Diocesan News

March for Life Forges Ahead Through COVID-19 Pandemic

Pro-life advocates gather near the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Jan. 19, 2018. (Photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

WINDSOR TERRACE — Cathy Donohoe cut class in 1974 to attend the first annual March for Life with her father. She’s helped the diocese organize buses and gone every year since at least 2000, but this year she’ll stay back as a COVID-19 precaution. 

“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. I think it’s important for the world to know that pro-lifers are tough and determined, and that we don’t give up until every human being is protected under the law,” said Donohoe, the president of The Bridge to Life, a New York organization that helps mothers in need.

“There’s no stopping the power of prayer, and we will be praying for a safe march. It’s important for us to build momentum locally. We need to let people know that there is always a way for them to get involved.” 

The diocese also isn’t sending buses to Washington D.C. because of the pandemic. Friday afternoon, the March for Life encouraged people to stay home as it shifts the event to a more virtual format in light of the recent events at the capitol and COVID-19. 

On Jan. 6, hundreds of President Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in protest of the 2020 election, as lawmakers worked to certify the results. The riots resulted in the deaths of  four civilians and a police officer. 

Donohoe said she believes last week’s violence may have played a part in the decision to make the event almost entirely virtual. However, she doesn’t think the march organizers themselves think marchers would be violent, or are trying to distance themselves from the president. 

“I don’t believe in their heart of hearts that they believe that the pro-lifers that show up year after year will be violent,” she said. “We’ve never had any violent incidents as long as I’ve been participating. However, of course (the riots) play a part.” 

The novena is sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Christian Rada, director of Marriage, Family Formation and Respect Life Education for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said it’s something Catholics in the diocese should consider. 

“It’s prayers you can do, suggestions for things to do outside of prayer to show that life is good, life is precious,” Rada said. “That the dignity of the human person, not just for the little ones in the mother’s womb, but also for the elderly as well. Womb-to-tomb ministry as I like to call it.” 

The USCCB website outlines prayers, reflection, and acts of preparation for each day of the novena. The acts of preparation are daily sacrifices like taking a break from television, fasting for one meal, and sacrificing free time to do an act of service. 

People that can’t attend the March for Life but still want to show their support can also sign up on marchforlife.org to attend virtually. 

This year’s theme is “Together Strong: Life Unites!” Notable speakers include Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the USCCB pro-life activities chair; and former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Denise Collins, a Catholic parishioner in the Diocese of Brooklyn, was considering going to Washington D.C. until she heard Friday’s announcement. Collins said she always hopes to travel for the event because “it’s very energizing.” It would’ve been her third consecutive year attending. 

“When you’re living in New York City, it kind of feels like you’re alone being concerned for the welfare of the unborn and their lives,” Collins said. “Going to the March for Life shows you that there’s a lot of people that believe, as I do, that it’s a great human injustice that children are aborted just based on whether or not they’re wanted. That’s not how to treat other humans.”

Instead of the march, she said she’ll likely participate in the mass at the co-cathedral. She encourages to continue to advocate for the pro-life cause through simple actions like saying the rosary when parents have made the “unfortunate, tragic decision to go through with an abortion.” 

Collins also suggests participating in the diocese’s Witness For Life, where on the first Saturday of every month parishioners attend mass followed by a silent rosary procession to Bleecker St. abortion clinic. 

This year’s March for Life comes at a time of transition in Washington D.C. It will be nine days into the first presidential term of Joe Biden. Many Catholics actually fear what the Biden Administration might try and do in regards to abortion. He campaigned on the idea of codifying Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court Decision that legalized abortion, making it the law of the land. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has also called to remove the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. Biden has also endorsed scrapping the policy. 

Other questions exist about what will happen with other legislation like the Mexico City Policy that requires non-governmental organizations receiving U.S. aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning in developing nations. 

“We have to gear up for the most pro-abortion legislators in our history,” Donohoe said.