On Monday, an estimated 400,000 people rallied in Washington, D.C., as part of the 38th annual March for Life pro-life movement, according to John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews.com. This makes a record turnout for the 2011 March for Life. The march was first held in 1974 after the decision in Roe v. Wade allowing women to seek abortions. Since then, the march has been held annually on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision.
The Catholic Diocese of Salina chartered two buses for a trip to the nation’s capital to participate in the rally. The trip to Washington, food stops included, lasted 22 hours.
In years past, the march started near the Washington Monument. This year, however, organizers of the event pushed it three blocks ahead, closer to the Capitol Building.
Before participants marched to Capitol Hill, a rally was staged on the Mall, the area stretching between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. Participants crowded around a large stage that was set up for speakers and singers.
Nellie Gray, leader and founder of the March for Life, said she was unable to see the end of the crowd from the podium.
Catholic bishops from both the Western and Eastern orthodoxes gave blessings for the event. For this year, bishops decided to integrate with the crowd rather than gather in a single group onstage.
Catholicism and Christianity were not the only religions or denominations represented at the march. Onstage, several Jewish rabbis also spoke out against abortion and many other denominations attended the march.
Congressmen, many of them freshmen members joined the rally, and House Majority Leader Eric Canter also spoke during the rally. Representatives Tim Huelskamp and Mike Pompeo of Kansas were also in attendance. Each congressman at the rally gave a short message to the audience, with many of them reflecting on the recent 2010 congressional elections and the resulting shift in power in the House of Representatives.
A chorus group, the Sounds of Liberty, from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., performed the music onstage.
Bobby Schindler Jr., brother of Terri Schiavo, also spoke, arguing against all forms of genocide, including euthanasia. Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed by court order after a lengthy legal battle between Schiavo’s parents and her husband. Being pro-life, Schindler said, goes beyond abortion.
Following the rally, the crowd began marching towards the Capitol. They continued walking to the Supreme Court building where many participants prayed and reflected on Roe v. Wade.
Within the Salina group, several parents journeyed with their children. One such parent was Elizabeth Schmeidler of Hays. Schmeidler said the march gave her a sense that she is not alone in her beliefs and hope that America can be what she wants it to be.
“It was very encouraging; I’m hopeful that the freshmen (congressmen) that come in put their words into action,” Schmeidler said. “It was great to see all the faiths and all races.”
Her son, Roy Schmeidler, freshman of Thomas More Prep-Marian, said that the pictures of aborted babies on signs along the streets surprised him. Given the chance, Roy said he will go to another March for Life.
“The amount of people stood out,” said Tanner Younie, senior of Thomas More Prep-Marian. “I knew a lot of people were pro-life, but I didn’t think that many people would be there.”