The 2019 March for Life’s theme was Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science. This centered conversation at the 46th installment of the largest annual human rights demonstration on the undeniable scientific evidence that the pro-life case stands on. In this age where medical technology is making exponential advances right before our eyes, it is not unfathomable that we are reaching a day where abortion in this country will not only become illegal, but more importantly unthinkable. The true victory in the battle for a culture of life will not be won in a courtroom, but instead in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
Dr. Kathi Aultman, a retired OB/GYN and former abortionist, was a featured speaker who told the attentive crowd gathered in front of the Washington Monument of her journey from being a staunch pro-choice abortionist to now an avid pro-life advocate. Aultman said, “I used to do abortions but by God’s grace I am now pro-life.” Later in her solemn but effective speech she said, “Language is important. It is much easier to accept ‘terminating a pregnancy’ than it is to ‘killing a baby’…The only time I had any qualms about doing abortions was during my neonatal rotation where I was trying to save babies the same gestational age of those I was aborting…There are millions of women in the United states who have had abortions…they are hurting and need your help and compassion. They need to know that God wants to heal and restore them.”
Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood Director turned fierce pro-life advocate also addressed the crowd. She said, “I was the person who was pushing women, manipulating them, exploiting them, coercing them into having abortions. I believed that abortion was always the right decision for an unplanned pregnancy, but after seeing a 13-week old baby fight and struggle for his life in the womb during an abortion procedure, my life was changed. Her ministry, And Then There Were None, has helped to convert nearly 500 abortion workers to the pro-life cause. She said, “Our goal is to love abortion clinic workers out of the abortion industry and into a place of healing.”
Each year before they take to the National Mall to join the enormous crowds and march down Constitution Avenue, students from all over the country take part in the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life. This year, nearly 18,000 Mass goers, including 160 delegates from Sydney, Australia, crowded into the Capital One Arena to worship and pray together. They listened to an impassioned homily given by Fr. Robert Boxie in which he challenged the young people to go beyond their comfort zones and actually encounter the hidden face of Christ in everyone they meet. “A culture of encounter is a culture of life… So wherever you find yourself when you return back home… you must bring that culture of Christian encounter, that visible sign of love and hope, a hope that is so desperately needed in a world that is indifferent to the sanctity of human life,” Boxie said.
That culture of encounter Boxie referenced was on full display in the nation’s capital and students from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gave witness to that atmosphere of love among the historic crowd.
The Archdiocese’s retreat in Potomac, West Virginia, which took place on the way home from DC, gave the students who just soaked in the long day in DC the opportunity to begin to engage in dialogue about why they march, discuss what they took away from the experience, and give their thoughts on various life issues.
McNicholas senior Caleb Tenkman, a first time March for Life participant, said one of his biggest takeaways was how much love and acceptance he felt among the people there and highlighted how fellow marchers would ask where he’s from and always had a smile on their faces.
Tenkman also referenced Louisiana State Representative Katrina Jackson’s speech on the National Mall where she responded to people in her state who ask, “Why are you a black female Democrat fighting for life?” She said she tells them, “Because I’m a Christian first… and there is no blood more innocent than an unborn child… We will continue to, together, regardless of being Democrat, Republican, black, white, male or female; We will fight for life.” Tenkman said, “This shows that the debate of life doesn’t have to be a political issue and that both parties need to come together to end Roe V Wade.”
McNick junior Anna Rahner, three-time participant in the event said, “I march for life because I believe that the greatest gift we are given is our life, and I want to protect that precious right for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
Rahner wishes students had more time in the nation’s capital after the march. She said, “I appreciated the retreat following the march, but I do not think it was totally necessary for ‘digesting the day’. I think having a day after to spend in D.C. and visit other sites that complement the March would be a better end to the trip.”
Maria Bengel, a first time March for Life participant and Seton High School sophomore, said, “I thought this (the retreat) was really cool and I loved hearing everyone else’s stories and reasons for marching.”
Jamie Dee, a Seton junior at her second March for Life accompanied by 45 Seton classmates said, “My biggest takeaway was there is hope that the young people can make a change in our country to a culture of life… Everyone should make an effort to go on the March; It is truly a life changing experience and creates a feeling of hope like no other.”
Seton senior Shannon Cavanaugh, a two-time March for Life participant, affirmed Fr. Boxie’s message when she said, “Pro-life isn’t just about saving the babies; It’s about respecting all life from conception until natural death. We can practice this everyday by truly respecting others and treating everyone with kindness.”
Reflecting on her experiences, Cavanaugh said:
“I march because I believe that every human has dignity and deserves the chance to life. My uncle has down syndrome and is the most loved person in my whole family, but now, 67% of babies with down syndrome are aborted even though those pregnancies can bring so much happiness into the world. My older sister is another reason why I march because she was born when my dad was 19 and they could have chosen to abort her. I march because I know in my heart that abortion is wrong and I know that I need to do something about it… The biggest takeaway from this year’s March was the sheer amount of people that were marching. Last year, after a few minutes of marching, the crowd flowed through the streets, but this year we were too big for the streets… seeing the crowds completely blew me away. It was a very heartwarming sight to see that there are still tons of people fighting for what’s right in a world overtaken by negativity.”
One speech at the March for Life that particularly stood out to students and was referenced countless times following the event on the bus ride home and on social media was given by Ben Shapiro, a New York Times bestselling author, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Wire, and host of the largest conservative news podcast in the country “The Ben Shapiro Show.”
Shapiro’s speech followed up a live podcast that he hosted prior to the March for Life and gave a direct and unapologetic dissection into the ugly truths of abortion and dismantled the lies perpetrated by the abortion industry. He laid out the science describing the developmental stages of human life and peeled away euphemisms from the descriptions of the procedures that are done to kill these defenseless people. Shapiro refused to hide from the fact that pro-lifers have been cast off and dismissed by some of the most powerful in society. He said, “Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said just a few years ago that those who are pro-life ‘have no place in the state of New York’; Just this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, Pro-lifers are ‘not in line with where we are as a society’,” Shapiro said. He continued and made arguably the most impactful statement of the afternoon when he said, “So perhaps we are out of line with the rest of society… To which I say, good. So we’re the abolitionists. So were the civil rights marchers. So were the martyrs in Rome and the Jews in Egypt. Righteousness doesn’t have to be popular; it just has to be righteous.”