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011918 march trumpWASHINGTON, D.C. — In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration "will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life."

He invoked the theme of this year's march, "Love Saves Lives," and praised the crowd as being very special and "such great citizens gathered in our nation's capital from many places for one beautiful cause" -- celebrating and cherishing life.

"Every unborn child is a precious gift from God," he said, his remarks interrupted several times by applause from the crowd gathered on the National Mall. He praised the pro-lifers for having "such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have the support they need to choose life."

"You're living witnesses of this year's March for Life theme, 'Love Saves Lives,'" His remarks were broadcast to the crowd live via satellite to a Jumbotron above the speakers' stage, a first for any U.S. president, according to March for Life.

During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office, with their remarks broadcast to the crowd.

Trump spoke with a crowd surrounding him in the Rose Garden, including 20 students from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. One of those standing next to the president was a Marianne Donadio, a top official with Room at the Inn, a nationally accredited Catholic ministry based in North Carolina that serves homeless, pregnant women and single mothers with children.

Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year's March for Life in person at Trump's request, introduced the president as the "most pro-life president in American history," for among other things issuing an executive memorandum shortly after his inauguration to reinstate the "Mexico City Policy." The policy bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

Trump also has nominated pro-life judges to fill several court vacancies and a day before the March for Life the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Its aim is to protect the conscience rights of doctors and other health care workers who do not want to perform procedures they consider morally objectionable.

For the first time in a recent memory, the weather in Washington was more than tolerable for March for Life participants as they gathered on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The sun was shining and the blue sky was cloudless. By the time the speeches ended and the march to the Supreme Court started, the temperature had reached 50 degrees.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, opened the rally by calling on everyone in the crowd to text the word "March" to 7305 and to show their commitment to ending abortion and join their voices in calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.

"Do you agree that's important?" she asked the crowd. "Yes!" they shouted. March for Life, she said, is about educating people about abortion and mobilizing to end it and to love all those women and families who are facing a troubled pregnancy and other needs.

"'Love Saves Lives' is this year's theme," she added. "Love and sacrifice go hand in hand It is not easy. No one ever said it was, but it is the right choice ... the self-sacrificial option."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was among several others who addressed the crowd.

"Thank God for giving us a pro-life president in the White House," the Catholic congressman said.

"Your energy is so infectious," he told the crowd, praising them for being "the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement."

Seeing so many young people "is so inspiring because it tells us this a movement on the rise," he said. "Why is the pro-life movement on the rise? Because truth is on our side. Life begins at conception. Science is on our side."

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, gave an emotional speech about the troubled pregnancy she faced about four years ago. She and her husband, Dan, were told their unborn child had severe defects, that the baby's kidneys would never develop and the lungs were undeveloped because of a rare condition. Abortion was their only option, they were told.

Today, that baby is 4-year-old Abigail. She and her younger brother and their father stood on the stage with the congresswoman.

"Dan and I prayer and we cried (at the news of their unborn child's condition) ... and in that devastation we saw hope. What if God would do a miracle? What if a doctor was willing to try something new? Like saline infusions to mimic amniotic fluid so kidneys could develop?" she recalled.

With "true divine intervention and some very courageous doctors willing to take a risk we get to experience our daughter, Abigail," Herrera Beutler said. She is a very "healthy, happy 4-year-old big sister who some day is going to be 'the boss of mommy's work,'" she said.

Herrera Beutler asked the crowd to imagine that 45 years of legal abortion had not existed and that 60 million babies had not been lost to abortion, and if out of those people had come those who could cure cancer and correct all manner of disabling conditions, including those that exist in utero, and eradicate poverty.

"What richness we would we get to see instead of two generations missing," she added.

Another Catholic member of Congress and longtime pro-life advocate, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, described the last 45 years of legal abortion as Orwellian.

"Every one of you here today" and millions of others throughout the country and world, he said, "are an integral part of the greatest human rights struggle on earth. Because we pray, because we fast, we will win. Babies will be protected."

— Julie Asher, Catholic News Service

011918 march trumpWASHINGTON, D.C. — In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration "will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life."

He invoked the theme of this year's march, "Love Saves Lives," and praised the crowd as being very special and "such great citizens gathered in our nation's capital from many places for one beautiful cause" -- celebrating and cherishing life.

"Every unborn child is a precious gift from God," he said, his remarks interrupted several times by applause from the crowd gathered on the National Mall. He praised the pro-lifers for having "such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have the support they need to choose life."

"You're living witnesses of this year's March for Life theme, 'Love Saves Lives,'" His remarks were broadcast to the crowd live via satellite to a Jumbotron above the speakers' stage, a first for any U.S. president, according to March for Life.

During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office, with their remarks broadcast to the crowd.

Trump spoke with a crowd surrounding him in the Rose Garden, including 20 students from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. One of those standing next to the president was a Marianne Donadio, a top official with Room at the Inn, a nationally accredited Catholic ministry based in North Carolina that serves homeless, pregnant women and single mothers with children.

Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year's March for Life in person at Trump's request, introduced the president as the "most pro-life president in American history," for among other things issuing an executive memorandum shortly after his inauguration to reinstate the "Mexico City Policy." The policy bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

Trump also has nominated pro-life judges to fill several court vacancies and a day before the March for Life the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Its aim is to protect the conscience rights of doctors and other health care workers who do not want to perform procedures they consider morally objectionable.

For the first time in a recent memory, the weather in Washington was more than tolerable for March for Life participants as they gathered on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The sun was shining and the blue sky was cloudless. By the time the speeches ended and the march to the Supreme Court started, the temperature had reached 50 degrees.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, opened the rally by calling on everyone in the crowd to text the word "March" to 7305 and to show their commitment to ending abortion and join their voices in calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.

"Do you agree that's important?" she asked the crowd. "Yes!" they shouted. March for Life, she said, is about educating people about abortion and mobilizing to end it and to love all those women and families who are facing a troubled pregnancy and other needs.

"'Love Saves Lives' is this year's theme," she added. "Love and sacrifice go hand in hand It is not easy. No one ever said it was, but it is the right choice ... the self-sacrificial option."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was among several others who addressed the crowd.

"Thank God for giving us a pro-life president in the White House," the Catholic congressman said.

"Your energy is so infectious," he told the crowd, praising them for being "the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement."

Seeing so many young people "is so inspiring because it tells us this a movement on the rise," he said. "Why is the pro-life movement on the rise? Because truth is on our side. Life begins at conception. Science is on our side."

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, gave an emotional speech about the troubled pregnancy she faced about four years ago. She and her husband, Dan, were told their unborn child had severe defects, that the baby's kidneys would never develop and the lungs were undeveloped because of a rare condition. Abortion was their only option, they were told.

Today, that baby is 4-year-old Abigail. She and her younger brother and their father stood on the stage with the congresswoman.

"Dan and I prayer and we cried (at the news of their unborn child's condition) ... and in that devastation we saw hope. What if God would do a miracle? What if a doctor was willing to try something new? Like saline infusions to mimic amniotic fluid so kidneys could develop?" she recalled.

With "true divine intervention and some very courageous doctors willing to take a risk we get to experience our daughter, Abigail," Herrera Beutler said. She is a very "healthy, happy 4-year-old big sister who some day is going to be 'the boss of mommy's work,'" she said.

Herrera Beutler asked the crowd to imagine that 45 years of legal abortion had not existed and that 60 million babies had not been lost to abortion, and if out of those people had come those who could cure cancer and correct all manner of disabling conditions, including those that exist in utero, and eradicate poverty.

"What richness we would we get to see instead of two generations missing," she added.

Another Catholic member of Congress and longtime pro-life advocate, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, described the last 45 years of legal abortion as Orwellian.

"Every one of you here today" and millions of others throughout the country and world, he said, "are an integral part of the greatest human rights struggle on earth. Because we pray, because we fast, we will win. Babies will be protected."

— Julie Asher, Catholic News Service

Pro-life marchers want their message to transcend politics

Pro-life marchers want their message to transcend politics

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a sea of printed signs and huge student groups in colorful toboggan caps at the March for Life rally, Ed York was an outlier.

He'd made the two-hour drive to the National Mall Jan. 19 from his home in Martinsburg, West Virginia, not with a group on a bus pilgrimage, but only with his daughter Autumn and a small homemade placard emblazoned "As a Former Fetus, I Oppose Abortion."

He stood out in his solitary approach, but York, who has attended previous marches, didn't mind.

"This is David versus Goliath, all right," he said. "The media's still pumping out some old stuff about human rights. This (abortion) is going to end one day. But, you know, you have to be patient in life."

On a bright, sunny and almost spring-like morning highlighted by President Donald Trump's remarks to the rally before the march from the White House Rose Garden and members of Congress, there appeared to be little interest from the marchers in political questions. After all, they had all made their travel plans long before they knew the list of speakers.

"Certainly, to have the president show his support for March for Life is encouraging," said Katrina Gallic, a senior at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. However, she added, involvement for others is "more than a political stance, but should be seen as an ethic for all of humanity."

The University of Mary sent 200 marchers, clad in blue and orange caps, on a 30-hour bus journey from the frigid northern Great Plains.

Gallic. who traveled separately from from New Jersey, began attending marches with her family when she was in elementary school.

"My parents showed us by the way they lived" and dinner-table conversations, she said. "I'm very grateful for it. I think it requires a lifetime commitment on the political level and the cultural level."

Gallic met Vice President Mike Pence at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building before the march. "Our generation is very much behind him, and he has the support and prayers of many," she said.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now heads the pro-life organization Then There Were None, said culture change should have a higher priority than legislation.

"I actually think the pro-life movement needs to separate itself from the (Republican Party). That's what we need to be focusing on: opening the tent and bringing more diversity into the movement," she said, citing pro-life Democrats in Louisiana who have tightened abortion restrictions there.

Members of Students for Life from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago sported yellow umbrellas.

"The yellow stands for joy," student Molly Malone explained. "The umbrella is representative of how we will stand for both mothers and children."

Malone wasn't interested in political discussions either, although "politics is the means by which we're going to end (abortion) eventually."

Margaret Banloman and Emily Rogge, both freshmen at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School in Lee's Summit, Missouri, had a colorful placard with an image of the Mary and the slogan "Our Salvation Began With an Unplanned Pregnancy." The pair came up with the idea and drew the sign on their cross-country bus ride, which Banloman characterized as "redemptive suffering."

Sean Moberg, who was attending the rally with friends from the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, waved one of the few visible protest signs, which had, on one side, "Trump -- No" and on the other, "I Stand With Catholic Feminists."

"I think that in his life and his politics in general, he doesn't respect the dignity of the unborn person," Moberg said of Trump. "I think he does more harm than good."

Moberg has marched for the past eight years. "I'm always impressed with what a positive event it is."

Caryn Crush, who spent 14 hours on a bus from Louisville, Kentucky, was with a group of 54 from Immaculata Classical Academy, and said she was attending in support of children born with Down syndrome. Appearing at March for Life and opposing abortion, especially for children born with Down syndrome, was her way to "change society's perception of them and show they do have value."

"We're here to be a voice," she added. "This is more of a celebration of life whether the president's here or not."

First-time marchers included Jerilyn Kunkel of Fishers, Indiana, who made the trip with her husband Larry, a member of the Knights of Columbus. "I got a good night's sleep. That helped a lot," she said.

Father Kurt Young was accompanying 700 high schoolers from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. They were part of what became a 14-bus caravan in a two-day trip that lasted a total of 32 hours because of icy roads in Mississippi.

He said politics and legislation weren't the students' main priority, either. "Everyone here is here to make a peaceful, prayerful protest," the priest said.

Working along the march route were members of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which opposes the death penalty.

"We're known for our stickers: 'Who Would Jesus Execute?' said Alexandra Carroll, the organization's vice president. "We use them as conversation starters. They help humanize the death penalty."

Carroll thought it a successful effort.

"We think it's such an important part of the Catholic faith, this kind of constant pro-life ethic."

— Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service

Cardinal invokes Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in march vigil homily

Cardinal invokes Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in march vigil homily

011918 dolanWASHINGTON, D.C. —The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was invoked by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York in the cardinal's homily during the Jan. 18 Mass that opened the National Prayer Vigil for Life.

Like "Pastor King," as Cardinal Dolan referred to him throughout his homily, "our belief in the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of all human life propels us to concern for human life wherever, whenever, and however it is threatened, from racial antagonism to justice for immigrants, from the war-torn to the hungry," the prelate said.

And, like Rev. King, whose life was the subject of a national holiday three days prior, "our prayers and witness are about civil rights: the civil right to life and to equal protection under the law, guaranteed by our Constitution, for the most fragile, marginalized and threatened -- the tiny, innocent baby in the womb," Cardinal Dolan said.

The Mass, which has attracted more than 10,000 in recent years, was celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Rev. King "would be marching with us in the defense of unborn life were not the dignity of his own person and the sanctity of his own life tragically violated 50 years ago this spring," Cardinal Dolan said, referring to the civil rights figure's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968.

"Pastor King would often begin his stirring speeches, which still move us, by asking his listeners, 'Why are we here?'" Cardinal Dolan said.

Answering the question himself, the cardinal gave a variety of reasons.

"We are here to advocate and give witness, to advocate for those who cannot yet speak or walk with us, the pre-born baby, whose future is in jeopardy and can be ended by a so-called choice, and to give witness that millions, mostly young people, share a passion for the belief that that little baby has civil rights," he said.

"We are here to fight the heavy temptation -- we must admit the temptation -- to discouragement," he continued.

Another reason, he said, was "to lobby for life," sharing "passion for a society to assist and protect all vulnerable life ... because, to borrow my brother pastor's refrain, 'We shall overcome,'" to which the Mass crowd applauded.

"And there is one final reason why we are here," Cardinal Dolan said. "To pray!"

The opening Mass featured more than 300 clergy concelebrants, including 34 bishops and archbishops, and six U.S. cardinals. Retired Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington did not join in the processions, but instead got to the shrine's sanctuary a few minutes before Mass with the aid of a walker.

While Washington has not been immune to wintry weather for the overnight vigil and next-day March for Life in recent years, this year's events were met with relatively mild temperatures compared to the frigid and slick conditions north, west and -- surprisingly -- south of the nation's capital.

At the Jan. 19 morning Mass that closed the vigil, Bishop Edward M. Burns of Dallas told the story of a young boy who saw an online advertisement for a baseball glove. Wanting the glove but not having the money to pay for it, he wrote a letter to his mother that took the form of an itemized bill for the chores he did around the house -- with the total equaling the cost of the glove.

Knowing his mother must have seen the envelope addressed to her at her place at the dining room table, the boy, a few days later, saw a box at his own place at the table. In the box was the glove he had wanted. But as he was trying it on, he spotted an envelope addressed to him at the bottom of the box. In the letter was his mother's list of services rendered to him -- giving birth to him, changing his diapers, tucking him in at night, drying his tears, bandaging his wounds and holding him tight -- and after each entry came the words "no charge."

"That's sacrificial love," Bishop Burns said, "the type of love God has for us." He added, "He demonstrates that love for us time and time again, and he asks us to demonstrate that sacrificial love for others. ... Our Lord Jesus Christ is an example of sacrificial love."

In echoing the Mass theme "For the Preservation of Peace and Justice," Bishop Burns recalled the words of Deuteronomy 30: "I set before you a choice: death of life. Choose life so that you may live."

"Choosing life comes from a sacrificial love," Bishop Burns said. "We are here to bring attention to the attacks against human life." He told worshippers, "Stay strong, stay dedicated and committed to the cause of life."

— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

Thousands of youth gather to rally, pray before March for Life

Thousands of youth gather to rally, pray before March for Life

WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Capital One Arena in Washington, which typically hosts professional basketball and hockey games and sold-out concerts, was filled with thousands of youth from around the country who gathered there Jan. 19 to stand up for life.

The Archdiocese of Washington's annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life preceded the 45th annual March for Life marking the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

As groups filtered into the arena before sunrise, the band Out of Darkness welcomed them with worship music.

"It felt inspiring to me to see a lot of Catholics come together for something that is important to the church," said Ashley Arevalo, a student at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland. "It felt important to me to be a part of it. ... We were all created in (God's) image. ... Everyone should be loved for who they are, no matter the circumstance."

Grace Mesmer, a seventh-grader from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Lexington Park, Maryland, also was struck by seeing so many of her peers in one place.

"I love seeing all the other people who share the same beliefs as me," she said.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl expressed a similar admiration for the throng of people who joined the rally.

"This is so, so exciting to see this entire arena filled with thousands and thousands of young people," he told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese. "The next generation is every bit as committed to life as the current generation. It tells us that the future is very bright."

Emily Wilson, the event's master of ceremonies, recalled her experience as a young person feeling that it was difficult to stand up for her pro-life beliefs.

"In high school and college, sharing my pro-life beliefs was so unpopular," she said. "Perhaps you've been mocked or ridiculed by peers or even teachers. ... What you go through each and every day can be so discouraging."

Despite such difficulty, she said, "these days it is our opportunity to be the pro-life generation ... to not be afraid to stand up for the most vulnerable."

When the students return to their schools and communities, Wilson said they can find strength in "the compassion, the joy, the love" they witnessed at that rally.

Keynote speaker Ryan Bomberger told the rally how he was conceived through rape, but that his mother courageously chose life. He was adopted, and grew up in a family with 12 siblings, of different races and different abilities. Of the 13 kids, 10 of them were adopted.

Growing up in this environment taught him that "diversity is powerful," he said, but "sometimes what we share is more powerful."

"Everyone in this arena has special needs ... to love and to be loved," he said.

Cardinal Wuerl was the main celebrant of the Mass and was joined by about 20 other prelates including Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell, Jr. of Washington; and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They were also joined by about 200 priests from around the country.

As he opened the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl said the gathering was "a very dramatic manifestation of the new evangelization," which is "the call to be confident in our faith and invite others to join us."

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read a message from Pope Francis that offered a warm greeting to attendees and assured them of his closeness in prayer. Later in the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl gave the blessing that would allow participants to receive a plenary indulgence, if they also go to confession, receive Communion, and pray for the intentions of the pope.

Father Martino Choi, the parochial vicar of St. Patrick Parish in Rockville, Maryland, was the homilist at the Mass. Like Bomberger, he is alive because of his mother's courageous choice to embrace life.

When his mother was pregnant with him, the doctor said that he would be born with birth defects and only have a year to live, so he encouraged her to have an abortion, he said, adding that she chose to carry him to term instead.

It was not that his parents were capable of "superhuman love" that made this possible, said Father Choi, but "what they had was faith."

"They recognized this life is a gift from God," he said. "They recognized that every human life is loved by God."

Noting the 60 million babies that have been aborted in the U.S. since the Supreme Court ruling, Father Choi said it is impossible to know what they would have become.

"Every life has a role to play in making God's love known," he said.

During the offertory, four students with special needs served as the gift bearers, delivering the bread and wine to Cardinal Wuerl.

After the Mass, many of the attendees joined the March for Life, walking up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol, witnessing to the dignity of life.

"God has blessed me to be here today and to be a witness," said Victoria Cole, an eighth-grade student at St. Columba.

"I think everyone should have a chance at life," said Amaka Chukwura, another eighth-grader at St. Columba. "I don't think it's right to take away someone's life without giving them the opportunity to live a good one."

— Kelly Sankowski, Catholic News Service

Planned Parenthood protest puts focus on abortion's real-life consequences

Planned Parenthood protest puts focus on abortion's real-life consequences

011818 protestWASHINGTON, D.C.— Yoi Reyes believes that her son should not have to pay for a crime that was committed by another.

Years ago as a teenager, Reyes was raped by her stepfather in her native Cuba. The first time, she was 13 and forced to have an abortion. The second time, the baby was too far along, and the doctor refused to do the abortion. Now her son, Pedro, is 27 and he welcomed his first child into the world on Thanksgiving Day.

"God brings things together for those who love him," said Reyes, who started Mary's Pregnancy Resource Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, seven years ago. "My child shouldn't pay for the crime he didn't commit. My son is no less of a human because of the circumstances of his birth. I say 100 percent pro-life, no exceptions, no compromises."

On Jan. 18, the day before the March for Life, Reyes joined more than 200 people outside of Planned Parenthood's headquarters in Washington to show real-life examples of abortion. Priests for Life hosted the event.

"We have to make sure that the abortion debate and the purpose of these marches does not become too abstract," said Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone. "The issue will be won the more concrete it becomes -- which means specific babies are being killed at specific places at specific times. By bringing people here and focusing on what's happening in this place makes the event tomorrow all the more meaningful."

Priests for Life announced the same day that it filed an amicus brief in NIFLA vs. Becerra, a Supreme Court case that challenges a California law that would require some pregnancy resource centers to refer for abortions. The Reproductive "FACT" Act requires medical pregnancy resource centers to refer women for abortions and non-medical centers to advertise that they are not supervised by a medical professional.

After several women shared their personal stories of abortion, Priests for Life executive director Janet Morana urged the crowd to take those stories home and share them in their communities.

"Everyone standing here must know someone who thinks they're pro-choice," said Morana, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. "Your job, your mission here is to have those conversations with your circle of influence."

As she stood in front of Planned Parenthood in prayer, Savannah Madden watched the clinic escorts as they walked women inside. Earlier that morning, she saw a woman going into the clinic, who then changed her mind and turned around.

Madden, who was with three dozen other students from Hackett Catholic Prep High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan, said those are small victories that keep her going. "There is hope in that," she said. "That's why I keep marching."

Members of the LifeSquad team from Coalition for Life St. Louis also were among the crowd. The program provides outreach to high school and college-age youths, including through the 40 Days for Life campaign, to keep them involved in the pro-life movement throughout the year.

As he handed out #LifeSquad stickers to the crowd, student outreach coordinator Brad Baumgarten noted that it's imperative that young people are given an outlet at home to continue the energy they experience at the March for Life.

"We look at the pro-life movement in St. Louis and see that we have something very special," Baumgarten told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper. "Once the teens get back from D.C., they have so much energy and get so fired up. The voice of the youth is so very powerful. Once they can make a stand against abortion, then their generation will follow."

— Jennifer Brinker, Catholic News Service

Head of March for Life calls abortion 'social justice cause of our time'

Head of March for Life calls abortion 'social justice cause of our time'

NEW YORK — Charlie Camosy, associate professor in the theology department at Jesuit-run Fordham University, spoke to Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, in advance of this year's annual march in Washington Jan. 19.

She talked about changes in the event and the crowd she has seen over the years, the efforts to unify pro-lifers on a variety of life issues and her own pro-life views.

For her, abortion is "the single most significant social justice cause of our time."

Here's Camosy's Q-and-A with Mancini:

Q: You've been going to the March for Life for many years now. What are some ways that the march has changed since you first started attending?

A: The rally is a little shorter, the crowds have grown, the age demographics have decreased, marcher signs are more diverse and creative. What hasn't change is that the weather often presents extra opportunities for making a sacrificial pilgrimage! Plus that the event is primarily staffed by generous volunteers, and most importantly the issue. Mostly, that we are there -- for the 45th year in a row -- to protest the human rights abuse of today -- abortion.

Q: One thing that struck me from when I first started taking high school students to the march nearly two decades ago was the hyper-religiosity of the event. As a theology teacher, I shared many of these commitments, but it made a number of my students uncomfortable and I don't think they returned after high school. The hyper-religiosity of pro-life activists also seems to keep more moderate folks from identifying with the movement more generally and our policy proposals from getting wider traction -- especially in a culture which – wrongly -- sees much of what we do as imposing our religion. Religious commitments are nothing to be embarrassed about, obviously, and many grass-roots movements for basic justice and rights were very religious. But do you see a tension to navigate here?

A: Our experiences differ, so I find it hard to answer this question -- but broadly I would say no. There are a lot of religious signs, but my experience is that it is mostly young people who attend the March for Life. Young people are attracted to this cause because it is the single most critical social justice issue of our time. They are so enthusiastic -- it is contagious! Perhaps that excitement and motivation could be interpreted as "hyper-religiosity," but I see it as attractive unbridled zeal for ending abortion and building a culture of life. Of course, there are always a few "outliers" and some people are led to the pro-life movement through their faith. But, overall -- this is a movement filled with vibrant, passionate, life-affirming young people. I'm older, reserved and suspicious at my age, and I find their confidence and trust inspiring. I love the lack of cynicism in many young people, and admire their hope and goal to "abolish abortion." At the front of the march when we've had some counter-protesters, I've watched young people being spit on and mocked and respond with Christian messages of love. Basically, I agree with St. John Paul II, who said that young people are the best "ambassadors for life."

Q: Especially with the campaign and election of Donald Trump, divisions and fissures within the pro-life movement have become more pronounced in the last couple years. Do you think the March for Life has the chance to contribute to the unity of pro-lifers who disagree about these political matters?

A: We certainly seek to unify and I hope we are successful. I'm convinced that disunity is our biggest enemy. As an organization we quietly do what we can behind the scenes within the movement; whether arranging group meetings or making strategic introductions to draw groups and pro-life leaders together. In a more public way we always seek to have a bipartisan lineup of speakers, although admittedly that has gotten harder in recent years.

Q: What vision did you have in mind when you started running the March for Life? How does the current march reflect who you are as a pro-lifer?

A: When I first became president of the March for Life, it was a surprise, and it happened very quick following the death of MFL founder Nellie Gray. In the beginning, I had some goals, but not an overall big picture vision. These goals included trying to break into mainstream media -- especially showing our enthusiastic young marchers; having a shorter and very engaging rally; positive messaging grounded in the attractiveness of life; drawing in people of all faith; and embracing social media. I believe that we have been successful in these goals and we continue to be more success in these goals each and every year. My ultimate goal is to work myself out of a job by working to make abortion unthinkable and enact laws that reflect the inherent dignity of the human person.

Q: Suppose a reader is on the fence about attending the march. In your view, what should she consider as she makes a decision whether or not to attend?

A: I was just reading an email from a business owner who attended for the first time last year. To paraphrase her, the March for Life is a life changing experience that will restore your hope in the goodness of humanity. I would add to that, how can you not attend? Abortion is the single most significant social justice cause of our time. Every single one of us carries that burden on us and needs to do everything possible to bring it to an end.

— Catholic News Service