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Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Renewed hope

Abortion | This year's March for Life offered stories of a grateful or sorrowful past and an outlook for a hopeful future

WASHINGTON-Amanda Martis made her first trip to Washington this week.

While the teenager from Toledo, Ohio, is excited about learning about the city's history, it is her own history she is the most excited about sharing.

Seventeen years ago her mother, a college freshmen suddenly facing an unplanned pregnancy, chose adoption instead of abortion. So Amanda had one message for the biological mother she has never met: "Thanks, mom."

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So said the poster she carried on Friday while standing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

"This is very personal to me," the high school junior said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her and what she did for me. She gave me up to a family that has been wonderful. I'm one of the lucky ones."

Amanda on Friday joined tens of thousands of pro-life supporters who marched from the National Mall to the Supreme Court building during the March for Life rally, which is held annually on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Politicians and pastors shared the event's main stage and the task of energizing the troops despite frigid temperatures. But it is Amanda's personal story and unknown others like it throughout the crowd that should be the event's legacy.

Teenaged protestors like Amanda seemed to dominate the crowd: "We love babies, how about you?" one crowd of youth shouted across the street to another youth group-sized contingent who responded with a "We love babies, yes we do" shout of their own.

Anne Marie Mullin helped chaperone two busloads of about 90 students who trekked to the rally from Syracuse, N.Y.

"This current generation is the most pro-life generation since Roe v. Wade," Mullin, who is on her eighth march, told me while walking to the Supreme Court. "And they are about to be voting age. I have great hope for them."

One year after the word hope was used during a presidential inauguration on the Mall, that same adjective seemed to permeate this year's pro-life rally, which also took place in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. Hope because national polls show that the majority of Americans oppose abortion. Hope because House lawmakers successfully blocked the federal funding of abortion in a proposed healthcare reform bill through an amendment that shocked pro-abortion advocates. Hope because the growing personhood movement now has promising initiatives in 32 states to protect life. And hope because the shocking election of a new Republican senator from Massachusetts has put the brakes on the federal healthcare takeover train while showing America what a difference engaged constituents could make.

"Thank you Massachusetts," Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, shouted to the crowd that extended down the mall for nearly five blocks. "You delivered a teachable moment for all of America."

These facts seemed to give new life to the movement to end abortion. An often-stated goal at this year's rally: to encourage a right-to-life nation to elect a right-to-life Congress starting with this year's mid-term elections.

But the day wasn't all about politics: Georgette Forney fought back tears while recounting to the crowd the aftermath of her own abortion. Flanked by more then a dozen women who silently stood on the stage holding "I regret my abortion" signs, Forney listed the host of emotional, physical, and spiritual problems abortions can inflict on women.

"So many of us thought that abortion would solve our problem pregnancies," she said. "But abortion changes you. We are the reality of abortion, and we will be silent no more."

Technology even made an appearance at the 37th march: More than 70,000 who could not make it to Washington joined a virtual online March for Life.

Carrying signs ("Abortion is not healthcare" seemed to be this year's popular choice), oversized wooden crosses, and pro-life flags, the crowd, which even included a clan of kilt clad, gospel-playing bagpipers, slowly made its way down Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues to end the rally at the Supreme Court. Hundreds peeled off along the way to enter into the House and Senate offices to make personal pro-life appeals to lawmakers and their staffs.

"Abortion is the moral issue of our time," exclaimed Rep. Joseph Cao, R-La., who led the crowd in a cheer: "I am pro-life. We are pro-life. America is pro-life."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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