Tens of thousands of pro-life Americans gathered Friday to participate in the 49th annual March for Life, amid rising hopes that the event’s goal of overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide may be within reach.
The march is timed in observance of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, on Jan. 22, 1973.
“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, the event’s organizer, told participants who gathered at a pre-march rally and concert on the National Law.
“Roe is not settled law,” she said.
This year’s event is taking place as the nation awaits the high court’s ruling in a pivotal Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. At issue is the constitutionality of the state’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of gestation — a direct challenge of Roe’s prohibition on state laws restricting access to abortion before fetal “viability,” judged to be between 24 to 28 weeks of gestation. If Roe and the related decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey were overturned, the regulation of abortion would return to democratically elected state legislatures, many of which are poised to enact major abortion restrictions.
"There's a reason we're here. And the reasons have principles," Schmitz said in an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly prior to his speech. "The Church introduced to the world 2,000 years ago this truth that every human being matters, that every life matters … every person here matters."
Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, continued on that same theme in his speech.
"I think we're here because abortion, what it's done is broken our hearts. And I know so many people here, you're standing here because you know the dignity of human life. And so many people are among us because this story is part of your story, because you found yourself at one point in a place where it seemed like life was impossible choice," he said.
"And so I know that we're surrounded by men and women who have chosen abortion. Listen, you need to know you're supposed to be here. You matter, you belong here. No matter what your past is, you are still loved. You need to know this. You are still loved and you still matter." You can watch Shaw's speech in the video below.
The march itself got underway at about 1:30 p.m. EST, proceeding from the Mall up Constitution Avenue, culminating in front of the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Prior to the march, a scattered group of early arrivals gradually swelled to a large crowd of tens of thousands of people over the course of a sunny but cold morning, with temperatures in the 20s.
Mary St. Hilaire, 21, of Wichita, Kansas, and Kristina Massa, 22, of Lincoln, Nebraska, attended the march with a group called Justice For All, which trains people to have “productive” conversations about the right to life.
“I’m pro-life because I think that life begins at conception, that there's a new, unique individual human being from the moment of conception,” St. Hilaire told CNA. “And I think that killing that human being is a grave injustice, that they're equal to you and I, and that they deserve the same right to life. And I also think that abortion harms women, and women deserve better.”
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the pro-life movement cannot afford to become “complacent,” regardless of the outcome of Dobbs.
“The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is a response of love for both mothers and their children in the womb. The Church’s teaching proclaims a message of life, reminding us that every life is a sacred gift from God from the moment of conception until natural death,” Lori said in a statement.
“We cannot build a truly just society and remain complacent when faced with the massive impact of Roe v. Wade, which has taken over 60 million lives since 1973. May we pray, fast, and work for the day when the gift of every human life is protected in law and welcomed in love,” he added.
Former Washington, D. C., correspondent Katie Yoder covered pro-life issues, the U.S. Catholic bishops, public policy, and Congress for Catholic News Agency. She previously worked for Townhall.com, National Review, and the Media Research Center.
Christine Rousselle is a former DC Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. Prior to working at CNA, she was the managing web editor of Townhall.com; she has a BA in political science from Providence College.
Shannon Mullen is the Editor-in-Chief of CNA. He previously worked as a features writer, investigative reporter, and editor with the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press. He has received numerous national reporting awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
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Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, responded strongly Friday to an activist group's projection of pro-choice messages on the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Thursday night, the eve of the annual March for Life.
Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates are expected to gather at the National Mall in Washington later today for the annual March for Life. The march will kick off with a noon rally featuring speakers including the host of the “Bible in a Year” podcast, Fr. Mike Schmitz. Here are seven things to know about the priest.