Pro-lifers dash through the snow

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While the rest of the East Coast stocked up on groceries and hurried indoors, thousands of pro-lifers headed straight into the impending storm to represent for the unborn at the annual March for Life.

"A little snow couldn't keep you away, could it?" Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, shouted to the cheering crowd gathered by the Washington Monument.

"The world may think we're a little bit crazy to be here on a day like today, but those of us standing here know there is no sacrifice too great to fight the human rights abuse of abortion," she said.

The march was visibly smaller than most years, though it still attracted many locals and out-of-towners in spite of the impending blizzard. "I don't think the school ever doubted coming," said Franciscan University of Steubenville student Jennifer Sullivan. Hundreds of Franciscan students were bused from Ohio to the nation's capital for the march, she said.

"I'm marching for all my friends who can't be here," said Alice Middleton, who came with a busload of fellow parishioners from St. John the Beloved Church in McLean. "Every year I'm more inspired."

Dominican Brother John Paul hoped that those who were unable to attend due to work or weather would unite their prayers and sacrifices on behalf of the pro-life cause, and get involved locally throughout the year. "This is the biggest and most visible (pro-life gathering) but it's a constant battle we're fighting," he said.

The theme of this year's March for Life, "Pro-Woman and Pro-Life Go Hand in Hand," resonated with many of the marchers. "We don't want to forget about (women in crisis pregnancies) and we need to show support for them," said Amy Schramm, a young Catholic from Arlington who has come to the march five times.

Schramm hopes that even in politically charged Northern Virginia abortion can be seen not through the lens of left and right, but right and wrong.

"This is a human rights issue. This just needs to be something that's not even a question anymore, no matter what (political) side you're on," she said. "It's ok to identify with one side or the other and still fight for life. It's the right we all deserve."

Brother John Paul Kern witnessed the anti-women effects of abortion firsthand while working at a post-abortive healing ministry center. "Obviously I knew abortion hurt women, but to spend a lot of time with women who were recovering (made it more real.) Some of them would try to bury the pain for years because no one else would acknowledge how much they suffered," he said.

"You can see pictures of children in the womb and then aborted children, and it's clear the damage that is done. But (for women), those wounds are relatively invisible," he said.

The rally before the march was filled with creative signs, yellow "LIFE" balloons and an overwhelmingly young crowd. Pro-life performance poet Shawn Welcome, Orthodox Bishop Metropolitan Evangelos and presidential candidate Carly Fiorina all addressed the crowd, among other pro-life activists, doctors and politicians. Freezing temperatures pervaded the rally, but flakes held off until marchers started their trek to the Supreme Court.

On the way there, they sang hymns or familiar songs with improvised pro-life lyrics. "Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of the unborn?" a group of teenagers sang, riffing on the Les Miserables tune. Others clapped and stomped to the chant, "Go babies, go babies!" Many wore brightly colored or checkered scarves to mark them as part of a group; everyone sported warm jackets, beanies or hats and gloves.

Even with diminished numbers and fast-falling snow, spirits stayed high at the 43rd March for Life. Michelle Fortunato, a college student and parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, felt proud to be part of the pro-life cause. "It feels like we're just part of a big group, which we are, but each person makes a huge impact," she said.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016