As hundreds of thousands of pro-life Americans prepare for the annual March for Life, organizers of the event are already making plans to enhance their impact long after it concludes.
While many people associate the March for Life Education and Defense Fund with the massive pro-life event it holds each year in Washington, D.C., President Jeanne Monahan told CNA that the group's “plan and our hope is to be more of a year-round organization.”
This involves increased educational and political efforts, cooperation with other pro-life groups and work to expand the yearly march in D.C. through the use of technology.
Now in its 41st year, the annual March for Life is held as a demonstration against the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, in which the Supreme Court mandated legal abortion throughout the country.
Generally held on or near the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the march runs from the National Mall to the Supreme Court. Last year, it was estimated to have drawn more than half a million participants.
Monahan described the march and preceding rally as an opportunity to witness to the 56 million individual persons whose lives have been cut short through legal abortion.
As in past years, speakers at the 2014 rally will include pro-life leaders from the religious, political and cultural realms.
Also speaking will be Molly Anne Dutton, who made headlines last fall when she became Miss Homecoming at Auburn University by sharing her story of being conceived in rape and given a chance at life by her mother, with the help of an adoption agency.
Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will offer an invocation prayer during the rally, and Grammy-nominated musician Matt Maher will lead the crowd in prayerful music.
As is usual for the March for Life, Monahan said, the majority of participants are expected to be young people, and the event will be marked by a “joyful, respectful and enthusiastic spirit.”
New to this year's march, however, attendees will see “an increase in social media and technology.”
This change springs out of the organization's growth in the past year, including the addition of a new employee dedicated to “putting up our digital media strategy.” This has allowed the March for Life's online presence to be “widely, widely expanded,” Monahan explained, adding that the organization introduced a new logo in late 2013.
As the organization continues to grow and expand – doubling its number of full-time staff members and moving into new office space in downtown Washington, D.C. – Monahan hopes to cooperate with other pro-life groups.
“One of the things we're trying to do is not recreate the wheel,” she said, explaining that there are already “so many tremendous resources out there building a culture of life.” The March for Life hopes to “point towards great resources” that are already being provided by other pro-life organizations.
This year, the March for Life will focus on the theme of adoption.
“Annually there are 1.21 million abortions in our country and there are only 18-20,000 infant adoptions every year,” Monahan said, explaining that the group will work in the coming year to focus on encouraging women in difficult situations to choose adoption and give their child the gift of life.
Outreach to a variety of religious denominations and those of no religion at all will also be a part of the coming months.
In addition, emphasis will be placed on education through public speaking and web seminars, as well as staying in touch with activists around the country, helping equip those who attend the annual march so that they can return to their local communities and make a difference.
The organization is also hoping to delve into political matters with a new March for Life Action Fund that will be able to “give a voice” to pro-life activists on Capitol Hill. In addition to holding briefings on topics such as adoption, the action fund will aim to assist pro-life lawmakers in promoting measures that protect both women and unborn children.
Monahan characterized the past year as “really exciting” in terms of “common sense” laws passed at the state level.
She pointed to the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell as an opportunity for the nation to have “light shed on what is happening in abortion clinic.”
Gosnell was convicted in May 2013 of first-degree murder for killing babies born alive from his abortion procedures. Investigations into his clinic found unsanitary conditions, filthy equipment and poor health protocol.
As Americans realized that many abortion clinics are currently “held to beauty parlor standards” for health and safety, Monahan said, it became a “no-brainer” to pass legislation such as the clinic regulations and late-term abortion ban passed in Texas last year.
“We ardently support those late-term abortion bans, because it's just common sense,” she stressed, observing that such legislation has the support of “a broad majority of Americans” and adding, “There's no reason not to support it.”
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have also had a “whole lot of influence” in spreading the pro-life message, she observed.
“Those moments where we are able to go inside an abortion clinic and really see what's happening...that's changed public opinion significantly, and can have a huge impact on legislation.”