Freezing temperatures did not deter tens of thousands of pro-life activists — including noticeably large contingents of young people — from making the annual March for Life in the nation's capital on Wednesday.
Event organizers made a strong case that Americans now approaching adulthood will enhance the ranks of pro-life voters in the future.
"This is my second march in nine years as a [Roman Catholic] priest and every year that I've come the crowd gets younger and younger," Father Joe Faulkner of Lincoln, Neb., told Newsmax. "We had 250 young people from our diocese in Lincoln and a bus-full from the Cardinal Newman Center at the University of Nebraska."
Another sign that this was more of a young people's march, Faulkner said, was "the relatively short time [devoted to] speakers before the march. They realized young people won't spend hours listening to stump speeches from politicians."
Ball State University graduate and missionary Rachel Holmes told Newsmax: "We are the future, but we are also the present. There's a ton of young people here today because of greater awareness among young people that life begins at conception."
Moreover, it was clear from the numbers of Hispanic Americans who attended church services in the morning before marching to the Supreme Court Wednesday that the nation's oldest right-to-life event is reaching out to minorities.
"The Hispanic community is generally opposed to abortion and believes life begins with conception," Manuel Aliaga, liaison to Hispanics for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told Newsmax during a morning Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral.
Noting a large turnout of Hispanics within the diocese for the march, Aliaga nonetheless concluded "this doesn't translate into votes for Republicans who are usually far more pro-life than Democrats. That's because the Hispanic media rarely covers the discussion of abortion. They talk about issues such as immigration and improving the life of the poor, and abortion is not showcased."
Aliaga said "the problem with Republicans is they have toughened the rhetoric on immigration and so they make it harder to gain votes from Hispanics on the life issue. They need to do a better job of reaching out."
The march has been held every Jan. 22 since the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that effectively legalized abortion nationwide.
Among the speakers this year were GOP Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who was joined by adopted son Ryan. Both stressed the importance of adoption over abortion.
Faulkner said he found the young people he deals with as a Latin instructor "are fairly progressive in their politics when it comes to many issues, but pretty solid on pro-life."
Shaina Mitchell, faculty adviser for the campus ministry of the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) at Ball State University in Indiana, agreed.
"Are younger people more actively pro-life? Oh yeah!" she told Newsmax while marching from the National Mall to the Supreme Court. "More Lutheran students I know are getting involved — partly because they watch TV news reports on abortion, follow the issue on the Internet, and see sonograms on Facebook."
Like many non-Catholic activists in the march who spoke to Newsmax, Mitchell strongly emphasized that contrary to news reports of marches in recent years, the March for Life was not a "Catholic event. You're seeing other faiths involved."
"When the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod testified before the House Oversight Committee against the HHS mandate requiring church-related facilities to provide services related to abortion and contraception despite their beliefs, that certainly got more Lutherans involved in the pro-life cause," Mitchell said.
As is almost always the case at a March for Life, politics was clearly involved. Numerous marchers carried signs denouncing President Barack Obama and proclaiming: "Impeach Obama — Save Lives."
Obama makes no secret of his support of abortion, and as marchers gathered on the Mall, he issued a statement noting the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade and called on Americans to "recommit ourselves to the decision's guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health."
Another staple of the annual march is the count of marchers, which has inevitably led to disputes between the National Park Service and event organizers who claim they "lowball" the count.
When Newsmax asked a park police officer watching the event from his squad car how many people he thought were marching, he replied: "We're not permitted to say. We get in trouble for that."
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