Advancing through snow and bitterly cold, hundreds of thousands of Americans protested on the anniversary of the Supreme Court case that made abortion legal in this country since 1973, when the Court ruled on a vote of 7-2 that the Constitution implied the right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment protected a woman's choice to abort the pregnancy; but also recognizing the competitive duty to protect the woman by regulating the practice of abortion, and to protect the fetus to some extent by limiting that practice to the third trimester of the pregnancy.
Rather than to stress the element of judgment in this very controversial issue, the organizers seemed to take a cue from Pope Francis himself, emphasizing that the root concern is the value of every life. The demonstrators carried banners proclaiming “We are the pro-life generation” and hundreds carried images of a smiling Pope Francis.
Although a a majority of the participants in recent years have been young – high school students from schools and youth groups from parishes along the Atlantic coast, and students from Catholic universities – an effort was made to minimize both religious denomination aspects of the event as well as minimizing any leaning toward political affiliation.
Highlighting the ecumenical character of this year's event was the participation, from the podium, of the evangelical author and psychologist James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, who appeared with his adopted son Ryan, who is also a strong pro-life advocate and public speaker for issues relating to children and the family. Ryan Dobson spoke from the podium, as well, about his own experience as an adopted child. Also speaking about her own experience as an adopted child was Molly Anne Dutton, recently elected as Auburn University's 100th homecoming queen, who spoke very movingly about having been the child of a Mother who was the victim of a sexual assault, and who sacrificed her marriage to chose life, even in those circumstances, giving her child up for adoption rather than to terminate the pregnancy.
The founder of Latina Por la Vida, Giovanna Romero demonstrated a natural gift for public speaking in a very passionate pro-life address that stirred the audience even as the dangerously cold temperatures tested the mettle of even a young audience of protesters.
This was the 41st annual March for Life, which had been organized since the outset by a woman named Nellie Gray, who died in August of 2012 at the age of 88. A Roman Catholic convert, Ms. Gray served as a corporal in the U.S. Army in World War II and worked in the State Department while attending Georgetown University Law School; eventually coming to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. On her death, Sean Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston referred to Nellie Gray as “the Joan of Arc of the Gospel of life.”
In a story for NPR, entitled "Hundreds Gather For Annnual Mass Of The Unborn," Michell Elroy reports:
"As lawmakers and anti-abortion activists gathered at the state capitol to rally for abortion restrictions, others joined local catholic clergy at a mass at Buckhead’s Cathedral of Christ the King for the annual Mass of the Unborn.
Atlanta Archdiocese Archbishop Wilton Gregory presided over the service, which commemorated the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision.
“It’s a day of bitter reflection at the impact that that Supreme Court decision has made over all our land and the more than 56 million lives that we have lost through abortion,” Gregory said."
The current President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund is Jeanne Monahan, formerly associated with Health & Human Services and expert on issues relating to 'human dignity' for the Family Research Council.
In a Washington Post article “Antiabortion March for Life gets a new head and, perhaps, a new focus,”at the time of Monahan's appointment to this position in 2013, Michelle Boorstein writes:
“The march brings everyone out, including those with strong opinions. You do see visual images of abortions, which is graphic — that’s not an approach I agree with, but people have a right,” she said in an interview this week. “Our march shows the joy and zeal of normal, pro-life Americans.
“Being pro-life is the new normal.”
Yet Monahan knows her movement is dealing with a complex picture — as do those who support abortion rights. Planned Parenthood recently announced it was moving away from the “pro-choice” label, hoping instead to highlight that each woman has a unique situation that can’t be prejudged.
At the same time, the antiabortion movement has sought to emphasize choice by funding and highlighting Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which seek to support women who don’t want to be pregnant so they don’t have an abortion.”
In a workshop for the March that took place on Jan. 16, earlier in the week for antiabortion bloggers at the Family Research Council, in which former Republican presidential candidate and former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum explained that the vision of the anti-abortion movement is moving its focus from an accusatory position of judgment to a message that being pro-life is essentially a message of love, transitioning to demonstrate more of “love, not of judgment.”
The Walk for Life West Coast – an annual pro-life event also demonstrating against abortion – will take place on Saturday, January 25, 2014.