Droves of young pro-life activists gathered at the National Mall on Friday to speak out against abortion at the 46th annual March for Life.
The March came at a critical time when President Donald Trump pursued a relatively aggressive anti-abortion agenda and solidified a Supreme Court majority that many speculated could curtail abortion access.
While younger attendees were impressed by Trump’s progress on the issue, not all of them were fans of the president as a person. Kyle Taggart, 21, told IJR that he didn’t like Trump’s character but thought his administration made more progress than previous Republican presidents did.
“I am certainly not a fan. But I try to put aside the man and look at the office,” Taggart told IJR on Friday. John Boyle, 22, also took issue with Trump’s character and thought the president could do more on the issue. While he said he didn’t describe himself as a conservative, he voted that way specifically because of abortion.
But overall, IJR spoke to attendees who were grateful for the strides the president made on abortion. “I do believe that with President Trump in the office, the pro-life movement will make great strides towards freeing this country from abortion,” 20-year-old Thomas Durand told IJR.
Anna Streeter, 21, told IJR that while she similarly had complaints about Trump, his progress on the pro-life issue outweighed what she perceived to be his other, less favorable actions.
The president has received criticism for failing to fulfill his promise of defunding Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, through Congress.
Trump was able to use his executive authority to restrict funding through Title X family planning grants but was unable to get major legislation through Congress. “It’s really disappointing,” March for Life president Jeanne Mancini told IJR. She put the blame on the Senate and specifically harped on how Senate Republicans failed to pass a 20-week abortion ban last year.
Among the clergy and families protesting against abortion, young people turned out in large groups with members wearing similar attire and some chanting or singing to support the cause.
“We just want to show the joyful side to life,” Streeter told IJR on Friday. Streeter came from Chicago with, according to her, about 160 others as part of a trip with pro-life group Crusaders for Life.
“That’s really what we try to do through prayer, through cheering and drumming and dancing. It’s just a side of the pro-life movement that I don’t think we see very often,” she added.
Wearing one of her group’s bright yellow sweatshirts, Streeter explained that she educated others on abortion, volunteered at a pregnancy center, and tried to counsel women outside of abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood.
Sidewalk counseling often involves trying to persuade women not to proceed with abortions. It’s a controversial practice that’s received intense criticism and has been portrayed as a form of harassment.
Taggart, who came as part of a large group from Franciscan University at Steubenville, also has tried counseling women and told IJR that being pro-life meant providing women with other options rather than just engaging in “political activism.”
At 19, Taggart co-leads a pro-life group that travels weekly to discuss abortion with students at the University of Pittsburgh. He started focusing on pro-life issues as a junior in high school while volunteering at a food pantry. That experience made him think about how he needed to help society’s “most vulnerable,” a group that he ultimately decided was the unborn.
“I think that my number one priority is the unborn because they are the most vulnerable. They have been the most persecuted, so that’s why I came today,” he told IJR.
As a biology major, Taggart saw science as a critical part of the pro-life movement. That was a point on which the March’s leadership seemed to concur, as the event’s theme for 2019 was “pro-life is pro-science.”
During an interview with IJR, Mancini explained that she wanted to emphasize how much science reveals about life in the womb. “I feel like we often get punched erroneously in this area, like to be pro-life is not reasonable or its sort of anti-science — and it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Mancini indicated that science corroborated the fact that abortion was a fundamental human rights issue as, according to pro-life activists, unborn babies had inherent dignity and worth.
“Every single person has worth, has dignity,” Boyle also told IJR. He explained that his faith directly influenced his view of abortion.
Victoria Hamilton, who also came with Franciscan University, told IJR that the issue was similar to slavery and likened pro-life activists to abolitionists. “Abortion is an attack on the human person,” she asserted.
“It’s an attack on their dignity just like slavery was an attack on the dignity of the African Americans at that time. And I just see this as no different.”