The March for Life never disappoints. No matter the state of the union, the status of legislation at the federal and state level, or the twisted rhetoric of Planned Parenthood and the mainstream media, there is no denying the joyful, dauntless witness of tens of thousands of prolifers joining voices and forces in the nation’s capital. This year’s theme, “Pro-Life: With Every Woman, For Every Child,” underscores the focus in the post-Roe fight, when the energies of the movement must be concentrated on the states and the individual woman in a crisis pregnancy. With some 100,000 marching in D.C. on Jan. 19—along with the important work of pro-life pregnancy centers, prayer groups, and sidewalk counselors outside abortion clinics—it is evident every day that this theme is more than rhetoric. It is an ethic to live by.
True, the nation has not moved in a decidedly pro-life direction since Roe was overruled in June 2022. Some politicians and leaders have seemed caught on their heels by the Dobbs decision, uncertain of the best strategy and message going forward. Should they take the principled stand and push states to ban all abortions because it’s the right and just thing to do? After all, how could prolifers, who for 50 years had railed against Roe with heartfelt appeals and proofs of the humanity of the child in the womb, suddenly compromise on the issue? Or should they recognize the political reality in most states and settle for imperfect laws that allow abortion up to a certain stage in pregnancy?
We also seemed to lose the early debates to the pro-abortion media machine by failing to explain clearly to the public the difference between abortion and miscarriage, and how medical treatment can be provided for pregnant women with a cancerous womb or an ectopic pregnancy under the principle of double-effect. Of course, these moral issues are difficult to explain even in scholarly journals, never mind in making appeals to short attention spans in a culture of sound bites and memes.
Still, despite missteps and opposition, the March for Life goes on, now 51 years old and joined by state marches. It continues because human life—always perpetuating new life and reproducing itself in new hope and energy—cannot be suppressed. Prolifers march for something that cannot be denied, even by our adamant opponents: We all treasure our lives because life is, ultimately, something good. The right to life is the most evident of the self-evident truths our nation is founded upon. That is the force behind the March that transcends any agenda on either side of the debate. Without life—nothing. And so, we march—forward into the culture of death.
At the Mass for Life the evening before the March, thousands filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to hear Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va., set the tone for the event: Roe, the original reason for the March, is no more, but Dobbs does not mean the end. There is more work to do at state and personal levels. “Our message must be uncompromisingly true and unfailingly charitable,” said Bishop Burbidge, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat on Pro-Life Activities.
Last Friday was cold and snowy, yet spirits were high, as always. The enthusiasm of the young people was infectious and the speakers at the noon rally on the National Mall were both informative and inspiring. March for Life President Jeanne Mancini was as upbeat and telegenic as ever, telling marchers they were involved in history’s largest and longest-running civil rights event. Politicians, famous athletes and coaches, religious figures, and stalwart pro-life leaders took the stage. House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana revealed, “I am the product of an unplanned pregnancy,” explaining that he was born to teenage parents who chose life. Looking out at the crowd, he said he saw “a beautiful picture of America,” with tens of thousands gathered to “celebrate life and what it means to be an American.”
New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith reported that the House just passed a bill to prevent the Biden administration from cutting off federal funds to pro-life pregnancy centers offering alternatives to abortion, pointing out that they have the support of a large majority of Americans.
Yet despite some promising polls and having the truth—and so many young people—on our side, the fight for life will always be an uphill battle. Our opponents, in the grip of an evil we dismiss at our peril, will not rest. Far from suffering a setback with the Dobbs decision, they used the occasion to galvanize support and spread fear into even so-called red states that should be a bulwark for the pro-life movement. As Senator Marco Rubio reminded us in his memo on pro-life strategy released last week, our cause has lost seven of seven state ballot initiatives since Dobbs. He proposes a reset of political, communications, and cultural strategies, summed up in three simple steps: 1) “develop and fight for a compassionate, pro-family agenda that counters caricatures of our beliefs and makes life easier for mothers and their children”; 2) “put Democrats on the defensive about their extreme support for abortion” up to the time of birth; 3) “tell the truth about what abortion is—the taking of innocent life—and advocate limits to the practice.”
Of course, for many years multitudes of prolifers have been doing all three at both the personal and grassroots level. Now it’s time for national and local legislators to back up the people on the ground with appropriate legislation and uncompromising principles. Nothing less than human life hangs in the balance.