TAIT RYSSDAL/THE HOYA Thousands of anti-abortion activists attended the 44th annual March for Life on Friday, the first in eight years to be held under an anti-abortion president.
Thousands of anti-abortion activists attended the 44th annual March for Life on Friday, the first in eight years to be held under an anti-abortion president.

The 44th annual march drew thousands of anti-abortion activists to gather on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court on Friday. Vice President Mike Pence was the first vice president ever to address activists at the annual March for Life.

The march also marked the first in eight years to be held under an anti-abortion president. Just five days earlier, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to bar foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions from receiving federal funding.

Pence spoke at noon before the march, vowing to end federally funded

abortion nationwide. He also promised that Trump will soon announce a Supreme Court nominee to fill the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia (CAS ’57) last February.

In addition to Pence, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway also addressed the crowd.

Conway, who has recently drawn criticism for her support of the new administration’s use of “alternative facts,” spoke about her hope for the anti-abortion movement during the Trump administration.

“This is a new day, a new dawn for life,” Conway said.  “This dismissive notion of out of sight, out of mind is over. Science and medicine have joined religion and morality in causing many Americans to rethink just how fragile and how triumphant human life truly is.”

Those who gathered at the march came from various backgrounds, from religious clerics to students attending on school trips.

Some who had marched in year’s past, like Fr. Gabriel Zeis, a Catholic chaplain from Princeton University, said this year’s march felt noticeably different.

“There is a greater energy this year. People are motivated to think that we possibly have a stronger voice today than we ever had before in the Capitol,” Zeis said.

Many at the March for Life, including Zeis, largely agreed that Planned Parenthood should be defunded, halting all federal funding to the nonprofit that focuses on providing reproductive health services and resources such as contraceptives, family planning services and abortions.

“Planned Parenthood is a flawed system. No one has ever taken a close look at it. The national conversation has to be around developing a good program that’s going to care for women but not allow for abortions,” Zeis said.

A week earlier, at the Women’s March on Washington, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards spoke about her resolve to keep the organization functional and providing services.

“Today we are here to deliver a message. We will not take this lying down,” Richards said. “You need to call your Senator and say we cannot go back. Together we are a movement and we are unstoppable.”

Georgetown’s pro-abortion rights group, H*yas for Choice, protested at the march, releasing a statement that Trump’s recent policies affect large groups of people.

“We viewed this as an opportunity to register our dissent with the anti-choice values the march promotes, and to show our continued support for abortion access nationwide,” the statement reads. “These policies will endanger the lives and well-being of millions of people in jeopardy, particularly people of color, people with disabilities, low-income people and people living in rural communities.”

H*yas for Choice also addressed its goals for the club and university, prioritizing HIV and sexually transmitted infections screening, access to free menstrual hygiene products, increased access to contraception and better quality care at the Student Health Center.

The group also called for Georgetown University to maintain the minimum standards for contraceptive coverage as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which dictates that contraceptive methods and counseling for all women be provided by plans in the health insurance market.

“Despite this volatile national climate, we will continue to move Georgetown in a progressive direction,” the statement reads.

Georgetown University Right to Life, an anti-abortion rights group, sent about 40 members to participate in the march.

GU Right to Life President Amelia Irvine (COL ’19) said her hope is that the Trump administration’s changes are accompanied by legislation and the appointment of an anti-abortion justice to the Supreme Court.

“One day, I hope that the preborn will enjoy the same rights as every American, and that will only happen when Roe v. Wade is recognized by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional and overturned,” Irvine wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Mike Baker, a northern Illinois resident who travelled to the District for the march, mentioned he was particularly hopeful that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee would work to overturn Roe v. Wade and defund Planned Parenthood.

“The court has been very progressive in things that it hasn’t had to,” Baker said. “The court has forced my children to grow up in a society where marriage has been redefined, which in my opinion, is not their job.”

Rosemary Battle, the president of Students for Life at Michigan State University, said that she hoped to see abortion become separate from religion.

“I hope that the next Supreme Court Justice realizes that this isn’t just a religious issue, that it is definitely a science issue,” Battle said.  “Being pro-life means you have realized that it is an individual that is conceived. It’s not just part of the woman, it’s actually its own being.”

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One Comment

  1. Sharon Cerrell Levy says:

    Thank you Tait Ryssdal for helping to make the term “anti-abortion” the correct definition of those who oppose abortion. As a supporter of a women’s choice to choose to have an abortion, I am also not “pro-abortion” (which semantically would be the opposite of “anti-abortion), just as I am not “anti-life.” (Is there anyone anti-life? I guess if one were suicidal, they would be.) One suggestion I do have is that instead of describing someone as “pro-abortion rights” (because that still has that “pro-abortion terminology), perhaps describe them as an abortion rights advocate or proponent of abortion rights. Thank you again for a very well-written account of the March for Life.

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