Pro-lifers gather for Virginia March for Life to show support for unborn

Pro-life advocates in Richmond, Va., attend the third annual Virginia March for Life rally Sept. 17, 2021. (CNS photo/Zoey Maraist, Catholic Herald)

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) ─ Around 1,500 pro-lifers from around the state gathered at the Capitol in Richmond for the annual Virginia March for Life Sept. 17.

Attendees sported pro-life T-shirts and carried homemade signs proclaiming the goodness of life and urging the protection of the unborn. The crowd listened to speakers before marching through the streets of the capital.

Speakers encouraged attendees to vote for pro-life candidates in the Nov. 2 state election and to get involved in the pro-life movement.

In Northern Virginia, a 40 Days for Life campaign is underway at the abortion clinic in Falls Church Sept. 22-Oct. 31. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington will celebrate a Mass in Honor of Respect Life Month Oct. 10 at St. Timothy Church in Chantilly. The diocesan Respect Life Office and other groups are planning to host a pro-life advocacy day in Richmond once the Legislature is in session.

People of all ages came to the march, including Chloe Davies, a senior at St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores, who came with 20 fellow members of the school's Lifesavers Pro-life Club.

In the past, the club has visited nursing homes, raised money for a women's shelter and held demonstrations, such as a day of silence for the unborn. Walking around the school unable to talk was a powerful reminder to her of the number of lives lost to abortion, but also of how thankful she was for her own life.

"I wouldn't be here today if abortion was legal when my mother was born," she said, noting that her mother was placed for adoption the year before Roe v. Wade was decided. "It got me to think about how if she wasn't here, I wouldn't be here, and how grateful I am," Davies told the Arlington Catholic Herald.

Mark James, a parishioner of All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, came with other Knights of Columbus to marshal the march. His mom, Sylvia, is his pro-life inspiration.

"She was pregnant with me when she was 15. She received a lot of pressure to abort me and she obviously did not do that. She wasn't going to let anything happen to her baby," he said.

"I have five beautiful kids and they wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that choice," James added. "What else can we add to this world that's greater than life? What greater blessing is it from God than to bring life in?"

At the rally, state legislators, including Republican Delegate Emily Brewer, shared why they support the pro-life cause.

"I stand here so thankful for each and every one of you. I was adopted and am truly, honestly lucky to be here," Brewer said. "As long as I sit in this chamber, I will stand up for the voiceless and defenseless every single day."

Republican Delegate John McGuire said he often wears a baby sock pinned to his lapel to signal his support for the protection of the unborn.

"Our most precious, our most vulnerable must be protected at all costs," he said. "My father and mother had alcohol and substance abuse problems, I was abandoned and I ended up in foster homes.

"Some of these foster homes had religion, and some didn't, but those Sunday school lessons stuck with me for life. God always gets the last word. Keep the faith. Together we will protect life."

In 2020, several pro-life laws were repealed in Virginia. Now, non-doctors can perform abortions, pregnant women are not entitled to see their ultrasounds and there's no 24-hour waiting period, among other changes.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said on "The Jeff Katz Show" on a Richmond radio station ahead of the march that pro-lifers have "our work cut out for us" in Virginia. But, she said, she knows the pro-life movement is "making a difference (by) changing hearts and minds."

The March for Life organization was an organizer of the Virginia march.

Mancini, who was among the speakers in Richmond, pointed to the nation's annual abortion rate being the lowest it has been since 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.

"We still have over 800,000 ... but this is half" of the yearly abortion rate at its peak, she said, adding that in polls eight out of 10 Americans for several years have consistently said they support limiting abortion to three months -- current law allows abortion in through nine months of pregnancy.

But pro-lifers will "work and work and work to have abortion become unthinkable," she added.

Victoria Cobb sees a lot of hope for positive pro-life developments despite Virginia's current abortion laws. She is president of the Family Foundation, which also was an organizer of the march.

"I think there are a lot of pro-lifers who feel like we're at the tipping point," Cobb said during the march and rally. "We want to turn Virginia back around. We haven't been going the wrong way for very long and we think this election (Nov. 2) could get us back on the right track."

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Maraist is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.