Article and video by Sarah Pride; photos by Russell York
Patrick Henry College
March for Life protestors completely fill a major boulevard in downtown Washington, D.C., January 22, 2010
Given Patrick Henry College’s close proximity to the nation’s capital, several PHC students were able to join over 200,000 other Americans who flocked to Washington D.C. in buses, cars, and planes for the 37th annual March for Life, January 22, 2010. The March, birthed in 1974, after the Supreme Court passed the landmark case Roe v. Wade, seeks to draw attention to the plight of unborn children by uniting peaceful activists, young and old. It features a rally with speeches from U.S. Congressmen, Catholic bishops, Greek Orthodox priests, and Protestant pastors, among others.
“I saw on Friday that the pro-life movement is incredibly diverse,” relates sophomore Ryan Gilles, who attended the March for the first time this year. “I saw Catholics chanting ‘Hail Mary’s,’ sensationalists with gruesome abortion pictures, monks singing, dancing, and chanting, and so much more. Everyone has their own approach and ideas for the same cause. But in the end, I really believe events like this make a big difference.”
Junior Alyssa Farah helped recruit PHC students to attend the event. She says that she has been “participating in the March for Life for years,” because she thinks it “sends a strong message to those in power to see the solidarity within the pro-life movement against abortion.” Nor is she alone; many of the older people at the March have come every year since 1974. One Jewish rabbi who led a delegation to the rally, for example, first attended the March for Life as a teen. On Friday he led the huge crowd in passionate shouts of protest with a resolve that clearly hadn’t faded since his youth.
PHC students (from L to R) Russell York, Michelle Wright, and Ryan Gilles at the 2010 March for Life
Later in the day, the pro-life crowd of families, schoolchildren, clergy, grandmothers, and monks exited the National Mall onto Constitution Avenue, filling the boulevard from 7th Avenue until the top of the hill, where the road in front of the Supreme Court building crosses. With signs held high, the throng marched along en masse, creating an atmosphere both joyful and solemn, as if 200,000 distant family members had reunited after a long separation for a loved one’s funeral. Once past the Supreme Court, the crowd dispersed to metro stations and buses, many facing all-night rides to reach distant hometowns. Next year, more than likely, many will meet again, and again the year after, until their cause is achieved.
“I participated in the March for Life because I believe that a culture that preserves life is the cornerstone of any humane and decent society,” insists junior Noah Oberlander. “The March for Life provides an opportunity to use my First Amendment right to publicly stand up and say, ‘Abortion is wrong!’”
Patrick Henry alumna Eve Barner, who currently works on the staff of Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), was able to watch from the cordoned-off area near the rally podium while Representative Akin and other congressmen spoke and thousands pressed closer for a better look. Barner, who volunteered at a Crisis Pregnancy Center for many years before, during, and after her years as a PHC student, feels called to affirm the value of human life.
“There are a lot of injustices in the world,” she says, “but I don’t know of any that are more pressing than giving voices to unborn human beings who are unable to speak for themselves and are made in the image of God.”
Click on the video below for a two-minute glimpse of the event, produced by another PHC alum.