In recent years the hashtag #WhyWeMarch has become a popular social media phenomenon surrounding the annual March for Life held on January 22 in Washington, DC. Ever since the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions legalized abortion in the U.S. for virtually any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the nation’s capitol each year on Roe’s tragic anniversary, to pray for the reversal of such a grave injustice.
What other movement in our history has garnered such an outpouring? And in the middle of winter no less! The majority of attendees are increasingly teens and young adults. Many “veteran” marchers who have been going to this event for decades, some even since the 1970s, continue on as well. Crowds upwards of 500,000 are not unusual; in fact, the numbers seem to grow each year. It is often said that it’s more of a “shuffle” than a march because of the great crowds. But the joy and energy of such a group committed to Life is truly palpable. This is no ordinary “protest”. It is an exuberant expression of authentic self-giving love. And yet such an incredible gathering is rarely even mentioned on the evening news. It might lead the average person to think that the gift of life has little importance compared to all the media hype about the “war on women”, the funding of the atrocities committed by Planned Parenthood, and all the rest.
Nonetheless, our spirits are renewed when we think about Why We March. So, why do we? While there are as many reasons as there are people who do, let’s consider some of the reasons so often scrolled on the signs the marchers carry:
Every life matters.
Every life is a gift.
God has a plan for each life.
A person’s a person no matter how small.
Even one life lost is too many.
To protect the vulnerable.
Because every child deserves a chance.
Because every child should have a birthday.
Without life, no other rights matter.
Because we love them both.
Every life is precious.
Because life counts.
One particularly poignant sign said “I march because they can’t.”
Yes, there is still much goodness in the world. The young are brimming with enthusiasm for the Cause of Life. They understand that one-third of their generation is missing. They’ve been robbed of the chance to know the classmate who might have been their best friend, or their first love. They’ve been deprived of the teacher who would have taught their children how to read, the doctor who would have found a cure for their grandma’s cancer, and the missionary who would have brought hope and help to the poor. And these bright and enthusiastic youth want to make a difference; they are not afraid to stand up for all that is good and true and beautiful.
To what do we owe this bright light of hope? God’s grace of course, and the witness of so many who have come before – those who followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and have prayed and persevered for over 40 years. Saint John Paul II, in Evangelium Vitae, called us to be a People of Life and a People for Life, and since 1973 the people of life have done just that. They have cared for women in crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes. They have established pro-life legal services, conducted educational forums, advocated for public policy changes, and prayed unceasingly in churches, homes, and on street corners.
In our increasingly secularized culture, it has become quite obvious what happens when people forget about God. It is not a pretty picture. St. John Paul explains how through the appearance of sin man has rebelled against God. He says, “…man not only deforms the image of God in his own person, but is tempted to offences against it in others as well, replacing relationships of communion by attitudes of distrust, indifference, hostility and even murderous hatred. When God is not acknowledged as God, the profound meaning of man is betrayed and communion between people is compromised.” (Evangelium Vitae, n. 36)
And yet, God continually reaches out to us to deliver us from our sinfulness and welcomes us into the arms of His mercy. Thus we can be encouraged by the words of the One who never fails us. We read in the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17) In fact, God loved us so much that He became one of us. He came into the world as a baby. Words are far from adequate to express the profoundness of this act of pure love. When we look upon the face of a baby we cannot help but be reminded of the miracle of this immense love of God. As the March for Life convenes again this January, let us remember the babies. They show us the face of God and call us to return to Him who created us in His image and likeness.
And that is #WhyWeMarch.
Author’s Note: Join the U.S. Bishops in a national novena to pray for a culture of life from January 16 through 24. Receive daily intentions by email, text message or mobile app. Visit www.9DaysforLife.com to learn more.