March for Life Chicago: Learn about the Midwest’s ‘largest pro-life event’

March for Life Pro-life poster | Shutterstock

March for Life Chicago — which calls itself “the largest pro-life event in the Midwest” — is expecting more than 10,000 pro-life Americans at its 2022 march in downtown Chicago on Jan. 8.

The Midwest march is newer than the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., that challenges abortion each year around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The D.C. March for Life began in 1974; the Chicago March for Life started in 2013, after the late Cardinal Francis George, then-archbishop of Chicago, united local pro-life organizations.

The march’s purpose is to “provide an annual public event composed of people from diverse ethnic, social, and religious backgrounds dedicated to defending and protecting all human life.”

One-hundred-fifty people attended the 2013 march. Just seven years later, in 2020, it attracted 9,000 marchers. 

Why is there a pro-life march in Chicago?

On the organization’s website, March for Life Chicago stresses the importance of holding a pro-life march in Illinois, and, in particular, Chicago.

“In 2019, Illinois performed 46,517 abortions, a 10% increase over the prior year,” March for Life Chicago says, citing cnumbers highlighted by the Chicago Tribune in 2021. Of those, 7,534 abortions were obtained by women from out-of-state, the organization states.

March for Life Chicago worries that the growth of out-of-state abortions will continue.

“Illinois’ permissive abortion laws means that the abortion industry targets people in Illinois and in neighboring states to come to Illinois,” March for Life Chicago cautions. “New abortion clinics are opening near state borders to draw residents of other states in, such as Waukegan (next to WI) and Fairview Heights (next to MO).”

Chicago, in particular, has high abortion numbers. Cook County, which encompasses Chicago, reported 23,189 abortions in 2018. That is more abortions total than in Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri combined for 2019.

While March for Life Chicago identifies as a grassroots organization run by weDignify, a pro-life college mentorship program, it has collaborated with the national March for Life, such as when it invited President Jeanne Mancini to speak in 2019. 

What makes the march important in 2022?

This year, March for Life Chicago is challenging the repeal of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act in Illinois. The repeal does away with a law passed in 1995 that requires abortion providers to notify the parent or guardian of a minor seeking an abortion at least 48 hours before performing the abortion. The repeal goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

“The Illinois abortion industry and their friends in the legislature are working to make Illinois the ‘abortion capital of the Midwest,’” March for Life Chicago Director Kevin Grillot told CNA. “Most recently, Parental Notification was repealed, which has dire implications not only for Illinois, but also in neighboring states.”

March for Life Chicago points to polling that found that 72% of Illinois voters support parental notification for minor girls seeking abortion. According to Grillot, March for Life Chicago plans to take action.

“During the past 24 months the March for Life Chicago network has tripled, and a new life advocacy mobilization program is set to be unveiled at the Midwest’s largest pro-life gathering,” he said of the Jan. 8 event. “While the llinois abortion lobby and legislators promote abortion and further separate parents from their children, pro-lifers from across the Midwest are uniting to march in Chicago to Save Midwestern Lives.”

When and where is the Chicago march?

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The outdoor rally on Jan. 8 begins at 1 p.m. at Federal Plaza (50 W. Adams) in downtown Chicago. Immediately following the rally, marchers will walk 1.2 miles to the Hilton hotel (720 S. Michigan Ave.), where the March for Life Chicago convention is located.

The convention doors open at 8 a.m. on Jan. 8. The convention includes a youth rally by the Archdiocese of Chicago, educational sessions, a Catholic Mass for Life, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prayer event, and a banquet and cocktail hour featuring Catholic guests such as Bishops Mark Bartosic and Joseph Perry of the Archdiocese of Chicago. There will also be a diaper drive.

Who is speaking at the march rally?

Nine rally speakers are listed online: Republican Rep. Avery Bourne of Illinois; Kelly Dore, founder of the National Human Trafficking Survivor Coalition and director of Sierra Cares Foundation; Pastor Chris Butler, senior pastor of Chicago Embassy Church and executive leader of the AND Campaign; Sister Alicia Torres of the Franciscans of the Eucharist in Chicago; Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago; Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Dante Bucci, weDignify student leader and senior at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Kevin Grillot, executive director of weDignify, which oversees the March for Life Chicago, and a client from Aid for Women, a Chicago-based pregnancy resource network. 

Does COVID-19 impact the march?

March for Life Chicago is “the first large group to obtain a permit for Federal Plaza since the pandemic began,” the organization says. Last year, during the pandemic, March for Life Chicago hit the road and hosted car rallies and processions in cities across the Midwest in a “Moving the Movement Tour.” 

This year, according to March for Life Chicago, Illinois’ current mask mandate does not apply to outdoor events. Chicago’s proof of vaccination order also does not apply to the rally or march. However, the City of Chicago Departments of Public Health recommends marchers wear masks “whenever social distancing cannot be maintained.”

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