By Moira Sheridan
I went on the first March for Life in 1974 with my parents while in high school. I continued to go during high school, then while in college, also while a teacher back in Delaware and then as a board member of Delaware Right to Life, where I organized the annual trip for almost 20 years. I’ve missed very few Marches for Life.
I’ve seen the event morph from a grassroots protest against abortion with exclusively homemade signs and wall-to-wall people from all over the U.S. to a media event complete with live music, celebrity-status speakers (instead of a row of uncomfortable-looking bishops) jumbotrons, and a celebratory atmosphere that promotes “consensus.”
Because there were zero activist options for pro-lifers until the rescue movement started in the late ‘80s, I, like everyone else, made my annual pilgrimage and figured I had fulfilled my duty to help end abortion. Fifteen years of marching yielded only more speakers and longer delays to starting the March, slick, preprinted signs whose messages grew every more syrupy, and a strong propensity toward the hero worship of politicians who did nothing to end abortion but talk about it. Fifteen years of “Hey, hey, ho, ho; Roe v. Wade has got to go!” shouted by teenagers who largely disappeared from sight, sound, mind, and body at March’s end.
I grew disenchanted with the slavish reliance on politicians (and Supreme Court judges) as potential saviors. I also resented the Catholic clergy who swooped in on their capes for the photo ops and swooped back out, never to march, only to spread those capes over the Church’s gaping sin of omission before making a speedy exit. I breathed open contempt at the politicians who left town the day of the March so they wouldn’t have to meet with us. “Lobbying” legislators after the March was replaced by pints at the Dubliner’s Pub, just down the street. We lost our purpose, our rag-tag zeal, and our desire to change the status quo. We didn’t see that abortion was hardening us, too.
The Rescue Movement that lasted from 1988-92 gave the first real glimmer of hope that something besides a political savior or Supreme Court decision could bring an end to abortion. Housewives, teens, older folks, and everyone in between stopped abortion simply by sitting down in front of abortion clinics, sometimes 10 people deep. Courage and conviction swelled and then was crushed by vicious politicians who enacted FACE and RICO laws to target the protestors with steep fines and jail time. Clinton’s executive orders, signed on his first day in office in 1992, are still in effect.
The Happy Pro-Life movement emerged, looking to find “common ground.” The new millennium saw ever-increasing numbers at the March for Life, as celebrity speakers and Christian rock bands took the stage. There was (and is) an increasing tendency to compromise principles. Nellie Gray’s “Life Principles,” which demanded no exception, no compromise were already on shaky ground before her death in 2012, with a slew of regulatory laws on the books (such as the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, 2002, and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, 2003). That these laws were routinely ignored by the pro-abortion community and unenforced by any regulatory agencies was never discussed by pro-lifers. And still they marched, and the March became a huge social event, a place to catch up with people, spot “famous” pro-lifers, and yes, still go home and tick off your duty to the preborn for the year.
The apotheosis came with President Donald Trump’s appearance at the March in 2020. The crowd was jubilant and enormous. The speeches drew the expected adulation, and a million cell phones captured the moment. And that is what the March for Life has become—a social media virtual reality event. It requires no discomfort beyond standing in the cold for one day. It demands nothing of the participants once they get back on the buses and leave DC but that they post their pictures.
We have marched for 50 years, and not only has nothing changed, but it has gotten worse. We entirely neglected to consider the cumulative effects of child killing on the general populace, and as I stated earlier, we, like so many proponents of abortion, have become hard. Roe has been reversed, but the state laws taking its place are far worse. They reflect the implanted evil that Roe has spread in its time, an evil that has taken over the culture. No protest march at the state capitols is going to reverse this trend. No state law banning abortion or heartbeat laws will make a whit of difference when abortion pills are available through the mail and at your local pharmacy and abortion funds are willing to transport women to another state for a surgical abortion. No marches anywhere are going to change a society that doesn’t want to be changed; it wants its child murder as much as it wants its pornography and drugs. It is addicted to decadence. And we who are fighting it are addicted to comfort.
The only thing that will change the lust for death in this country is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic faith, the triumphant return of Christ the King into the hearts of men. But that Church is as fragmented and demented right now as the society it serves. It, too, has lost its way. A small Church militant is rising, but the future is uncertain. It comes down to being willing to suffer and die for our beliefs. It’s a lot to ask.
Moira Sheridan is the president of Delaware Right to Life.