In January, there were three events on the mall in Washington, D.C. The first was the second inaugural of President Barack Obama, which had a crowd of 800,000, according to news reports. The third event was a rally in support of gun control, which had fewer than 1,000 people. 

The second rally was the annual March for Life marking the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision allowing abortion on demand. Here is how the Washington Post reported its size: “Police no longer estimate crowd size, so it is difficult to judge how many people attended. The march permit was for 50,000 people, though organizers said the attendance was several times that number.” Once again, reporting skills break down when it comes to the March for Life. 

The media may not be able to count the number of pro-life demonstrators, but the nation has been able to count on the pro-life movement for four decades.

Yet the March for Life is something to celebrate. For 40 years, in the coldest month of the year, many more than 100,000 people — perhaps as many as 400,000 — have braved the elements to protest abortion in our nation’s capital. Even the secular media acknowledged this year that the crowd was full of young people. 

Over four decades, the crowds have grown bigger and more diverse, and a new generation of activists is being formed.  

So, think for a moment if the pro-life movement had never existed:  

Instead of 55 million dead, the toll would likely be in the hundreds of millions, for there would be no alternatives to help scared young women save their babies.  

There would be even more psychological damage to women, to men, to siblings touched by abortion. No movements like Project Rachel would help heal the wreckage caused by the killing of the unborn child.  

Babies who were near term would be aborted without restrictions, because the partial-birth abortion ban would never have been passed. 

We would all be complicit in paying for abortions through federal tax dollars, because there would have been no Hyde Amendment, no restrictions on federal funding of abortions. 

Hundreds of state restrictions on abortion would not exist because there would have been no movement to push for such restrictions, no organization like Americans United for Life to provide the legal muscle to write such laws, no local organizations to help get such laws passed, no Planned Parenthood v. Casey to help them pass constitutional muster. 

There would be no laws protecting a parent’s rights when a teenager seeks an abortion, no laws promoting alternatives to abortion, no laws requiring that abortion clinics be held to high medical standards. There would be no laws protecting the aborted child who survives the abortion. There would be no restrictions on abortion pills that put the mother at great risk. 

Without the opposition to abortion, medical schools may have prepared far more doctors to perform abortions, because there would be no taboo against this practice. 

If there had been no pro-life movement, the great insights of the Catholic Church regarding human dignity for the weakest and most defenseless from conception to natural death might have gone unheard, and the dots would never have been connected between abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. 

The media may not be able to count the number of pro-life demonstrators, but the nation has been able to count on the pro-life movement for more than 40 years. 

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor