WASHINGTON (CNS) – Vice President Mike Pence told pro-life advocates from across the U.S. Jan. 27 that “life is winning in America, and today is a celebration of that progress.”
“More than 240 years ago our founders declared these truths to be self-evident – that we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals, but today, generations hence – because of all of you and the many thousands who stand with us in rallies across this country – life is winning again in America.”
Pence said President Donald Trump had asked him to address the March for Life rally. “He asked me to thank you for your support, for your stand for life and your compassion for the women and children of America.”
“Our president is a man with broad shoulders, a big heart,” Pence said. “His vision, his energy, his optimism are boundless, and I know he will make America great again. From his first day in office, he has been keeping his promises to the American people. Over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re in the promise-keeping business.”
He pointed to Trump’s Jan. 23 executive action reinstating what’s called the Mexico City Policy, which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion in other countries. He said the administration would work with Congress to stop taxpayer funding of abortion “and devote those resources to health care services for women across America.”
“I urge you to press on,” Pence told the March for Life rally-goers. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the minds and hearts of the rising generation if our hearts first break for mothers and their unborn children and meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment. To heal our land and restore a culture of life, we must continue to be a movement that embraces all and shows the dignity and worth of every person.”
Before Pence spoke, Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, took the podium.
“I am a wife, a mother, a Catholic, counselor to the president of the United States of America, and yes, I am pro-life,” Conway said. “It is such an honor to stand with the vice president of the United States and so many leaders, families and students from places near and far (today).
“Your courage, your conviction and your faith are impressive and consequential,” she told the crowd. “This is a new day, a new dawn for life. Why are we here? What does it mean to stand together to be part of this incredible movement, to face criticism, ridicule, and laws and lawmakers (against life)? It means to protect and promote the most precious gift in the world – the gift of life. It means to stand up stand tall and stand together against the indifference and the indefensible and on behalf of babies in the womb.
“This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life and pro-adoption movement,” she continued. “Women who face troubled pregnancies should know they are not alone, that they are not judged, they are protected and cared for and celebrated.”
After a lineup of speakers, rally participants planned to march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.
Local Pro-Lifers Participate In Annual March for Life
Some estimated the crowd to be about half a million. Hundreds of people from Brooklyn and Queens were among the marchers.
While the crowd was mostly young people, some veterans were making a return visit.
Tom Crockett of Our Lady of Miracles, Canarsie, said, “This is my 15th year. Each year more people cheering, moving, and getting their message heard. Signs that read ‘Thank God my Mother Bore Me’ was very powerful and will stay with me. Some of the signs were over the top and terrifying to see, yet that is the reality. I understand the message and people do need to understand what is really happening.”
Brendan and Eileen Bolger of St. Patrick’s, Bay Ridge, are long time pro-lifers.
“This is my 25th year,” said Brendan. “Bigger crowd and lots of very young people. The movement is alive. Working in New York, a majority of the people I see are older, then to come down here and see all the young people is inspiring to know the movement won’t die out with us.”
Eileen added, “The whole thing is inspiring. The whole experience you don’t know or see it and understand until you get down here. Then you see how strong it is. I have a lot of high hopes for the future and we will be back.”
Many young people were enjoying a family experience.
Frank Camasiro, an eighth grader at St. Joseph the Worker, Windsor Terrace, was one of the youngest on the bus that left from St. Anselm, Bay Ridge. “This is my first time going. I was nervous at first but once things got started, I really enjoyed it. I would come back and encourage my friends to come just because it is the right thing to do.”
His father, Vincent, added, “This is my 15th year and it’s important, but I really wanted my son to be involved. To see we are not alone in our beliefs is so powerful. The character of these people is amazing because you are protecting a life of someone who might never be able to help you back.”
Ramon Quinn Ramirez of Holy Innocents, Flatbush, enjoyed his first experience of March for Life. “My first trip and it was just amazing. The outpouring of love is so inspiring and it was all done so peacefully. There was no foul language or any problems.
“A few groups were protesting against us but someone started saying the rosary and then we all joined in and you could no longer hear those protesters. It was just amazing to see and I am already planning of bringing the whole family next year.”
Pro-Lifers from Queens Take to the Streets
A diocesan delegation left Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston in the still dark hours of Friday morning.
One parishioner from Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cambria Heights, took the day off from work in order to attend her first March for Life by herself.
“I keep wanting to come but because I’m afraid of the cold, it’s just too much,” said Benita Simmons, “for some reason this year, I said I’m going and when I saw (the advertisement) in The Tablet and it was free, I said there’s no reason not to.”
Finding strength in numbers, 11 students and faculty members from St. Francis Prep H.S., Fresh Meadows, came to showcase their solidarity. With scarves, coats and backpacks in tow, they looked ready to take on the bus trip’s final destination, marching as a unit from the Washington Monument on Constitution Avenue up to the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol.
For freshman Leila Shanley, it marked not even seven days in between events in which she took to the streets for causes that were important to her, since she also participated in the Women’s March in Manhattan the previous week. Shanley has been actively participating in social causes since she was a young girl, all under the direction of her grandmother who at one time helped undocumented immigrants get their papers, including her own grandfather.
“She had met him in the church and she realized he was illegal and she helped him get his papers,” said Shanley.
“My grandma was the one who taught me how to stand up for my rights and she used to take me on marches and protests against the things we didn’t believe in.”
While this was her first March For Life in Washington, she was taking a step in honor of the woman who would have been right beside her if she could.
“She’s sick right now or she would be here; she’s at home.”
Four hours in commute and hundreds of miles later, buses unloaded into a city bustling with people from all over the country united for one cause. People filled the streets from sidewalk to sidewalk with signs in hand with voices erupted in chants.
Some parishioners teamed up and made a pilgrimage out of the march. Young adults and youth leaders from St. Teresa, Woodside; Queen of Angels, Sunnyside; St. Sebastian, Woodside and Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, Woodside, traveled together.
“This event was an eye opener for all of our kids,” said Evelyn Munoz, youth and young adult minister. “The truth was told and (we’re) blessed that together we were able to share this message.”
Contributing to this story were Tablet reporters Matthew O’Connor and Melissa Enaje.