Walking the March for Life for the First Time

4 years ago

I'm a 42-year-old pro-life mom, but I'm not the activist type. This year for the first time, I walked in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

The March for Life began as a protest against abortion in 1974, the year after the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion across the United States. The March has been held with increasing numbers of participants every year since. It's the largest and longest-running annual gathering in American history. Year after year, pro-life citizens brave the bitter cold of January—my iPhone registered 25 degrees Friday—to walk from a rally on the National Mall between 7th and 14th Streets near the Washington Monument, along Constitution Avenue, past the Capitol Building, and up to the Supreme Court steps.

Image Credit: Aimee Whetstine

The sheer number of people participating surprised me. I thought I was near the front of the procession streaming from the Mall until I turned the corner onto Constitution Avenue and headed east toward the Capitol. I looked ahead about 10 blocks to see the road all the way up Capitol Hill filled with marchers.

The marchers were cordial. I saw no violence or angry outbursts. I met and hugged strangers from all over the country. "God bless you," was repeated throughout the crowd. We huddled together to stay warm as the winter sky broke and covered us with snow.

Image Credit: Aimee Whetstine

The crowd was rich with diversity. Catholic marchers prayed the rosary alongside Protestants singing "God Bless America" and Orthodox Jewish men wearing payot. Women and men of all skin colors were present. I met secular pro-lifers, gay pro-lifers, and feminist pro-lifers. Older and middle-aged people participated—some had been coming since the very first March, but the demographic of most marchers appeared to skew younger. Swarms of college-aged adults and high schoolers held signs proclaiming, "I am the pro-life generation." 

Image Credit: Aimee Whetstine

The marchers brought a diversity of stories with them, too. Post-abortive mothers and fathers carried signs expressing regret. People who'd been conceived in rape marched together in a contingency. Ryan Bomberger who was conceived in rape spoke at the rally, and I met Rebecca Kiessling in the crowd. I recognized Rebecca who was also conceived in rape from a video of her story I'd seen online. People who'd been adopted held signs thanking their birth and adoptive parents. The March passed one section along the route where photos of aborted children were displayed, a gruesome reminder of why we were there.

I expected to see abortion advocates lining the path, but I saw none the entire route. A small group of pro-choice supporters stood on the south side of the Supreme Court steps, quietly holding their signs. I counted seven pro-choice posters in all. They were in earshot of the testimonies of post-abortive parents from Silent No More.

Listening to those parents' stories was surreal. Here I was, standing at the Supreme Court steps with thousands of people I don't know, snow now pouring down on us. Behind me the March rushed like a massive river, groups chanting and waving hundreds of signs as they passed. In front of me was a tiny podium where women and men shared personal stories of post-abortion stress syndrome. They stood as a bold witness that abortion hurts children and parents. I stayed until I could no longer feel my frozen legs, then made my way south toward the Metro station.

The train crawled out of the tunnel on the way back to my friend's house where I was staying. The clouds that had given us snow since early afternoon relented to reveal the moon, full and bright in the darkening sky. 

I heard a child on the train asking his mother the dozens of questions kids ask their parents. "What about that train? Where is my snack? Is this our stop?" 

As I watched the moon and listened to the child, I deeply missed my own child I'd left at home with my husband so I could travel to Washington. I couldn't help thinking what it would be like to miss him for a lifetime. 

Aimee Whetstine blogs at everyday epistle.

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