This year marked my 7th year attending the National March for Life in Washington D.C. Over the past seven years, I’ve had the opportunity to lead the entire national March, be in charge of organizing trips for my high school and coordinate efforts on behalf of Notre Dame Right to Life. I’ve attended the youth rally at the Verizon Center, gone to the Students for Life of America conference, the Rose Dinner, and the National Review conference, met various senators and congressmen and done everything in between.
My first March for Life, I was a naïve high school freshman looking for an adventure and a chance to miss school to hang out with my older sister and friends. Little did I know that this trip to D.C. was going to become a yearly pilgrimage and end up altering my perspective on life so dramatically. Attending the March all through high school, I vividly remember watching Sister Mary, our high school chaperone, marching us girls through hundreds of thousands of people while holding a tiny stick with two pieces of ribbon. We were told that if we lost sight of that ribbon, we were responsible for finding our own way back to NJ. All of us held tightly to each other, scared of being the one left behind. Looking back, I’m not sure how we all made it safely home, but thank God we did!
In college, attending the March for Life became a larger time commitment, missing classes and opportunities to hang out with friends. Eventually, I had to question why it was so important for me to attend this event every year, what was I getting out of it and what did I hope to achieve? At first, the answer was obvious, I was pro-life, and this was an event I was expected to attend as a pro-lifer. But that simple explanation didn’t hold much weight when you considered the idea of 12 hour bus ride, nights sleeping on a concrete floor and standing outside in the freezing cold.
When I really started to question why I come, I found that attending the March for Life served two main purposes in my life. First, it allowed me an opportunity to discuss my beliefs with my friends. Often times, it’s not easy discussing the question of abortion or contraceptives or even adoption, with friends. Many college age students have been affected by these issues, many have strong opinions they are not willing to stray from and get offended when they are questioned at all. More often than not, it is easy to empathize with friends when these issues come up, not wanting to hurt feelings or step on toes, however, when you attend the March for Life, it is hard to hide your beliefs. Friends question why you’re going to be gone for a couple days, where you’re going and why you’re going and you’re forced to face your fear of receiving judging looks and comments from friends or classmates. These conversations, though painful, are so important to being pro-life and showing people that there is another way to live besides what the media portrays.
The second purpose, and perhaps more central to my pro-life beliefs, is that attending the March for Life is inspiring. Being pro-life is extremely counter-cultural, and it can be exhausting, both mentally and spiritually. Throughout my four years in college, I’ve questioned why I’m pro-life many times but it has always come back to the fact that I cannot stand for injustice. I get so upset when I hear that abortionists are permitted to continue their practice even though they have illegally performed abortions on underage girls and not reported that they may be rape victims or that health violations are not looked into until a woman is hurt at a clinic. I do not understand how ‘feminist’s’ who say that all they want is equality, continue to look the other way after hearing stories like the Gosnell trial. The pro-life movement has morality, economics, and philosophy on its side and yet sometimes it seems as if we are shouting to an empty room. It can be very tiring. This tiredness, and frustration, however, is washed away as you stand packed into National Mall with over 400,000 other people on your side. The pilgrimage to the March for Life every year is about more than seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is about remembering that you are not alone, that there is an entire community of support, and that we can make a difference. Without this support and this yearly reminder, it is easy to be upset, to give up, and it is this reason that I have continued to come back to D.C. every year.