WASHINGTON—Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22 for the annual March for Life. This year marked the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand.
Tens of thousands gathered first to hear a lineup of speakers before marching from the Mall up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill.
Early in the day, Pope Francis showed his support of the pro-life gathering by tweeting the theme “Every Life is a Gift” with the hashtag #marchforlife.
The Diocese of Charleston was well represented at the event, according to Kathy Schmugge, director of the diocesan Office of Family Life. Busloads of people from Greenville, Aiken, Charleston and Garden City made the trip, with smaller groups from Rock Hill, Columbia and more.
The theme of this year’s march stressed that “Every Life is a Gift” regardless of a person’s difficulty or disability, and also emphasized that everyone has a call, a mission and a role to play creating a culture of life.
The marchers included a military delegation led by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.
A large congressional delegation in attendance emphasized the importance of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act before yielding the floor to a passionate address by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, who called the defense of life “the responsibility of every single person in America.”
One of the most inspiring addresses of the day came from Julia Johnson, a senior at Shanley Catholic High School in Fargo, N.D., who said it was up to the youth of America to “end the scourge of abortion.”
Johnson’s message had special relevance for the youth and young adults from South Carolina who took part in the event.
James Alexander, 22, a Rock Hill native who recently graduated from the University of South Carolina, made his first trip to the march. He was visiting his mother in nearby Reston, Va., and traveled to D.C. with a group from her parish there.
Alexander said he was by himself at the main rally when he ran into a group from St. Joseph High School in Greenville, then met up with others from the diocese and spent the day with them.
“It was very special for me to be there as a young adult Catholic male,” Alexander said. “I was always personally against abortion, but as a man I sometimes felt like I wasn’t supposed to have a public opinion. So, it was wonderful for me to be with other prayerful Catholics there in D.C., and with a lot of prayer I realized there are certain moral things you should always stand up for. I heard incredible stories and learned how important it is to stand up for life.”
The magnitude of the event struck Alexander, he said, when he looked behind him during the march and “couldn’t see the end of the people.”
“The prayer during the march was just so moving,” he said. “Some people were praying through megaphones, others were praying and chanting and proclaiming God’s word, others praying the rosary silently. It was a more moving and spiritual experience than I could have thought possible.”
Jonathan Cordova, 17, a high school senior from St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill, rode to the march with a group of youth from Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville. He first attended the event when he was in eighth grade, and said the experience meant even more to him now that he is in high school.
“When you’re a kid, you don’t really notice the magnitude of how many people of all ages are there marching for life right alongside you,” Cordova said. “It was important to me to see everybody there to fight against abortion, especially people of my generation.”
Cordova was especially struck by the testimony of a young priest who gave a homily during one of the Masses he attended in Washington. The man’s mother, he said, had faced the option of abortion with all three of her children, and chose life each time.
“That story was incredible — it left me shaken up,” Cordova said. “Hearing that story gave me reassurance of how incredible life is, what a blessing it is just to be living. Every person has the right to live. We’re not allowed to take that away from anyone.”
Staff writer Christina Lee Knauss contributed to this report.