Thoughts on National March for Life 2017

I’m home again after a 45-hour trip to the March for Life in Washington, DC. Most of that time was spent on a bus, and God bless the driver who took us safely to and fro.

A few thoughts as I decompress from the journey:


The March skews young. This was my fifth or sixth trip to a national March for Life. Back in 1993 at my first one, the presence of thousands of high school and college students surprised me. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, high school and college students all but own the March. They show anyone who’s paying attention that the pro-life movement is not going away, and it’s broadening in scope at the grassroots level.

Students for Life banners outside U.S. Supreme Court at March for Life 2017. All photos by Ellen Kolb.

Member of Congress Mia Love of Utah owned the stage at the pre-March rally. That’s hard to do when you share a stage with Abby Johnson, Cardinal Dolan, and a Vice-President. Hands-down, she showed how it’s done. The rally went on way too long with too many speakers, running until half an hour after the scheduled start of the march, but I would happily have listened to Love all afternoon.

Watch her, and enjoy seven edifying minutes.

Save The 1 was highly visible along the march route, and New Hampshire’s Darlene Pawlik was right there. Think of the women of Save the 1 whenever you come across an abortion regulation with a rape-and-incest exception.

Darlene Pawlik and daughter Julie at March for Life 2017.

I did not make the trip intending to attend a Trump rally. The pre-March rally came dangerously close to being one anyway. I did not vote for now-President Trump. To be sure, I am gratified by his recent reinstatement of the Mexico City policy.  I was hugely entertained by his recent calling-out (or shaming, as AOL prefers to say) of media outlets that downplay the Marches year after year. So he has made one respectful gesture toward the conscience rights of pro-life Americans, and he has called for better March for Life coverage. Let’s say the President has dabbled one toe in a single aspect of pro-life policy. He has a lot to learn. I hope he realizes that.

That said, I was happy to see Vice-President Mike Pence speak at the pre-March rally. This was practically Old Home Day for him, since he has spoken at past Marches back when he was in humbler offices. His presence this year, as Vice-President, was momentous.

The Jumbotron view of the Pence family at the March for Life – as close as most Marchers could get.

About that: the announcement of his participation came only the day before the March, and I heard about it with my fellow passengers as our bus rolled down the New Jersey Turnpike. Two thoughts collided – hey! this is great! followed by omigosh, the security thing…! The March has never had to deal with Secret Service protocol before. It was an inconvenience, and it kept many people at a distance from the rally (see below). As it happened, the Secret Service agents at the station I went through on the morning of the rally were efficient, businesslike, and good-humored, kinda like they’re used to this sort of thing.


I’ve never been in the midst of a bigger crowd. There’s one stretch of the march route, going up Capitol Hill, where it’s possible for a marcher to see what’s ahead and behind. I could see only waves and waves of fellow marchers – no beginning or end in sight.

March for Life 2017: the view behind me as I approached Capitol Hill.

No photo or report of the rally size could possibly do justice to the size of the March itself. The Secret Service set up a security perimeter on part of the National Mall. No one could bring a backpack inside the perimeter. Keep in mind that marchers from around the country learned this while they were already enroute to DC. What do college students use to carry their gear for a full day? Yup – backpacks. Solution: stand just outside the perimeter fence in order to hear all the speakers at the rally. Cameras scanning the inside-perimeter crowd missed everyone outside.

The view ahead of me, March for Life 2017.

March organizers are apparently trying to make the pre-march rally as big a deal as the March itself. I suspected as much in 2016 when the rally was not shortened in spite of a blizzard warning. (I’m still shaking my head over that decision.) I will never buy into that shift in emphasis. With all due respect to this year’s eleven scheduled speakers, when I travel to Washington for the March for Life, it’s not to listen to speeches. Not eleven of them, at any rate.

I saw more press trucks and reporters than usual, although I don’t know how that played out on-air. Why the increase? I think Pence’s presence, Trump’s public references to poor coverage of earlier marches, and a journalistic desire to compare the March for Life with the “Women’s March” of the previous Saturday all played a role.

I’d say something about the New Hampshire Congressional delegation’s participation, if there had been any.

Three cheers for Bishop Libasci. I am a Catholic woman who traveled to the March with other New Hampshire Catholics. I was surprised and delighted that we were met at our bus departure point at 5:45 in the morning by the bishop himself, seeing us off with a smile and a prayer. I later learned that he had been in Bedford a half-hour earlier to see off another busload of March for Life pilgrims.

He didn’t have to do that. I’m glad he took the time.


 

One thought on “Thoughts on National March for Life 2017”

  1. Thank you, Ellen, for your coverage and report to those of us who were unable to attend this year. I was praying for all of you who did attend. I think it was an enormous boost that VP Pence spoke and attended especially as this wasn’t his first March for Life. I did, in the end vote for Trump because of Pence’s Pro-Life stance. I wan’t convinced how sincere Pres. Trump was but since he chose Pence as his VP I believed they would support life.

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