US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The March for Life gets a makeover

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

I've only attended the March for Life in Washington once, and I have to admit, it was rather underwhelming. Yes, the crowds were impressive, with tens of thousands of people filling the streets. There were a noticably large number of young people in attendance. And everyone was united in support of the church's teaching on the dignity of human life. But there was clearly something missing.

I saw crowds chanting anti-abortion slogans, even people singing songs they'd made up. Everyone had their signs or banners about being pro-life and representing a particular diocese, parish, school, or religious order. Lots of people were posing for photos with their groups. But attending the march as a journalist, I spent the day working my way through the crowds and talking to people about their reasons for attending, only to find that there wasn't really a clear mission among the masses.

Some people just said, "I come every year," as if it were tradition, not activism, that brought them to the march. Many of those young people were proud to say they were pro-life, but just as quick to note how cool it was to take a bus trip with their friends and get a day off from school. Most attendees were clear on their opposition to Roe v. Wade and the fact that they are anti-abortion, but had a hard time answering the question of what they hoped to accomplish.

Were they in favor of a specific piece of legislation that might turn the tide on abortion? Looking to stop access to abortion only, or also interested in finding ways to reduce unplanned pregnancy and decrease the demand for abortion as well? Hoping for more education on the dangers of abortion and how it might hurt women later in life? Pushing for the Supreme Court to hear a particular case that would open the door for a reversal of Roe? No one was quite sure, and none of these approaches were mentioned by a single person I interviewed that day.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who noticed that the march was missing something. According to a story by Daniel Burke of CNN, new March for Life president Jeanne Monahan is giving the annual event a complete overhaul. Instead of just focusing on the Roe decision, the march this year is adding an emphasis on adoption advocacy as an alternative to abortion. They've got a bigger budget and a new, much improved website. And all those young people who come to the march? They are being given new opportunities for year-round activism on the issue of abortion, a chance to do something much more meaningful than take a bus trip--and something with a lot more potential for actual change.

I think this shot in the arm is just what the March for Life needed. I believe that a lot of the people who attend each year have strong convictions, but they weren't sure how to focus them. And after 40 years of marching against abortion with no real results, it is hard to blame people for losing hope. Perhaps giving the event a facelift--and giving marchers some serious goals to work toward--will help to further their cause and bring about new discussions on the issue of abortion.

Image: Flickr photo of the 2006 March for Life cc by Elvert Barnes