Are marches effective for the pro-life movement?

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In January, Crusaders for Life attended the Texas Rally for Life in Austin alongside other pro-life supporters. -Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
In January, Crusaders for Life attended the Texas Rally for Life in Austin alongside other pro-life supporters.
-Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Jessie Johnson argues in favor of marches as a significant and powerful contribution to the pro-life movement:

 

Crusaders for Life took a bus of 29 University of Dallas students to the Texas Rally for Life at the state capitol in Austin last Saturday, Jan. 24. We also attended the “Boots on the Ground” college student conference held by Texas Right to Life, where we had the opportunity to meet other university students from around the state and listen to pro-life speakers.

The conference was fun and informative, but the heart of the trip was the march through downtown Austin and the rally at the state capitol that followed.  The march and rally were certainly different than the usual work of Crusaders for Life, namely, praying and sidewalk counseling at Dallas abortion clinics, assisting with fundraising events for pro-life organizations and hosting educational speakers.

While some might argue that the marches held throughout the country last week — modeled after the March for Life in Washington, D.C. — are not effective in saving lives, I believe that these events are worthwhile, and that they carry a particular significance for the pro-life movement.

The greatest value of the March for Life is the public witness of a large number of concerned, pro-life citizens.  It is one thing to be pro-life in one’s personal moral decisions, and I am not trying to denigrate the importance of that in any respect.  In fact, one could build a rather sobering examination of conscience off the term “pro-life” — “Do I respect the dignity of myself and others by refraining from gossip? By being chaste in deed, word, and thought?” But it is another thing entirely to stand before our elected representatives and let them know, en masse, that we value the right to life as the most fundamental right.

Another value of the march is the power that large events have in drawing new people into the pro-life movement. In the life of faith, God often uses an extraordinary experience to draw us into a relationship with Him — a relationship that we then live out in ordinary ways on a day-to-day basis.  The same is true here; perhaps those who have never put their pro-life beliefs into practice would be willing to do so after attending the march, and to do so in ways that more directly affect their community.

Lastly, the value of a pilgrimage can never be underestimated.  Those who have been to Rome know this well.  When I was a junior in high school, I went to the March for Life in D.C.  My chaplain was fond of reminding us that there would be pains to the pilgrimage: people getting sick, lots of walking, 50 sleep-deprived high school students stuffed on a bus without having showered in the last 24 hours.  But the opportunity to “offer it up for the babies” was undoubtedly the greatest gift of the trip, even if I did not recognize it at the time.  We will never know the value of such sacrifices during this life, and that is all the more reason to keep marching, whether we see immediate results or not.

Jake Loel argues that one annual  march will not eradicate abortion:  

Dear pro-life activists, your marches aren’t enough.

In light of the recent anniversary of the decision of the court case Roe v. Wade, I, like many other Catholic youths who grew up in pro-life homes, attended a memorial prayer service, while my thoughts were with the many other Catholic youths protesting the 1973 Supreme Court decision at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco and the various smaller protests around the country.

The Catholic community in the United States is highly divided on the doctrine regarding abortion. According to a poll commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision and cited in an article by The Washington Post published last year, 76 percent of Catholics in the U.S. support abortion in “all or some cases,” contrary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.” (2270) However, the hundreds of young people who protest the court decision seem to believe that the U.S. government should make all abortions illegal.

However, those Catholics who do want abortion to be illegal are not protesting effectively. In order to eradicate abortion, they must first eradicate what some have so aptly named “the culture of death.” This is a culture in which “sleeping around” is assumed to be universally acceptable and the Roman Catholic Church is portrayed as authoritarian, old-fashioned and ridden with pedophilic priests.

The one day a year we spend on the streets protesting will not eradicate abortion. In all honesty, the people who are pro-abortion rights will most likely dislike us even more after having their streets blocked in every city from Austin, Texas to Atlanta, Ga.

This culture of death could continue in America until pro-choice citizens are outnumbered by those who are pro-life simply because pro-life parents have more children. However, a much quicker and more practical way to eradicate this culture is to simply make society more accepting of life in the womb.

This means that pro-life Catholics need to change their everyday speech to reflect the beliefs that they stand for. We are supporters of marriage, which respects life, so we should use language that reflects this respect.

This means that pro-life Catholics who are musicians, artists, authors and actors should not shy away from making artwork and writing songs, books or articles that show respect for life, even if they fear losing credibility. This means that we should not ignore or ostracize other activists who are not Catholic or religious at all.

This means that health care workers, aid workers and parents need to prove that children will be cared for lovingly if they are given a chance to be born.

This means that journalists, reporters and screenwriters need to make media friendlier to a culture of life by their writing. Pro-life activists, and indeed most religious people in the U.S., need to prove that they are above party politics, and are not biased by their views because they are unthinking and believe whatever the politician who is “pro-life” tells them to believe. Catholics need to prove that being pro-life does not mean being anti-environment, anti-homosexuals and anti-rationality.

Those of you who are reading this article, who have participated in the March for Life or a similar protest, continue to do so. It shows the politicians that to get votes, they have to support life. But make the protest against the culture of death a part of your everyday life as well.

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