Whither the March for Life?

March for Life
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For the past 50 years, January 22 (or thereabouts) was the date selected for the March for Life, a March which became the largest annual political gathering of Americans in our nation’s history. The date of the March might not have always been practical (January in DC isn’t exactly welcoming), but it was the right day to protest the diabolical Roe decision.

With the fall of Roe, January 22 has taken on new meaning. Instead of being a day to mourn the continued existence of nationwide legal abortion, now the day represents a historical footnote pointing to the worst decision in Supreme Court history. Its symbolism has changed.

So the question becomes: Should the March for Life be moved to another day of the year? Or, even more fundamentally, should we even still have a national March for Life?

I realize there are more important issues than the March for pro-lifers to address right now, such as finding ways to outlaw abortion in all 50 states, as well as ramping up our crisis pregnancy network to handle the additional women in need of help. But the March for Life has always been the most visible event in the pro-life world, so we should consider its future.

One possibility is to simply keep it on January 22. This would be a reminder to all that Roe unleashed abortion on demand in our country, and 63 millions babies died as a result. It would be a way to remember those babies and declare “Never again.”

Yet, keeping the March on January 22 would be living in the past. Roe is defeated, and the pro-life movement should look to a future where every baby is welcomed into this world, not the past where a handful of men in black robes forced abortion on the nation.

So perhaps we should move the March for Life to June 24? The day the Dobbs ruling was released represents our hopes for an abortion-free future. It is also a great month to have a pro-life march in DC, both because of the better weather (yes, it can get pretty humid then, but I’ll take that over 10 degrees and windy), and because it would be in direct conflict with “Pride Month.”

Having the March on June 24 would give the March a certain liturgical outlook, as that’s the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. What better day to celebrate unborn life than a feast honoring the birth of a child who recognized Our Lord when he was still in the womb?

I’ve also heard suggestions of other dates, such as March 25, the feast of the Annunciation. These suggestions have the advantage of disconnecting the whole movement from the whims of Supreme Court decisions and connecting it to higher realities. The problem would be agreeing on a date, and often March 25 is very close to Holy Week and Easter, which would make travel for many Catholics difficult.

Here’s another possibility: What about ending the national March for Life altogether? By having the March for Life on January 22, it was always connected to ending Roe. Well, Roe is ended, so do we need a national March for Life anymore? As every pro-life pundit has noted, “the battle returns to the states”—a national focus is not what the abortion battle is about right now.

Instead, perhaps a better idea would be individual Marches for Life at each of the state capitals—50 concurrent Marches throughout the nation, but all focused at the state level. That is where the abortion battle is now, and we need to start putting more and more pressure on our state representatives to pass abortions bans.

These state-level Marches could also each have a different emphasis—subsidiarity in practice. The March in Texas, for example, would be much different than the one in a battleground state like Virginia or a pro-abortion state like California. Each March could adapt to the needs of that state.

On the other hand, a national March could still be practically useful, as it would signal to our federal officials that Americans will not support any pro-abortion legislation. It would also be an opportunity for pro-lifers around the country to meet and network, and for young people to see they are not alone in their pro-life beliefs.

Personally, I think we should end the national March for Life and instead have separate Marches in each state, perhaps all on June 24. This recognizes our current reality, which is that it is through state legislation that babies will be saved, and state marches would still allow for pro-lifers to gather together and network and encourage one another. The networking, in fact, would be more effective as we would collaborate with those with whom we can do the most good at the state level. In addition, the resources saved through lower travel expenses could be redirected to crisis pregnancy assistance and local lobbying efforts.

No matter what the pro-life movement decides, I’m sure we can all agree that this is a good “problem” to have. Every year that I’ve gone to the March (my first was in 1991), I’ve always thought, “I hope this is the last March I have to attend.” While abortion is not yet illegal throughout the nation, we can rejoice that we no longer have to protest against nationwide legalized abortion.

Eric Sammons

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Eric Sammons is the Editor-in-Chief of Crisis Magazine and the Executive Director of Crisis Publications.

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