Tens of thousands participated in the annual March for Life in Washington on Thursday, commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
The march’s images have become familiar over the years: habited monks and nuns, large groups of high school and college students in matching hats and scarves, and representatives of every imaginable religious tradition, from Mormons to Orthodox Jews. But this year, the shadow of unexpected news from congressional Republicans loomed as the protesters gathered just blocks away from the Capitol building.
Late on Wednesday, Republican leaders canceled a vote on a House bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of gestation (with an exception for rape). The unwelcome move came after objections from several Republican congresswomen, including members who had voted for an identical bill in 2013.
“It’s a real shame,” said 21-year-old Kathryn Brown, a senior at Kansas’s Benedictine University, in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I’d hoped that the newly-elected Congress would protect life from conception.”
Behind her, members of the Benedictine Drum Corps, who had spent 24 hours traveling to Washington, performed infectious beats to raise protesters’ spirits.
Asked about the pro-life movement’s best strategy to succeed, Brown said that her allies need to “get out of our pro-life bubble” and speak convincingly to those around them, emphasizing that “we sympathize with mothers, but children shouldn’t pay for the sins of their fathers.”
Likewise, in Wednesday’s vigil mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that abortion’s opponents “must work tirelessly to change the unjust laws, but we must work even harder to change hearts, to build a civilization of love.”
In the onstage rally before the march, organizer Jeanne Monahan highlighted the event’s annual theme, “Life is a Gift,” saying that just as each unborn child is a gift, each protester and activist also has potential to be a gift to others. Other speakers included Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Republican Sen. Tim Scott, and an ultrasound technician and a pregnancy shelter director, who described the services they perform in offering alternatives to abortion.
As the protesters left the National Mall and marched down Constitution Avenue toward the Supreme Court, spirited high schoolers led chants including “We love babies, yes we do! We love babies, how about you?” and “Hey! Obama! Your mama chose life!”
Waiting for them on the steps of the Supreme Court were middle-aged pro-abortion protesters from StopPatriarchy and the National Organization for Women, chanting the slogan “Abortion on demand and without apology!”
Walking past them, the students replied more loudly and vehemently, “We! Are! The pro-life generation!”
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