- The Washington Times
Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Pro-life activists expect higher enthusiasm and smaller crowds when the March for Life returns in person Friday to the nation’s capital with tighter COVID-19 restrictions and anticipation of a Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We are profoundly grateful for the countless women, men and families who sacrifice to come out in such great numbers each year as a witness for life,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, whose annual event was a virtual affair last year.

In their National Park Service application, march organizers estimated about 50,000 participants for a demonstration against abortion. More than twice as many showed up for the 2020 event, where President Trump addressed the activists.

Organizers said the District of Columbia’s requirement to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before entering public venues has forced them to make some schedule adjustments. One event was canceled.

Several groups that traditionally arrived in caravans from the Midwest, including the University of Notre Dame and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, canceled their bus trips weeks ago.

“We expect this year’s March for Life to be historic, with even higher levels of enthusiasm from participants,” Ms. Mancini said. “We are all hopeful that, with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before the Supreme Court, this year will bring us much closer to building the culture of life we have all marched for since Roe v. Wade was imposed on our nation nearly 50 years ago.”

SEE ALSO: Biden blasts Supreme Court on Texas abortion law, urges Congress to codify Roe v. Wade

The high court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, is considering Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and is due to issue a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson this year.

Last year’s March for Life was entirely virtual after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. About 100,000 activists have participated in each march since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.

On Friday, a noon rally on the National Mall will precede the 1 p.m. march to the steps of the Supreme Court with some pandemic-related modifications.

“Per the Department of the Interior, masks are required for all marchers and attendees who are not able to maintain social distancing, even outdoors,” Ms. Mancini said. “Face masks for those who need them will be available at the rally site, as well as hand sanitizer.”

Organizers have canceled the Expo, which typically features display tables from pro-life organizations.

Actor Kirk Cameron, the former “Growing Pains” sitcom star who now produces evangelical Christian programming, will headline the rally. This year’s theme is “Equality Begins in the Womb.”

Others slated to make appearances include Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, and former Rep. Dan Lipinski, Illinois Democrat, who have addressed the annual event. Rep. Julia Letlow, Louisiana Republican, will join them.

Another featured speaker is Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for the Christian advocacy nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has challenged the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates in court. She called the timing of the D.C. vaccination passport and the March for Life “unfortunate” for turnout this year.

“Despite COVID, it’s still going to be the largest annual human rights demonstration in the United States, a reminder to people that life is a human right,” Ms. Waggoner said.

The D.C. mandate requires patrons 12 and older to show proof of vaccination and a photo ID to enter most restaurants and indoor hotel spaces, including common rooms and conference centers. The Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel is the March for Life’s official hotel.

The mandate allows exemptions for unvaccinated marchers who present religious and medical reasons or a negative COVID-19 test, according to the March for Life website.

Many D.C. venues that traditionally hosted groups of students for free overnight stays, including the Catholic University of America, will not take any guests this year. Other groups have shifted their hotel reservations to Northern Virginia to avoid the mandate.

That means this year’s in-person event could have more local than national participation.

Amy Weindel, communications manager for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, said officials canceled their annual trip in light of the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“People can still go by themselves, but we don’t want buses with kids crammed close together this year,” Ms. Weindel said.

March for Life’s Ms. Mancini urged anyone struggling with COVID-19 “to remain at home and participate virtually.”

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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