A different kind of March for Life
As pro-life leaders marched in small numbers, activists across the country observed online events
Wearing red March for Life masks and bundled in jackets, 60 pro-life leaders holding red roses walked a circuitous hourlong route to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The quiet gathering on the cold, gray Friday afternoon kicked off the 48th annual March for Life just as the virtual rally, featuring pro-life speakers and musicians, finished online. The walk began with three women holding the March for Life banner as others followed in behind. They held signs with classic pro-life slogans: “Pro-life for the whole life.” “Life is the first right.”
Americans United for Life President Catherine Glenn Foster was among the few invited to join the small march. “It was just a night and day change from what we’re used to,” she said afterward, describing the hundreds of thousands who usually gather to commemorate the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. “It was a little bit quieter than normal. More solemn. More prayerful.”
For months, March for Life planned to hold the annual demonstration in person. To minimize COVID-19 concerns, organizers canceled the indoor expo and moved other events online while prioritizing the walk through the city. But a week and a half after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the organization asked participants to stay home and join the march virtually, citing the pandemic and heightened pressures on Capitol Hill law enforcement. The organization invited just a few dozen pro-life leaders to come in person. While some activists still joined the leaders during the march, many tuned in for the online rally. And pro-lifers across the country used the extra time to participate in local events.
More than 10,000 viewers watched the virtual March for Life rally at noon. About 6,000 of those stuck around to the end of the program to watch the pro-life leaders march to the Supreme Court.
During the hourlong march, a couple of hundred additional pro-lifers joined them. Some held signs and others pushed strollers as small children walked along. A handful wore red “Make America Great Again” hats. One man carried a banjo and played Christmas music. When the small group gathered at the Supreme Court, a group began singing “God Bless America.” Some of the pro-life leaders laid their roses in a pile near the security fence blocking the Supreme Court steps.
Shawna Weber, a sophomore at the College of Lake County in the Chicago area, attended the March for Life in Washington in 2020 and said she was thinking about making the flight again before the event was canceled. About a week later on a Thursday afternoon, her friend Matthew Duray called her with an idea: “What if we did something in Waukegan? You know, like our own little march?” Less than a year ago, Planned Parenthood opened a facility in the Illinois city after months of building in secret. Weber and Duray wanted to use the unusual March for Life weekend to bring together local pro-lifers on the front lines of the abortion battle.
Weber and her friends invited pro-life leaders to present at a rally at the Lake County Courthouse this coming Sunday. They sent hundreds of emails and made calls to churches and members of the local pro-life community, asking them to join the event and walk around Waukegan’s new Planned Parenthood.
The afternoon of Friday’s national March for Life, Weber also drove to Aurora, Ill., with some students from her college to join a demonstration hosted by Students for Life chapters in the Chicago area.
Earlier that day, about a hundred Franciscan University of Steubenville students and people from the surrounding community bundled up for a similar demonstration, called a Life Chain. They lined University Boulevard in Steubenville, Ohio, on the sunny afternoon. Matt Murphy, the northern regional coordinator of Students for Life and a senior at Franciscan University, said his school usually reserves about eight buses to bring about 450 students to the March for Life in Washington. Most sign up at the last minute. This year, by the time March for Life moved the event online and the university canceled the trip, a couple of hundred students had already signed up. With the spare time, the pro-life students on campus organized the Life Chain.
Weber said she was disappointed that she couldn’t attend the march in person again this year, but she also sees an upside to the change in plans. “I feel like it is a blessing that we are able to focus on our local community,” she said on Friday morning. “Doing it a local level—that’s really, I think, the goal for everybody, you know. … You want to help the movement where you are.”
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