By Helen Stevenson
March for Life, an annual event protesting women’s constitutional right to an abortion, happened this past Friday, Jan. 18 in Washington D.C.’s National Mall.
Although organizers do not keep official attendance numbers, organizers told The Washington Times it could be as high as 100,000. A small group of students with the university’s Respect for Life (RFL) club attended the event to show their support for the movement.
“This year was the third time I have attended the March for Life as a member of RFL at Fordham University,” said Jacqueline McConologue, FCRH ‘20, president of RFL. “The first time I attended, I was in awe at the sheer numbers of young people of every religion, gender and race that were in attendance.”
McConologue said that she believes that a woman’s right to choose is not a necessity to her and other women in the movement.
“I think there is a popular narrative that pro-life movements are run largely by ‘men trying to control women’s bodies,’ but my experience has been almost entirely the opposite,” she said. “Everywhere in the pro-life movement I have experienced powerful, strong women in leadership positions, attempting to state their belief that women don’t need abortions.”
Matthew Elenio, GSB ‘20, member of RFL, said he chose to attend the march because he believes in “the sanctity of all life.”
“We walk to stand up against the abortion of children, the killing of the convicted and the killing of the elderly,” he said. “It is important that all that support the right to life come together at this time, and keep the March for Life the largest right to life demonstration in the United States.”
Elenio said that the demonstration is largely based on religious beliefs.
“The environment is predominantly a religious one, with several Catholic parishes coming with banners signifying where they are from, along with other religious communities and several signs all stating the same message: life is sacred and should be preserved and respected,” he said.
Elizabeth Vernon, GSB ‘22 and member of RFL, said she was excited at the opportunity to attend the march for the first time this weekend. She said that in her opinion, life begins at the point of conception.
“I was moved by the words of the speakers at the rally, such as Abby Johnson, Chris Smith and Mike Pence,” she said. “Additionally, it was very powerful to see many people of different backgrounds and beliefs unifying to give a voice to the voiceless.”
Vernon said she was disappointed by the lack of media coverage considering the number of people that attended the rally.
“I was blown away by the number of people that were present,” she said. “Some people may assume that being pro-life is not a widely held belief, but with just a little bit of support from the media, the true number of people present could further progress the movement.”
However, the event did get national attention as a result of a viral video showing a group of young men in “Make America Great Again” hats that appeared to be taunting a Native American man participating in the Indigenous Peoples March on the same day.
When asked about the relevance to the march, Margaret Riley, FCRH ‘22 and member of RFL, said that she was not educated enough on the story behind the video to comment with complete accuracy. However, she said that it looked like the young men are in the wrong.
“Hopefully [they will] learn from the disgracefulness of their actions and change their ways,” she said. “Furthermore, I would like to point out that these boys do not represent the majority of those who attend the March for Life; most of those who march do so because of their own story and are accepting and welcoming of all people.”
Elenio agrees with this sentiment, saying that the actions of these young men do not represent the movement as a whole.
“Although the video’s popularity, it is not relevant to the March for Life and its importance for the right to life, but note that the March for Life is extremely peaceful and the March has never had any violence to it,” he said.
McConologue said she is frustrated with the way people perceive the movement as a result of videos such as this one.
“As the March has been in the media recently for the actions of a few attendees, it is difficult to shake that reputation,” she said, “Every year I am faced with people… making unkind comments towards me because I am vocal about my attendance at the March.”
The March for Life was held just a day before the annual Women’s March in Washington D.C. and New York City. Many students at the university attended the NYC Women’s March and Riley said although the movements seemingly contradict one another, the pro-life movement is not against women’s rights in general.
“[We] just also support and love unborn women. There is such a thing as a feminist pro-lifer,” she said. “It is not an issue of race, gender, economics or anything else. I walked in the March for Life because it is an issue of human rights.”