A reported record-breaking number of pro-life Americans converged upon Washington, D.C., for the 2013 March for Life on Jan. 25.
Record crowds were anticipated due to both the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the August 2012 death of March for Life founder Nellie Gray.
While 2013 numbers were not available at press time, various estimates have come in at more than 500,000, and march organizers stated that hotel rooms reserved in the downtown Washington area had sold out a month in advance for the first time.
March for Life Education and Defense Fund President Jeanne Monahan is overseeing an update to the organization’s outreach to young people in the pro-life movement.
Along with increased focus on frontline pro-life perspective at the rally, new technology was incorporated in executing the march. Its website was updated before this year’s event, and social media was employed more fully overall.
On foot and on Facebook
Tedra Bush, 17, from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish youth group in Cincinnati, was among the youths at the March, most of whom were born after the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions.
This was her third consecutive march.
“I’m pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong,” Bush said.
Bush’s mother placed a child for adoption when she was 16, and Bush has a friend whose parents supported their other daughter in choosing life when she became pregnant at 16.
“It just goes to show there are more options than abortion,” said Bush. “Abortion is the murder of a life.”
Bush sees the pro-life movement as growing, though she said more needs to be done.
“There definitely needs to be more progress made,” Bush said. “And that happens through speaking out and prayer. And that’s why I’m here.”
Bush told Our Sunday Visitor she uses social media to stand up for life and has engaged in debates on Facebook as well as in person.
“Every time I hear someone talk about being pro-choice, I voice my opinion, and I give them what I’ve learned being Catholic,” she said.
“I hear the argument that if it’s rape it’s OK. Well, the child might have to live with that, but at least they’re living,” Bush said.
Joseph Faulkner, 16, took part in the March for Life for the second time with Father Ryan High School in Nashville, Tenn.
“I came to stand up for those who don’t have life and to protect life,” he said.
Legalized abortion and its implications for his generation are not lost on Faulkner.
“My parents made the decision to choose life, and I’m thankful for that,” he said. “I hope that other parents choose life.”
Faulkner hopes that one day Roe v. Wade will be overturned, and participation in the March is something he feels is integral in the process.
“I think it’s a great thing to be doing,” said Faulkner. “It really shows how united our faith is, to see all these people from all around the country to support one cause.”
Faulkner has prayed at a local abortion facility in the Nashville area, and he is certain that having youths praying at abortion sites helps in effecting change.
“I really think with a young presence, they’ll change their mind,” he said.
Faulkner has also learned that such experiences have an effect on those praying as well.
Tim Seavey is a seminarian for the Diocese of Phoenix and studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He took part in the March for Life along with his fellow seminarians. It was his second pilgrimage to the March.
“I’m here as a young man who feels that this society needs a countercultural voice, especially from young men,” Seavey told OSV.
“I’m here as a seminarian, standing up for the faith,” he added. “And to the evil of abortion.”Being raised in a Catholic family, Seavey said he’d always known abortion was wrong, but it wasn’t until he was in high school that he really grasped the legal aspect and its social implications. It was then he said he learned how important it was that our country makes laws that correspond with the country’s morals and how damaging legalizing something immoral can be.
“Oftentimes people think that because it’s legal, it’s right,” Seavey said.
He recalled Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s homily at the opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life on Jan. 24.
“He said after 40 years in the desert, it’s time to enter the Promised Land,” Seavey said, noting the tie with the significance of the number in the Bible and the years of legalized abortion in the United States. “It’s time to return to a culture of life. In the life of Christ, and in a sound moral society.”
Melissa Smith, 17, from the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., was on the March for Life for a second time. The first time she came was as a fifth-grader.
“I definitely see it increasing,” Smith said of the youth involvement in the pro-life movement. “I hope to see that more people get motivated by the march and come to it. It really changes people to see this many people standing up.”
Smith does have the opportunity to engage friends who do not share her view on life. She said some friends really don’t care for her position, but it does not deter her.
“If you don’t stand up for life, who will?” she said. “I try to tell them, you can’t just kill a baby.”
“I think people everywhere my age should just be grateful they were born,” said Smith. “What about all the babies who don’t get a chance? So just be grateful.”
Sara Specht, 19, of Sacred Heart Parish in Annawan, Ill., experienced her first March for Life this year.
“This was a once in-a-lifetime chance,” Specht said.
Specht has become familiar with the pro-life movement watching her mother, Carla, participate in Days for Life and praying at the abortion facility about an hour from their home, something she finds powerful.
“Oh yeah, it’d be nice if I didn’t have to go,” said Specht, referring to the need to pray for an end to abortion.
Being with the many other young people at the March was another moving event for her.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “I didn’t know how many people would be at the March, and the many young people.”
“It was like people just kept coming and coming, which was cool, and everybody was positive, full of energy, even though it was freezing.”
Specht hopes to bring some friends to next year’s march.
She does stand up when given the opportunity with those who don’t agree with her on life.
“I’ll try to talk to them when the subject comes up,” she said. “Sometimes it ends in a feud.”
“I don’t back down just because somebody doesn’t agree,” said Specht. “It’s what I believe in. Hopefully, our marching will wake some people up.”
Consistent life ethic
Duy Huynh, 28, theology teacher and moderator of the Students for Life group at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, can attest to the pro-life movement trending toward more and more youth involvement.
This year’s march was his ninth, five as a student pilgrim and the last four in the role of mentor for his students. He took 54 young people, an increase of about 25 percent over each of the last three years.
“I see it growing at Dowling Catholic, as well as nationally,” Huynh told OSV. “I think the day will come when Roe v. Wade will end up being overturned.”
With technology, Huynh said, we can put a face on the child in the womb, negating the denial of its humanity.
“Once you’re able to see it, you can’t put it out of your mind,” said Huynh.
Recognizing human dignity in all life is necessary, Huynh told OSV.
“It’s what we call the consistent ethic of life,” Huynh said. “I have to live that out as well.”
This is accomplished by being Christ to others, he said, which is what changes hearts.
Lisa Bourne writes from Iowa.