WASHINGTON (BP) – People from across the nation and around world rallied on Friday at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life prior to the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that legalized abortion on demand across the nation.
A majority of participants appeared to be teenagers and young adults who said they recognize the impact that the 1973 Roe v Wade decision has had on their generation. Many carried hand-made placards stating, "One-third of my generation is missing," referencing the more than 1 million babies year since 1973.
Often called "the pro-life generation," many donned t-shirts declaring, "I survived Roe v Wade. Roe v Wade won't survive me."
"It's not something we decided to become," said Grady Moyer, a high school senior and member of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, Texas. "But God worked in us."
Moyer was among 32 students and young adults who traveled to D.C. for the march eager to add their voices to the call to end abortion.
James Sercey, Church at the Cross student pastor, said he recognizes the March for Life is a significant event founded and organized by the Catholic Church. But he noted he would like to see more protestant churches add their voices to the nation's largest pro-life demonstration.
To help facilitate that effort, the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family hosted the Evangelicals for Life Conference. The effort has focused on drawing more Protestant churches to the march and broadening their members' perspective on what it means to be pro-life.
Only Leanne Jamison, among the 28 women from Prestonwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, had attended the national march in the past. Hoisting teal-colored placards promoting the church's pregnancy center and the admonition to "Love Life," the band of women joined the flow of demonstrators leaving their hotel for the five-block walk to the mall and the sea of life-affirming compatriots.
Compelled by their belief that life is sacred they marched. But, as they passed the U.S. Capitol, some paused to consider their constitutional right to march, Jamison said.
Melanie Leach, one of the Prestonwood marchers said as Americans we can do this – all walk together.
"I am marching for our inalienable right to life," she said.
The event marked the first time a sitting president spoke to the rally live via satellite. In his address from the White House Rose Garden, President Trump thanked marchers for their commitment to life while acknowledging America's place among human rights abusing nations when it comes to abortion policies. Also, in an official statement recognizing the Roe v. Wade anniversary, Trump declared Jan. 22 as “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.”
"We are one of the only nations that still allows for late-term abortions," Trump told the marchers. "This is wrong and needs to change."
Attendees from nations with more restrictive abortion laws than the U.S. also joined the national march to learn from the "good example" of America's pro-life movement, said Joseph Ureta of France's Droit De Naître (Right to be Born). In France, abortion is unrestricted up to 12 weeks and requires the approval of two physicians after that.
While many American pro-lifers are motivated by their faith, Ureta, who is Catholic, lamented that in order to draw more French supporters to the movement, Right to be Born must minimalize the religious arguments. And that, he acknowledged, minimalizes what should be the primary pro-life message.
"The greatest motivation is the love of God," he said.
In Australian, people simply do not want to discuss abortion, said Mary Lennon, 22, of Sydney. She and pro-life workers from Australia traveled to Washington D.C. to discover how they can more effectively promote the pro-life message back home. Australians are "nonconfrontational" and avoid the abortion debate forcing pro-life activists to discover new means for engaging their countrymen, Lennon said.
As in America, Australia's abortion laws vary from state to state with Victoria's laws being the most egregious allowing abortion up to birth said Rebecca Gosper, 21, LifeChoice Australia director, a pro-life organization. Australian laws also place 150-meter buffer zones around abortion facilities and allow no conscience protections for medical personnel she said.
Gosper contended that more Australians than polls indicate are pro-life but many are hesitant to speak up for fear of backlash. But America's national March for Life has inspired Gosper to motivate the students on Australia's university campuses to speak up for life.
Isaac Spencer, Campaigns Manager for Right to Life New South Wales said he looks forward to taking America's pro-life examples back to Australia to fight the "human rights outrage" of abortion.
And hours after the demonstration had concluded a trio of marchers, far from the event's epicenter and carrying a Polish flag and life-affirming signs, told the TEXAN they had traveled from Poland to take part in the march. Poland has some of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws allowing the procedure only when the life of the mother is at risk, if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or if the unborn baby has a grave health diagnosis. The Polish parliament is even considering legislation that would revoke the latter provision.
The march's two-hour-long one-mile trek to the Supreme Court was broken by spontaneous singing, corporate prayers, and raucous chants of "We love babies, yes we do. We love babies, how 'bout you?" And, for good measure, a New Orleans Catholic high school marching band stood on the sidewalk and performed for grateful marchers passing by.
In contrast participants in the Women's March gathered the following day on the same National Mall proclaiming a very different and paradoxical message. Donning knitted pink hats, their message of equal treatment and respect for women appeared to be overshadowed by calls for unrestricted abortion, expletive-laced denunciations of Trump, and support for transgender issues.
The pro-life events over the weekend caused many to consider how they will live out a pro-life ethic for the remaining 364 days of the year.
Leach, who participated with the Prestonwood group, noted she cannot march and then walk away. Her commitment to supporting Lifesavers Foundation, a Dallas-Fort Worth area faith-based ministry providing health services to women and their young children, has been reinvigorated.
The students and young adults from Church at the Cross understand they have the "power and influence" of social media for reaching their peers with the pro-life message, said Nathaniel Ortiz, a senior homeschool student.
Ortiz, Moyer and Hannah Webber, a college freshman, agreed that they will earn an audience with their ideological opponents when their pro-choice peers see their compassion for humanity extends beyond the womb.
"If we care about life we're going to care about the person who cuts us off in traffic -- the ones I haven't valued as image bearers of God," Webber said.
"People will ask what I think about things when they see that I care," Moyer said.
Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.