By Kate Scanlon

         WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Thousands of pro-life advocates descended upon the nation's capital for the 51st annual March for Life Jan. 19, undeterred by several inches of snow that accumulated in Washington leading up to — and during — the event.

         The 2024 march was just the second to take place since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that initially prompted the annual pro-life demonstration.

         "We will keep marching every year at the national level, as well as in our states, until our nation's laws reflect the basic truth that all human life is created equal and is worthy of protection," Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, told rallygoers.

         Mancini said the group plans to hold marches not only in the District of Columbia but in all 50 states in the coming years.

         "We will march until abortion is unthinkable," she added.

A pro-life demonstrator take part in the 51st annual March for
Life rally amid a snowstorm in Washington Jan. 19, 2024.
OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters

         The March for Life rally took place on the National Mall by the Smithsonian Castle, between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. Afterward, the march headed up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court.

         House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who spoke at the rally, told attendees that the notion that all people are created equal is a bedrock principle of America, written into the nation's founding documents.

         "Every single person has inestimable dignity and value," Johnson said. "Your value is not related in any way to the color of your skin, or what ZIP code you live in, how good you were in sports, where you went to high school, it's irrelevant, your value is inherent because it is given to you by your creator."

         Johnson was himself the "product of an unplanned pregnancy," he said.

         "My parents, who were just teenagers at the time, chose life. And I am very profoundly grateful that they did," he said.

         Johnson said after the reversal of Roe, it is a "critical time" to "build a culture that encourages and assists more and more people to make that same decision."

         He argued the movement should learn from crucial figures in American history such as "Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony."

         "They challenged the prevailing narratives of their day, and they succeeded," Johnson said, adding, "Their success was grounded in our nation's creed that we just spoke about. And they reminded their fellow Americans about our founding principles. And as Lincoln said, in his famous first inaugural, the better angels of our nature. We should do the same thing today."

         The 2024 event's theme was "With Every Woman, For Every Child" and sought to highlight the work of pregnancy care centers and maternity homes. Jean Marie Davis, executive director of Branches Pregnancy Resource Center in Brattleboro, Vermont, said that she herself was helped by a pregnancy resource center after she was a victim of human trafficking.

         Davis told OSV News, "I'm doing something to give back to the community and fighting for something not just for my son's sake, because this is a personal thing, but also for other women to know, I have a voice and I can actually stand up and say something," Davis said.

         Davis said she decided to become more vocal in favor of the pro-life cause after legislation in Vermont passed in which the state can fine pregnancy centers if it determines its services are "misleading," something Davis said hers does not do.

         "The government has no right of steering women from life-affirming health," Davis said. "And so it became a very personal thing because if it wasn't for the pregnancy center, I would have been a dead woman."

         Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., a Catholic and longtime lawmaker, said at the rally, "There are more than 2,700 pregnancy resource centers throughout the United States."

         "Each and every one of them is an oasis of love, compassion, empathy, respect, and care for both mothers and their children," Smith said.

         Smith said work remains to be done at the federal level, including blocking passage of the Women's Health Protection Act, legislation supported by the White House, which would prohibit restrictions on abortion prior to viability, setting a national standard critics say goes beyond the Roe standard.

         "Yeah, we'll have a setback here and there. Every human rights trouble does. But we are undeterred. We will not give up," he said.

         The rally opened with a prayer from Bishop John Abdalah of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, who was joined onstage by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and former chair of the USCCB pro-life committee, and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, who is the current chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee.

         Benjamin Watson, a former NFL tight end, and Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh also spoke at the rally, with the latter celebrating that day's "football weather."

         Harbaugh also praised rallygoers for demonstrating "bold conviction with kindness."

         Watson said pro-lifers must embark on "a new fight for life."

         "Roe is done, but we still live in a culture that knows not how to care for life," Watson said.