The temperature yesterday was roughly 15 degrees and the ground in Washington had about four inches of snow on it. Our nation’s capital is not known for its ability to handle weather scenarios like this one with aplomb. Yesterday was no different—most schools were closed and the federal government opened two hours late.
But that didn’t stop an eclectic groups of religious luminaries from huddling in a small plastic tent on the National Mall to keep warm. This is where I found myself marveling at Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Russell Moore, Rep. Chris Smith, Jeanne Monahan, Sen. Rick Santorum, and three Orthodox priests all trying to heat up while a evangelical Christian pop star played for a largely Roman Catholic audience.
What issue other than abortion could bring such an ecumenical group of folks together in frigid weather?
This was where the 41st annual March for Life found itself: cold, wet, and as passionate as ever. The march was started in the wake of Roe v. Wade and has become the world’s largest pro-life event. It was incredibly well-organized. If there is one thing this Protestant has to hand to the Roman Catholic Church, it is its ability to organize on a large scale. That’s the benefit of established hierarchies I suppose. I was impressed. And there was only one tri-corner hat so liberals won’t even be able to call the crowd crazy tea partiers.
There were reports that the snowfall and cold weather caused the cancellations of some tour buses and certainly created delays for those flying into Washington. While an official count has not been released, attendees of the march still numbered in the thousands. Organizers have reported a range of 200-400,000 attendees in the past. To this reporter’s eyes it certainly seemed smaller than 100,000 and more likely in the tens of thousands, which is remarkable in the face of so many obstacles, including 3,000 flight cancellations on Monday.
The youthfulness of the audience was perhaps the most noticeable feature of the March. This was due in part to various Catholic colleges and high schools shipping in their students for the day. But the March for Life is also shifting to embrace the younger generations. Patrick Kelly, the chairman of the board of March for Life, went on for quite some time about the March’s new presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Nevertheless, thousands of under-30s marched, yelled, and waved signs decrying the abortions of millions of their generation. Even the most jaded of pro-life advocates had to feel a glimmer of hope watching that.
There was, of course, the predictable counter-protest from pro-choice advocates. They met the marchers at the steps of the Supreme Court. Even though there were also about 20 of them, I am quite sure that some media outlets will paint a picture of pro-choice strength. That very day the Washington Post published a largely negative profile of two pro-life advocates. The headline declared them “anti-abortion” instead of pro-life, but don’t blame the Washington Post; this titling has come from no less an infallible source than the AP Style Guide.
However, civility reigned at the March and there was barely a confrontation. It’s hard for thousands of people to notice 20.
Conservative politicians were there in force. Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Chris Smith both addressed the crowd. Cantor focused on the House’s efforts to fight abortion, specifically citing the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. On a side note, a friend I was with mentioned that Cantor’s wife is fervently pro-choice. I imagine the couch will become quite familiar to Mr. Cantor this week. Smith, who has been fighting abortion and human rights abuses in China for decades, gave the more stirring remarks. Both of them criticized the Senate for not passing pro-life measures—the implication being that if the GOP wins back the Senate, such legislation will cross the president’s desk. Bills of that nature would be dead on arrival, but perhaps 2016 will change that.
Speaking of 2016, the absence of any supposed GOP contender for the presidential nomination was conspicuous. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio were not present at the March, but rather in their home states because the Senate was not in session. Paul and Cruz both issued strong statements of support for the March. In previous years, politicians joined by satellite, but the March did away with that feature this year. Rubio was in the Philippines touring storm damage.
Perhaps that doesn’t matter. If this generation continues to fight for life maybe they can do what their parents never could: Stop genocide.