They were touring the Capitol, enjoying the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, pushing strollers around the monuments, singing, and holding yellow balloons in mitten-clad hands. They were everywhere. They were March for Life participants, visiting Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision to protest the legalization of abortion--and they are getting younger and more vocal each year.
“There’s been a significant paradigm shift in the country,” said Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), a speaker at the rally preceding Monday’s march. “This is the pro-life generation.”
Many marchers were teenagers and students, coming in on overnight buses to the March for Life. At least 16 colleges in Illinois, for instance, sent students, with 110 coming from the University of Illinois alone.
The most noticeable group at the March for Life came from the Chicago Catholic church St. John Cantius. Their high school youth group, “Crusaders for Life,” wore bright yellow hooded sweatshirts, held yellow balloons emblazoned with the word “Life,” and engaged the crowd with a constant stream of chants and songs. “We love babies, yes we do! We love babies, how ‘bout you?”
Brother Chad McCoy, a Catholic monk who works at St. John Cantius Church, helped coordinate and lead the group of nearly 250.
“Some people have very different ideas about how the March for Life should be conducted, and I respect those ideas,” he said. “We don’t want to be perceived as being out there partying.”
McCoy’s group seeks to channel the students’ youthful enthusiasm toward a greater cause.
“Our goal is really to reach out to the young people,” he said. “Young people are drawn to a cause that is fun, energetic, and joyful.” And because of the movement's idealism.
“Young people want to be heroes,” he said, “they want to be warriors. As we get older, we get jaded and say, ‘It doesn’t make a difference.’ But young people don’t care about the difference it isn’t making. They care about the difference it is making.”
Marchers traveled from all over the United States--and across the world. University students Jessica and Lauren Langrell, from Sydney, Australia, led a group of 18 “Aussies for Life.”
Georgetown University hosted its annual “Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life” on Sunday for the many college groups traveling to the March.
Students Claire Levis and Rachel Jankowski, juniors at the University of Michigan, had a special reason for attending the conference. Their organization, “University of Michigan Students for Life,” won the Father Thomas King Award for outstanding collegiate pro-life group of 2012.
“This is ultimately about saving lives,” Levis said, and about helping women who face unplanned pregnancies. “We need to be there to support them.” Her campus group recently began a “Pregnant on Campus” initiative to help college students considering abortions.
Jankowski said, “53 million babies have died. If we don’t stop it, who will?”
William Saunders, of Americans United for Life, has been an outspoken and active abortion opponent for years, but he was not always an advocate. Witnessing the March for Life in the early 1990s inspired his dedication.
“The witness at the March for Life played an important role in my conversion to the pro-life view,” Saunders said, adding that he was never pro-choice but rather was not as actively pro-life. “I had heard the stereotypes of old, angry people, but they were young, happy people. It was a powerful thing to see.”