hand; older and walking beside a longtime spouse; consecrated and praying the rosary - filled the streets of Washington Jan. 22 to protest Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

For the 42nd time, marchers lifted banners, prayers and cheers on behalf of the unborn, participating in a singular protest in a city known nearly as much for protests as for politicians.

"I've never heard of anything so successful done year after year," said Father James S. Barkett, pastor of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, who attended the march. "People take the time to come out and give witness every year. I don't know of any other group that does that on this scale."

The annual March for Life begins on the National Mall with a number of talks and ends at the Supreme Court. This year's speakers included Kathleen Wilson, founder of Mary's Shelter houses for homeless pregnant women in Fredericksburg.

But each year also has its own unique spirit. This year's included the continuity between civil rights and the pro-life cause, the role of love-centered dialogue and, like most recent marches, the energy of the young.

"Just look around and you can see there's a high percentage under 30 years old," said Angela Erickson of Students for Life of America as she handed out "I am the pro-life generation" signs. "When you have that many youths involved, you know the end (of abortion) is near."

Surrounded by a sea of young, enthusiastic St. Mary of Sorrows parishioners, Father Barkett agreed. "It is the kids who are going to change the culture," he said.

Many parents at the march pushed strollers, gave piggyback rides and held hands, showing that the "pro-life generation" begins at a young age. Marija Hechinger, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist in Front Royal, brought her four children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. "It's important for kids to recognize the evil that is going on and to show witness to the unborn and to pray for them," she said.

For Stephen Lee, a parishioner of St. Peter Church in Washington, Va., the march is one important piece of pro-life education for his children. Along with the march, Lee said they have family discussions about what it means to support life. Those conversations "help provide (the children) with the tools and ammunition to have a discussion about the issue," both from a faith-based and scientific perspective, he said.

"This is the No. 1 human rights cause in the world today," he added, and we must help young people see "the truth of abortion and how precious life is."

The pro-life message as part of the human rights cause was captured in a simple black-and-white sign held by a group of African-American teenage boys from St. Louis. Beside an image of an unborn baby it read: "Black Lives Matter Even in the Womb."

The sign was inspired by the popular slogan and hashtag #blacklivesmatter, which went viral after police officers fatally shot an African-American teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and an African-American man in New York.

Father Steve Giljum brought the group of teens from his predominately African-American parish in St. Louis because "God is calling us to fan the flame of the pro-life movement."

He said that in the wake of the pain and upheaval - both in St. Louis and nationally - following the two deaths, it's crucial to "make the connection between civil rights and human life.

"Life issues are a domino effect," he said. "If we don't respect life in the womb, we are going to have a hard time respecting life at all stages."

Prior to the march, Greg Lima, a junior at Catholic University in Washington, said it is encouraging to be with so many like-minded people at the annual event but that it is critical to carry the day's energy into dialogue with those holding opposing views. And in those discussions, "we must always love our neighbor," he said.

From a place of love, the goal is to one day ensure that "every person has a chance to experience the wonder of life that God gave us," said Lima. "Everyone deserves to have a birthday."

As the peaceful protestors moved along Constitution Avenue toward the Supreme Court, soaking in the late-afternoon sun after several years of frigid marches, Christendom College students entertained the walkers with music and juggling. Nearly the entire student body came in nine busloads from the Front Royal campus.

"It's so refreshing and inspiring to see so much diversity at the march - all races and ages, from colleges and parishes across the country," said Peter Tapsak, a Christendom sophomore. "Every year it's a powerful public stand."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015