Over 700 students join forces with hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C. to rally for life

Light snowfall on Thursday evening did not deter the hundreds of students from Notre Dame, Holy Cross College, and St. Mary’s College who drove through the night to Washington, D.C., Friday morning to attend the 44th annual March for Life.

The March for Life recalls the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Every year since, pro-life protesters gather in the nation’s capital to march in solidarity against the landmark ruling. Students from Notre Dame have been attending the March for many years, and this year over 700 students boarded buses to make the whirlwind trip along with hundreds of thousands of others from across the nation.

On Friday morning, the Notre Dame group gathered at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, Virginia, to celebrate Mass with University President Father John Jenkins, CSC. He commended the students for their commitment to protecting life and mentioned a conversation he had with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence the previous evening, in which Pence expressed amazement and admiration at the size and support of the Notre Dame group. Father Jenkins also reminded the students that they were marching to advance a culture of love and a change of heart in America.

After the Mass, students drove into the nation’s capital to join what has been estimated to be 500,000-plus people—numbers boosted by the presence of Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke at the Rally for Life on the National Mall just before the March. He was the highest-ranking elected official to speak at the March for Life since its beginning, speaking of his hope for the future of the country.

“Life is winning in America,” said Pence, to loud cheering. “And today is a celebration of that progress that we have made in this cause.”

To a bystander watching the March, it certainly might have appeared as a celebration. As the March began, people of all ages swarmed down Constitution Avenue toward the steps of the Supreme Court, holding signs with slogans such as “Pro-Woman, Pro-Life” and shouting chants such as “Hey, Ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!” For over two hours, people marched through D.C. and smiled, laughed, and cheered for life.

“I was curious about what the size of the crowds would be,” freshman Holly McGrath, a first-time marcher, told the Rover. She explained how she understood that the media often downplayed the numbers of previous marches and wanted to see for herself what the outcome would be. Afterward, she said that she “was not disappointed with the turnout at all,” but rather very impressed.

“What I was not prepared for was the number of young people participating,” McGrath added, saying she thought it was amazing how the number of high school and college students seemed to be the majority of the crowd. She had also expected to see more protestors because of the Women’s March the week previously, but, she said, “I think I saw three.”

Freshman Ben Cook also marveled at the size of the crowd and the strength of its pro-life stance. “In this day and age, it’s very easy to feel alone in my beliefs as someone who is pro-life,” he told the Rover. “Seeing so many people from every demographic taking action for what we believe in, it was impossible to feel alone.”

Back on campus, students unable to attend the March in D.C. took to the streets of South Bend to form their own March for Life. They gathered in front of the Knights of Columbus building on Washington Street for a rally and afterwards marched to the St. Joseph County Courthouse. Among the crowd were local school children, families, and infants in strollers.

“It was awesome to see the community come out and join us,” junior Maria VanBerkum told the Rover. “A lot of cars who drove by us were friendly too, honking and cheering for us.”

Wherever they were, students expressed their joy for life and their commitment to the pro-life cause, adding their voices to hundreds of thousands of others.

“It’s a cause that I’m extremely proud to support,” freshman Grace Schippers told the Rover in Washington, D.C. “Being able to join in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of other people who agree not only furthers the cause but also inspires hope.”

As Vice President Pence said in his speech in the Rally on Friday afternoon, the marchers believe that “life is winning again in America.”

Monica VanBerkum is a freshman majoring in the College of Arts and Letters and living in Cavanaugh Hall. She is currently in denial about the snow falling and continues to believe spring is just around the corner. Contact Monica at mvanber1@nd.edu.