Reflecting on the March for Life
by Elizabeth Owers | University of Notre Dame
This weekend, I traveled with several hundred other students from the University of Notre Dame to the National March for Life in Washington, D.C. The March is held every year around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States. This was my third time attending the March, so I knew what to expect as far as what would happen and what we would see. Yet every time I feel that I gain something new from the experience, and this year was no different.
I have been involved with the pro-life movement since high school, and I took my first trip to the March as a junior. That year I gained an appreciation for the role of youth in the movement. A large percentage of the 200,000 attendees are teenagers and young adults attending with school, church, or regional groups. It is clear that people are excited to be there and to stand up for their beliefs on a national stage. For many, it is their first foray into political activism and an example of how, despite their age, they can be instruments of change. A speaker at a youth rally I once attended told the crowd, “You are not the Church of the future, you are the young Church of today, and you have a role to play in charting its course.” I believe the same can be said for politics; whatever the issue, it is important for young people to actively support the causes they believe in.
This year, I went to the March after having taken several theology classes that examined the importance of a consistent ethic of life, from conception until natural death. For many people, myself included, abortion is such an emotional, moral, and political issue that the pro-life movement is essentially reduced to the anti-abortion movement. This tendency is especially prevalent among high school students who know that abortion is wrong and that all life should be respected, but who may not have discussed other related topics, such as the death penalty, which are not necessarily as cut-and-dry.
At the March, most of the banners and signs had slogans such as “Defund Planned Parenthood,” “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” and others that emphasized opposition to abortion. There were only a few references to any other life issues, although I was pleased to hear one of the congressional representatives speak about opposition to euthanasia and the death penalty as part of his pro-life values. Despite its somewhat narrow focus, the March was again a wonderful experience, and I returned with a renewed enthusiasm for the ideals it espoused.
Moving forward, I would like to see the pro-life movement broaden its efforts beyond just ending abortion. While that is certainly a critical goal and one that I am very passionate about, it is also important to consider the other principles involved in respecting life. For instance, I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center this summer and learned, among other things, the importance of compassion and respect for women considering an abortion, as well as the necessity of providing them with alternative solutions. In addition, I think respectful dialogue between those with opposing viewpoints is essential before any progress can be made, especially heading into the presidential election.
“Respect for life” is often a vague phrase, and its various interpretations have divided the country for years. It will likely be many years before all of the movement’s goals are realized, but after witnessing so much passion and enthusiasm at the National March for Life, I am confident that a new generation is capable of standing strong for their beliefs.