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On January 21st, 2022, Katie Shaw stepped up to the podium at the National March for Life and faced a crowd of over 100,000 people.
Katie smiled at the massive rally cheering wildly in front of her. Peering over the podium through thin-rimmed glasses, she appeared just like any other ordinary young woman – and she was. But Katie has Down syndrome. According to pro-abortion people around the world, that meant that her life was not worth living.
As a woman with Down syndrome in America, Katie’s invitation to speak to such a massive crowd was uncommon. In many countries, especially Iceland or Denmark where over 98 percent of babies who have Down syndrome are aborted, Katie might not have been alive to give her speech at all.
Yet the crowd went wild when Katie spoke up in defense of life and demanded equality for those in the womb.
“I am proud to be here to march to show the world that people, with a disability or not, need to have a chance to show the world God’s plan for them.” She said, “My parents never thought about aborting me. They worked and planned with the doctors to help me have my wonderful life.”
As the President of the March for Life, I watched Katie’s speech and the crowd’s exuberant reaction with gratitude and pride. After 49 years of tireless advocacy, the March for Life’s cultural impact was evident in the diversity, passion, and joy of the hundreds of thousands of marchers present.
After nearly 50 years, life is winning
Nearly 50 years ago, the abortion industry thought that they had silenced the pro-life movement forever with the codification of Roe v. Wade into law. Employing euphemisms, betting on the lack of science regarding unborn babies, and rebranding abortion as “women’s healthcare,” many thought that the pro-life movement would eventually dissipate.
The future was pro-abortion – or so they thought.
Yet in the nearly half a century since then, the March for Life has defied all narratives and evolved into the largest, youngest, and most vibrant protest in our nation. Every year, hundreds of thousands of marchers of all ages, races and nationalities gather in Washington D.C. to show our legislators that Roe is unpopular, and it is not settled law.
Our movement has exploded since the first March in 1974, that drew 20,000 marchers, to nearly 200,000 attendees in recent years. Despite rain, snow or the bitter cold, people from all over the country descend annually on Washington D.C. to protest the injustice and unconstitutionality of Roe. Even the blizzards of 1987 and 2016, and the widespread fear of terrorist attacks following 9/11, failed to deter tens of thousands from showing up to witness to life.
Many have remarked on the dedication and youth of our marchers. At the 2010 March for Life, the former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America Nancy Keenan marveled at the age and number of our marchers, saying: “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young. There are so many of them, and they are so young.”
Like Nancy, many on the left have watched the success of our pro-life movement with surprise and alarm.
Over the years, advances in science and technology have enabled us to prove the humanity of the unborn, and to unequivocally demonstrate that life begins at conception. The testimony of former abortionists at the March for Life like Dr. Nathanson in 1998, and Kathi Aultman in 2019, have been crucial in exposing the gruesome truths about abortion and contributed to the growing realization around the country that abortion brutally destroys the life of an innocent child.
We have also seen an increasing number of prominent politicians courageously and publicly speak up for the unborn at the March for Life. In 2011, a record 53 members of Congress spoke at the March for Life rally. In 2017 and 2019, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the March for Life, and in 2018 House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered remarks. And in 2020, Donald Trump became the first President of the United States to address the March for Life in person.
The March for Life has additionally expanded into 5 state marches and seeks to eventually expand to every state. Just recently, Governor Glenn Youngkin attended the 4th annual Virginia March for Life.
Our success demonstrates that Roe is not settled law.
The presence of so many prominent and powerful politicians at our national and state marches is a testament to the cultural and political impact of our movement, which after 50 years has made being pro-life both an acceptable and a winning issue. In the past few months, we are proud to see that many state leaders have been emboldened by such strong public support for life to move towards enshrining protections for the unborn in state laws and constitutions around the country.
Just last week, a leaked Supreme Court opinion draft authored by Justice Samuel Alito stated that Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong” from the start, and that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. If the Court’s final opinion officially overturns Roe v. Wade, our movement will have finally achieved a goal we have been fighting for this past half-century and the regulation of abortion will be handed back to the states to be decided by the people, through their elected representatives.
Recognizing that victory is on our side, pro-abortion activists have spent the past few months spreading fear about a post-Roe world. This fear-mongering is a desperate ploy to prevent the regulation of abortion from going back to the states, where popular opinion in each state would decide abortion.
Their alarm is telling – if Roe were truly settled law, they would have nothing to fear.
Yet the size and persistence of our movement this past half century poignantly shows that Roe is not Constitutional, and it is by no means settled law. Even pro-abortion Ruth Bader Ginsburg admitted in 1985 that Roe appeared “to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.”
Pro-choice Democrats are virulently against the overturning of Roe because they know that public opinion on abortion is more complicated than they like to admit. Polling shows that the more people know about Roe, the less they want it. Even the New York Times admitted that even though 60-70 percent of Americans oppose the Court overturning Roe, they also favor restrictions not permitted by Roe, such as limits on abortion after the first trimester.
The continued growth of the March and the recognition that abortion is unjust and unconstitutional, is exactly why we show up, year after year – drums beating in the distance, a crescendo of singing and upbeat voices, a massive, crowd of bright-eyed women, men, and children peacefully marching in formation down Pennsylvania Ave., proudly carrying the banner: MARCH FOR LIFE.
As Katie Shaw said in her speech at the 49th annual March for Life: “I believe that equality for you, me, for everyone, started in the womb.”
Thanks to the tireless work of the March for Life and the entire pro-life movement, our nation’s laws may soon be allowed to reflect that.