Kate Van Weelden-Contributing Writer
Marches can be powerful demonstrations of protest, resistance and even celebration. On Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, I not only witnessed history, but I marched in history at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. When I think of historical marches, I am reminded of people who marched in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement from Selma to Montgomery. My mind also reflects on last week’s Women’s March when thousands of people marched across the nation for women’s rights.
The March for Life started at the Washington Monument with a rally at noon and the March proper began at 1 p.m. on Constitution Avenue, bound for the Supreme Court. Our Dordt group (including sophomores Ryan McDermott and Tianna Top and juniors Jonathan Beltman and Kate Van Weelden) made the long walk from our hotel to the Washington Monument, but we were not alone. The closer we got to the monument, the more fellow marchers we saw.
As I walked, I found myself amazed by the large groups of students from Catholic schools who were there with their parents and teachers to participate in the March. Large groups of Catholic priests, some being groups of young seminarians, also marched. Organizations such as “Save the Storks” handed out signs on street corners. Others made homemade signs. One of the most powerful moments I experienced was when I saw a group holding signs that said, “I regret my abortion” and “I stand for my aborted sibling.” And I will never forget the image of a woman openly crying and holding on to a fellow marcher.
Once our Dordt group reached the outskirts of the monument, we quickly realized it would be hard to see the activities taking place. Thousands upon thousands of people gathered to see Vice President Mike Pence, the highest-elected official ever to attend the March for Life. Other speakers included Kellyanne Conway, President Trump’s campaign manager and counselor; Iowa Senator Joni Ernst; Cardinal Timothy Dolan and former Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson.
Since we were not able to see or hear the speakers, our group decided to get a little closer to where the March would begin. We journeyed down to the frontlines of the March, where we waited until 1 p.m.
As 1 p.m. neared, thousands of marchers started to rally together and a loud buzz grew all around us. A Hispanic church was dancing to music, groups of students were chanting the popular chant “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!” and police cars were starting to show up to manage the crowds. Once we started moving, cheers echoed amongst the marchers.
I have never experienced such powerful unity among groups of people and denominations within the church. I remember walking next to the National Museum of American History and tearing up just thinking of what my marching stood for. I was actively choosing to stand up for life, especially for the unborn. Although there was a lot of joy in our marching, there was also some sorrow. Some groups chose to show terrifying images of aborted babies to remind us of the horror that surrounds abortion.
Once we reached the Supreme Court, we observed some of the opposition. I have never seen a truer image of the First Amendment. Right next to pro-lifers chanting “We are the pro-life generation!” were large groups of mostly women chanting, “My body, my choice!” It was hard to look away from the chaos. All I could do was just stand and stare at the different acts of protests with vastly different messages. About twenty minutes passed and a few students decided to get on their knees and pray directly in front of the opposition. An elderly group from a church sang hymns.
I will never forget this March. I couldn’t believe the incredible boldness and bravery I witnessed. Although it is difficult to know what exactly will happen in the future to further regulate or even outlaw abortion, I do see hope. Because of President Trump’s current pick for the next Supreme Court justice – Neil Gorsuch – the pro-life movement may have a brighter future. After attending the March for Life, I was reminded, once again, of the importance of standing up for what is right, for what I believe to be true.