By Bradford Richardson - 01/22/16 05:34 PM EST
Snowstorm keeps turnout low, but spirits stay high at March for Life
Frigid temperatures and an earlier-than-expected snowstorm diminished turnout, but not spirits, at the annual March for Life rally in Washington on Friday.
Tens of thousands of the movement’s faithful — made up largely of high school and college students outfitted in matching jackets, scarves or hats — took to the streets to protest on the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Longtime participants said the rally was one of the smallest they had ever seen, but expressed optimism about the youthful demographic taking up the mantle.
“From our diocese, we had 22 buses that were supposed to come, but because of weather, only one bus came,” said William Theis, 72, from northern Kentucky, who added he has been to the rally every year since 1979 and estimated the crowd at three percent of last year’s total.
“What’s impressed me – the number of young kids here is really impressive,” Theis said. “They have an interest in the pro-life [movement], and, you know, they’re the ones who are going to get us all pro-life.”
Event organizers also took notice, passing out signs proclaiming the arrival of the “Pro-Life Generation.”
“A lot of us are young people — the pro-life generation — who care about life from womb to tomb,” said Victor Esposito, 20, who was with a group of students from Catholic University of America wearing red embroidered scarves.
“There’s come this recognition that as more and more science and technology comes out, we begin to recognize that life really does start at conception,” he added.
The theme of the March, “Pro-life and pro-women go hand in hand,” sought to emphasize the gender diversity of the anti-abortion-rights movement, challenging the narrative that opposition to abortion constitutes a “war on women.”
Speeches at the Washington Monument prior to the march by two female politicians — GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) — underscored that message.
“Many of those fighting against us have claimed that our efforts to defend and protect life at all stages of development constitute a war on women,” Ernst said. “I reject that. I reject that.
“Because I will remind them that I am a woman, and I have been to war, and let me be clear: This is no war on women,” the Army veteran added.
Both women emphasized the importance of the 2016 elections, with several potential Supreme Court nominations and a chance to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, on the line.
“We need a fearless fighter in the White House, not just to win this election, but to restore the character of our nation," Fiorina said.
If elected president, Fiorina vowed to defund Planned Parenthood and divert the funds toward women’s health centers and pregnancy clinics that do not perform abortions.
“The pro-abortion left cannot stand it when we talk about defunding Planned Parenthood,” she said. “They scream at the top of their lungs about taking back women’s health. Unless, of course, you bring up pregnancy centers or community health centers. Then, the left goes dead silent.
“This is a fight we must win, ladies and gentlemen,” she added. “This is a fight we can and will win.”