Hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates gathered Jan. 24 for the 47th March for Life in Washington, D.C., drawing inspiration from another hard-fought struggle for justice.
The theme of this year’s march — “Life Empowers: Pro- Life is Pro-Woman” — honored the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which established women’s right to vote, and challenged thinking that equates women’s rights with access to abortion.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, cited leaders of the suffragist movement such as Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, who referred to abortion as “the ultimate exploitation of women.”
“We remember and honor the early suffragists — those courageous female leaders who recognized both the inherent dignity of women and the unborn,” Mancini said at the pre-march rally on the National Mall. “We recognize, as the suffragists did, that a woman’s capacity to have a child is amazing and is inherent to who she is as a person — it’s not a liability, it’s a gift.”
Of particular significance, this year marked the first time in the March for Life’s nearly 50-year history that a U.S. president addressed the event in person.
“Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God,” said President Donald Trump, addressing the tens of thousands who were gathered on the Mall. “Together, we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life.”
The president also highlighted the centennial of the 19th Amendment: “Today, millions of extraordinary women across America are using the power of their votes to fight for … the right to life. To all the women here today: Your devotion and your leadership uplifts our entire nation, and we thank you.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who was in Rome to meet with Pope Francis, sent a message to marchers by video. Other speakers included Rep. Chris Smith from New Jersey; Elisa Martinez, founder of the New Mexico Alliance for Life and co-chair of Native Americans for Life; and Melissa Ohden, an abortion survivor and pro-life activist.
Louisiana State Sen. Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat, emphasized that abortion does not need to be a partisan issue.
“In Louisiana, the majority of Democrats who are elected are pro-lifers,” said Jackson, who helped write a law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The state law, which passed in 2014 but was blocked by a federal judge in 2017, will be considered by the Supreme Court this month.
“Every day that I walk into the state capitol, I am greeted by pro-lifers, regardless if they’re black, white, Republican, Democrat, male or female, because we know that in unity we must fight for life,” she said. “In unity we must fight like we’ve never fought before.”
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson made a similar argument in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published the day of the march. The most recent Marist poll commissioned by the Order shows that 70% of Americans support restricting abortion after the first three months of pregnancy — including 47% of those who identify as pro-choice.
“As the new poll shows, Democratic leaders are leaving their voters behind,” Supreme Knight Anderson wrote. “Abortion always has been a moral issue. It never should have become a partisan one. Now it deserves to become postpartisan.”
The supreme knight and other Supreme Officers joined numerous Knights and their families from around the country who attended the march. After the rally, the crowd of several hundred thousand — many carrying colorful K of C banners and waving “Love Life, Choose Life” signs — walked the march’s route up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building.
CECILIA HADLEY is senior editor of Columbia.
Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service
A RECENT SURVEY by the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Committee found that more than a half-million pregnant women receive assistance each year through a network of more than 2,700 pregnancy help centers. Many of these centers are supported by local Knights of Columbus councils; Knights donated $3.7 million to pregnancy support organizations and served more than 515,000 volunteer hours last year alone. Since 2009, the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative has provided more than 1,200 ultrasound machines nationwide.
This past fall, the U.S. bishops announced a special initiative to commemorate the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life): “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service.”
From March 25, 2020, to March 25, 2021, dioceses and parishes are invited to participate in this special year of service, which seeks to assess and expand resources to pregnant moms and families. Knights of Columbus councils are likewise encouraged to work with their pastors and parish pro-life coordinators to identify needs, and redouble their efforts to assist mothers and the unborn through Faith in Action Life programs.
Native Americans March for Life
HUNDREDS OF MEMBERS of Life is Sacred, a new Native American prolife group, traveled to Washington from around the country for the March for Life on Jan. 24.
Supreme Warden Graydon Nicholas of New Brunswick and Supreme Director Patrick Mason of New Mexico are both founding board members of the organization. Father Maurice Henry Sands, executive director of the Black and Indian Mission Office in Washington, D.C., serves as the group’s chaplain.
“As a native I am taught by my culture to stand for the most vulnerable,” said Mason, who is a member of the Osage Nation. “And as a Knight of Columbus, it is my solemn duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
The group’s pro-life advocacy is inspired, in part, by Native Americans’ experiences of injustice. Native and indigenous peoples did not have legal recognition as “persons” in the United States until 1924, explained board member Daniel Berg.
“Today the unborn are not recognized as persons under the laws of the United States, and every day they’re killed by the thousands,” said Berg, a member of the Navajo Nation. “So we stand to defend the lives of all peoples, born and unborn, in order to create a culture of love and a civilization of life.”
After the march, the Life is Sacred group visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, where Father Sands celebrated Mass. The pilgrims were welcomed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who last year announced a new K of C initiative to serve Native American communities in the United States and First Nation communities throughout Canada.
“Native Americans are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are so often forgotten by the culture at large,” the supreme knight said. “Together we march as people of faith, standing up for the rights of every human life.”
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