Tens of thousands of pro-life citizens took to the streets in Washington, D.C., on Friday to affirm a powerful message about the importance of protecting the unborn: “equality begins in the womb.”
That proclamation — the official theme of the 2022 March For Life — is one that has been echoed for decades by activists and advocates seeking to reframe the abortion debate in America.
The annual march is a peaceful demonstration aimed at visually showing that the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case legalizing abortion across the U.S. did anything but solve or dismiss the moral quagmires surrounding abortion.
The first March For Life unfolded in 1974 in the wake of the Roe decision, but the annual event has only grown and intensified over the years.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, recently took Faithwire through the intriguing history and explained that the event was founded by the late Nellie Gray.
“She was an attorney who worked for the government. She was in her late 40s when she founded the March,” Mancini explained. “A few months before the first march … about a dozen people gathered in her townhouse on Capitol Hill and discussed the anniversary of Roe coming up.”
WATCH CBN’S LIVE COVERAGE OF THE 49TH MARCH FOR LIFE THIS FRIDAY:
The group discussed how to counter the day and brainstormed ways to push back on the abortion front.
“They didn’t want that terrible anniversary to go unnoticed or unpassed without standing up for the unborn and so they decided, ‘Let’s do a march,'” Mancini said.
The resulting event, held Jan. 22, 1974, attracted thousands of participants who rallied, marched around the U.S. Capitol, and lobbied members of Congress.
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What’s perhaps most interesting is that the group initially assumed the March For Life would be a one or two-time event. They based this speculation on their belief that Roe was an inappropriate legal ruling that stretched beyond what the Supreme Court was called to do. Thus, they didn’t believe it would stand for long.
“They thought it would go after a year or two, and so they planned this one or two-time event,” she said. “And were shocked.”
But once it was clear the law wasn’t changing, Gray decided to make the march an annual happening — pledging to hold the event until Roe v. Wade would one day be overturned.
Friday marks the 49th March For Life, a fulfillment of the legacy set long ago in Gray’s Washington townhome. What was once assumed to be a short-term response has continued to grow into a transformational force.
“As the event continued, it grew and grew … and became younger in demographics,” Mancini explained.
She noted her belief that some in the pro-choice movement initially underestimated the impact of the March For Life. Mancini said the belief was that people would simply become desensitized to abortion and would essentially move on from it.
“It would become normal and we would just go away,” she said of pro-choicers’ assumptions about the pro-life movement. “We’d stop marching. But the opposite happened … more and more people come to the march every year.”
Mancini believes the March For Life sends an incredibly powerful visual message to fellow citizens and leaders, especially as the procession ends at the Supreme Court.
“I can’t think of a more powerful visual statement that Roe has not settled law than hundreds of thousands of marchers [who] are going before the Supreme Court,” she said.
The 2022 march is especially notable in that it comes as justices are once again preparing for a monumental abortion ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could derail portions — if not all — of Roe.
Read more about the history of the March For Life here, and be sure to watch CBN News’ live coverage of the March For Life this Friday. You can do so on the CBN News YouTube channel here. Faithwire senior writers Billy Hallowell and Tré Goins-Phillips will be in Washington, D.C., to capture important moments from the massive event.
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