Anti-abortion activists march in Washington.
Holding signs reading, “Life Is a Gift. Protect It.” and “Defend Life,” thousands rallied at March for Life, an anti-abortion protest held in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25. Among them were a significant amount of young adults, signaling the emphasis this year’s rally placed on youth.
Organizers used social media to attract young supporters and youth groups. Even the Pope tweeted his support to protesters.
The rally was held three days after the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made first-trimester abortion legal.
Audra Nakas, a sophomore psychology and politics major at the Catholic University of America (CUA), has attended March for Life rallies for the past five years. She described this year’s rally as “overwhelmingly youthful” and said young people are significant in continuing the movement.
Nakas added there are misconceptions about abortion from the pro-life and pro-choice sides, and said one of these misconceptions is that people who are pro-life don’t care about women.
“In the past there wasn’t enough focus, but one of the things changing is we’re realizing that we kind of assumed everyone knew we cared about women too, but that wasn’t obvious,” she said. “We’re trying to emphasize we’re fighting against abortion because women deserve better.”
Another misconception, this time by anti-abortion supporters, Nakas said, is they tend to perceive those who are pro-choice as seeing abortion as a good thing.
“In my experience … most [abortion rights supporters] don’t actually think abortion is a good thing,” she said. “They see it as a necessary evil. Again, that’s something where there needs to be more dialogue.”
Despite the big turnout at this year’s rally, Rachel Gilligan, a senior nursing major at Hope College in Michigan, isn’t sure the protest will change legislation.
“I would definitely like to see [Roe v. Wade] overturned,” she said. “As much as I wish a rally could have an impact, I think because people who are pro-life are a minority in the U.S., I am not sure about how many minds it will change.”
According to a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 53% Americans agree with the Roe v. Wade decision, and 29% oppose it. The rest of the people polled had no opinion.
Johanna Van Liew, a junior nursing major at Hope College, said she plans to help Hope College students attend March for Life next year. She recently started a campus group called Hope Students for Life.
“I love and value America and the freedom it stands for, but I want to help make sure that freedom is extended to all, especially those who cannot speak for themselves, such as potential victims of abortion or even euthanasia,” Van Liew said. “I want to help make sure that the exercise of choices and freedoms by one person do not harm another individual.”
For Van Liew, being an anti-abortion supporter is a way of life that also means helping improve the quality of life of people in other ways, such as volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens or raising money to give to crisis pregnancy centers for supplies.
CUA student Schultz McLean, a sophomore international business major, said he enjoyed the opportunity to meet others at the rally that also supposed the cause. He added he’s still learning more about the pro-life movement and what he believes, and is optimistic about the movement.
“This country gives us the opportunity to have a voice, which I think all that came to the march, young and old, feel very passionately about,” he said. “We walked right by the House of Representatives and senators of our country, and we hope that they were able to witness out of their windows that we were voicing our opinions.”
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