Real Perspectives from the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

march for life

In many war stories, both real and fictional, whether placed in a novel or film, there’s often a moment that captures the imagination and emotion of the viewer or listener, and it looks something like this: Hiding behind enemy lines and separated from the troops, a beleaguered solider crawls into a barn terrified of what he or she might find. A small child playing discovers them, and goes to get the family, who in their humanity offer food and shelter. They connect. They eat together. Suddenly the “enemy” is not a collective of ogres incapable of ethics and reason. They are flesh and blood and family and all the things common to the soldier’s life back home.

Sometimes in these vignettes, which often occurred during the Civil War or World Wars (both I and II), soldiers were injured and left for dead whose memoirs citied accounts of civilians from the “other side” nursing them back to health or pulling them from death. It’s shattering and painful when we read or watch these moments of reconciliation and connection and know that they aren’t “allowed” to stay friends; the solider must reconnect with the war side of his story and go back into battle.

The current climate surrounding the “Two Marches” feels similar to the kind of destruction and fury that war brings. Words are not well tempered these days; opinions are either “ridiculous” or “perfect,” with no space in between. We cut one another out of conversation threads and unfriend those we cannot understand because “we can’t stand to know you.” This is just surrounding abortion.

When it comes to immigration issues, those un-friending the pro-life or pro-choice are still posting constant “they’re not the enemy” photos and “seek to understand the different” encouragements about those holding differing faiths or cultural backgrounds. So. As my childhood book Madeline stated, “Something is not right.”

Here are the facts: The March for Life is an annual event founded by Nellie Gray on January 22nd 1974, originally intended to protest the then-recent outcome of Roe v. Wade. It had 20,000 on that day, and has continued to engage support from those who want, as the mission statement puts it, “to testify to the beauty of life and the dignity of each human person.” Although in many ways an “unpopular” march, it has steadfastly continued with support from leaders such as Ronald Reagan. The Pro-Life movement doesn’t just have the Reagans and Bushes behind them, either; they have feminism founders Susan B. Anthony and Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and, arguably the greatest American emancipator of the 20th Century, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was an outspoken pro-lifer.

Words are not well tempered these days; opinions are either ‘ridiculous’ or ‘perfect,’ with no space in between.

This year’s march was different for multiple reasons. The “common” date of January 22nd changed to the 28th, and at least an estimated 400,000 showed up. The majority of those attending were under 30. Signs and slogans were pointed and specific as they come, citing that “Abortion degrades women,” “Marched last week for women, marching now for life,” or “I was adopted not aborted.” They also utilized the already popular and powerful slogan citing “Women’s rights are human rights,” including the addition of “Preborn rights are human rights.”

Perhaps to the surprise of those who claim the Right to Life movement is composed predominately of “right wing fundamentals,” there were many signs of “Gays 4 life” or “Atheists for Life,” proving a diversity to this movement often unstated.

marches for life

Image via Manuel Balce Ceneta; The Washington Times

We asked some of the women who marched to comment on why they came out in support of this continuously contentious topic, and received impassioned replies:

“I march because I understand pregnancy is hard, I understand raising children is hard,” commented Chesed. “However, I think we all know deep down that when a woman is pregnant she is pregnant with a separate life. When a mother miscarries it is not the loss of fetal tissue, it is the loss of a life. When a woman has a late term pregnancy and there’s an issue, she and her baby are treated as two patients. If a pregnant woman is murdered, it’s considered a double homicide. It’s just so obvious to me.”

One woman, Sarai, told us she is confused concerning our continuity as a society, telling us that “our culture is about everyone’s rights — from every type of human with every type of preference to animal rights and even ‘no kill’ shelters. To me it’s an atrocity that we don’t deem a baby the same rights as everyone else.”

Like all marches, there was the inevitable “small but visible” percentage that brought their own additional political agendas or disturbing commentary into the March, wearing pro-Trump hats and paraphernalia or shouting somewhat violently, but overwhelmingly last Friday’s crowd refrained from political slogans and kept their agenda streamlined and simple. They focused less on “anti abortion” and more on “life mattering” in their chants and points.

pro life signs

Image via Eliza Collins; USA TODAY

Even still, there’s no way around the fact that this march is about a fierce conviction, as one older woman told us:

“I believe that abortion is our modern-day slavery. I don’t think women who believe abortion isn’t killing a life are monsters, but I think history will prove them wrong in the same way it proved southern slave owners wrong.”

Unfortunately, between both marches that have occurred in the past week, there isn’t just a space of days or ideals, but a chasm of disrespect and ostracization. From both parties. Women split from women. Women told they cannot love themselves and one another if they… [insert the opposing opinion here]. From comments that we’ve read on Instagram or Facebook, to general comments heard in the media or personal conversations, it is our observation that women aren’t getting better at allowing one another complexity, robust debate, humanity. And we need to.

… it is our observation that women aren’t getting better at allowing one another complexity, robust debate, humanity. And we need to.

Here’s the pill we don’t seem to want to swallow: There were pro-life women marching against sexism on January 22nd, and anti-Trump women marching against abortion on January 28th. So here’s to the hope that we cease to view this as “two sides of a war” because that makes the “other” the enemy.

Instead, may we begin to speak rationally, lovingly, and even hopefully around the table of open discourse and thoughtful debate, celebrating our common conviction in the power and necessity of protest in democracy.

Featured Image via WUSA 9

Teresa works as Darling's Managing Editor for print and has her BA with honors in English Literature and Art History from Vassar College (NY). Born in London, England, she is currently settled in Los Angeles after living in Tauranga, New Zealand. She loves to travel, write, sport her grandmother's couture from the 1940s.

35 COMMENTS
  • Lynne Gaylor February 15, 2017

    Thank you!!! You are to be comended for showing the OTHER side of what is truly a divisive issue. If only all magazines could be respectful and show BOTH sides of this divisive issue. It doesn’t matter what side you are on, we need to LISTEN to each other, respect one another’s opinions, and discuss it and try to come up with solutions! Anger and hate are NOT a good solution for anyone. Let us all be civil, especially in these times of great uncertainty and fear.

  • Avery February 8, 2017

    Thank you, Darling, for covering this. It was very refreshing.

  • Becca February 1, 2017

    There isn’t a single pro-choice perspective from either this article, or the article about the Women’s March. The one quote about abortion rights from the Women’s March article is from someone who is not pro-choice. Darling is being applauded for “including both sides” when in fact, there is no mention of why pro-choice women are pro-choice, in either article. For this reason, it feels divisive, like Darling actually wants to send a pro-life message. Why not interview women who have had abortions? Hear their stories? Don’t just quote a woman that says it is “modern day slavery” without hearing from a woman who chose to have an abortion. This is difficult subject matter, but wasn’t covered appropriately. Empathize with readers who have had abortions, please.

    • Anonymous February 1, 2017

      Thank you, Becca. I can’t stop thinking about this article because I feels so demoralizing, especially from a platforms that preaches women empowerment. Please do think about those who have had abortions, Darling. And to compare an abortion to slavery is so deeply wrong on many levels.

    • Teresa Archer February 2, 2017

      To both of you, I hear you but this article was not an op ed or a coverage of the topic of abortion, but rather coverage of an event and the “why” behind it. When I covered the March on Washington, I didn’t look for “opposing arguments” to the reasons that those women and men marched but quoted and explained the pathos and ethos behind them. I did the same thing here. The topics in both marches are rife with people’s opinions, pains, experiences and heartaches and we do not take that lightly in any way. But I wasn’t looking to cover a debate in either, but rather hear and display what happened in each. We continue to strive to make this space a judgment free one where women of all beliefs and backgrounds can find safety in dialogue and expression.

      • Anonymous February 3, 2017

        If Darling is really striving to make their space “judgment free,” then tell me how this quote is not judging those who have had abortions.
        “I believe that abortion is our modern-day slavery. I don’t think women who believe abortion isn’t killing a life are monsters, but I think history will prove them wrong in the same way it proved southern slave owners wrong.”

        So this quote tells me, if I were a woman who had an abortion, I’ve committed something wrong. Thanks, Darling.

        • Teresa Miller Archer February 3, 2017

          That quote is the expression of an individual, and if Darling were to delete it, we would be editing and silencing the opinions of those in this March. As always, we do not stand by every opinion voiced in every article, but we do stand by allowing them expression. And for that, you are truly welcome.

  • Lisa February 1, 2017

    While I am staunchly pro-choice for myself, I appreciate the opportunity for both “sides” to be explored. That’s the beauty of democracy. While women’s reproductive rights is nearly always on my mind, I often keep my opinions to myself and avoid debate. What works for one may not always work for the other. There is too much grey area when it comes to pregnancy and birth (incest, rape, determination of being a living thing, etc.) that I don’t feel there is a definitive answer to either side.

    • Teresa Miller Archer February 1, 2017

      I so agree with you, especially around the complexity of this topic! Thank you for your voice here.

  • Angela Sayre February 1, 2017

    At a time when the media is always slammed for taking sides, Darling is actually presenting thoughtful dialogue on each platform. I appreciate that as a writer and as a human in this conversation. I’m pro-choice largely because I worked at a domestic violence and sexual assault non-profit for years and have seen privileged and non-non-priviledged friends struggle with this issue and go one way or the other. I judge no one for this extremely personal decision that is far from dichotomous. There will always be disagreements on this issue. If you truly want to be a part of changing the course of this discussion, get involved with presenting scientific and medically accurate sexual education as well as access to affordable contraception and health services – that is the only thing proven to lower abortion rates. Banning or criminalizing abortion will not stop it, it will just cause more harm for those choosing that option. Seriously think about this. Thank you, Darling Magazine. You continue to open peaceful discussions.

  • LaVerne Brown February 1, 2017

    Thank you for covering this march and doing it in a positive way. As a woman I have never understood how I have the right to kill someone with a different DNA than mine. I have the right to chose to have sex or not and whether or not to use contraception but my rights end where another persons begins. I don’t have the right to kill a living person especially not the most defenseless life of all the one in the womb. As women we must remember that we also have responsibilities and that their are consequences to every decision we make. We are not men and never will be but they also have consequences to their decision even if they are easier in some areas than in others. I wish we could celebrate our differences instead of trying to make everyone exactly like the other.

  • Anonymous February 1, 2017

    I understand your desire and decision to want to feature both marches, as everyone’s voices and opinions should be represented. But as a woman, I feel violated. And this article doesn’t help. I come to Darling to feel empowered as a woman, and a march like this that threatens my rights as a woman, that threatens the power over my body, it feels demoralizing. I ask, for Darling, what does it mean to empower women?

  • Marie Therese Batt February 1, 2017

    Thank you for sharing both marches and for creating a space for dialogue about them. I really appreciate that. It’s obvious that not everyone can always agree with each other and about certain movements, but we need to make space for them and encounter them with grace and dignity, even if we don’t agree. Thank you for doing that here.

  • jonie galvin January 31, 2017

    I am surprised by your response. Refreshingly I might add. In a day where lines have been drawn and lack of intellectual discourse thrown aside to allow for emotional rants. I have discovered that very few venues share both sides. You have. I am in awe of the diplomacy. I am pro woman. I am pro human rights. I am also pro life. And I believe they are mutually intertwined. In a day and age I am saddened by humanity…your article has shown me hope still floats. So thank you for sharing your perspective amid turbulent times. Thank you for your ability to articulate using frontal lobe functions over the amygdala’s responses that seem so commonplace. Darling thank you for objectivity and relevance.

  • Hannah January 31, 2017

    Thank you Darling for sharing both marches! I realize one is much more popular than another. The pro-life people or “pro-lifers” as someone put it are about the sanctity of human life. Just as woman marched for what they said were not just woman rights but “human rights”. But what about a baby’s rights? I think it is scary that we as a society place such value on every type of human preference, and animals rights, but have blatant disregard to what is so evidently another human life, not a “fetus”. There is a heartbeat af 18 days after conception. That is life. That is a person. I have compassion for both sides. I have women in my life who had abortions by choice and some who were forced into it by an abusive partner or controlling family member, and a dear friend who chose to keep two children even though the fathers have never been present or supportive. I do not believe that woman who have abortions are monsters. But I do believe in the sanctity and value of a human life, the life of the unborn. If we call ourselves “feminists” and say we are “pro-women” that should mean that we treat all women with kindness and respect. Cruelty never won anyone over. Neither did shame.

  • Megan January 31, 2017

    Thank you so much for this article. We need so desperately to get back to a place of grace, patience, and genuine conversation & compassion towards those we disagree with, especially on topics that are so heated & politically charged.

    “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.” -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  • Anastasia January 31, 2017

    I am disappointed, Darling. Having read both your article on the Women’s March on Washington and the March for Life, one group of women’s perspectives were taken more seriously by the author than the other. The Women’s March was met with skepticism, and the women’s intentions were scrutinized more by the author than in this article, giving both of these articles an air of bias.
    I find it frustrating that the topic of both these articles is about keeping an open dialogue, but the Life march is about closing the dialogue on abortion access. I assume the goal of the Life march is to make abortion illegal. Abortion that is illegal does not end abortion but, in fact, endangers women who are so desperate they are willing to self induce–endangering both the mother and child. Making abortion illegal does not end abortion but instead makes it much more dangerous. If Darling is to be pro-woman it must acknowledge the realities many women face.
    In many ways, these articles felt divisive. If we are going to talk about abortion in one article, and talk around it in another we are not really having an open dialogue. I expected more. By no means is this comment meant to demonize Pro-Life women, I understand the Pro-Life arguments, I just feel that if we are going to discuss abortion we must discuss it in full from both sides, and the Pro-Choice side was not given the same consideration here as the Pro-Life was.

    • Anastasia January 31, 2017

      Correction: Women’s March in Los Angeles (not Washington)

    • Teresa Miller Archer January 31, 2017

      Anastasia, I’m sorry you felt there was in any way a slant towards one group versus the other, since I truly approached them both with as much curiosity, observation, and lack of bias as I could. I think the fact that we posted 2 articles on the women’s march in Washington speaks for how seriously we took the topics included there.

      This article wasn’t a stand on a topic, but a description of the march and the reasons behind it for the people group involved. I didn’t make this about the arguments around Pro-Choice or Pro-Life because it wasn’t a piece on that topic; similarly I didn’t go into political disagreements with people at the March on Washington or give counterpoints to each main theme.

      I see exactly where you are coming from on the “pro life” issue and I would simply quote Sister Joan Chittister to add to this discussion: : “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

      • Anastasia January 31, 2017

        Thank you for your consideration and your thoughtful response, especially so quickly. After reading your comment, I do better understand that the intention was to introduce readers to different perspectives than their own, and I do find that admirable. However, I also feel that since the Pro Life march centers around the topic of abortion it is always helpful to include both perspectives when we speak about it, otherwise it is easy to retain division. I would hate to see Darling readers who have undergone an abortion feel ostracized when one side is spoken about more than the other. It is a tricky subject to navigate and I am thankful it was at least broached on such an inclusive and open community such as Darling.

        • Teresa Miller Archer January 31, 2017

          Yes certainly I understand that this topic is rife for pain and misunderstanding. It is our utmost intention to be a shame-free, judgment-free environment for all women.

  • Maria January 31, 2017

    Unfortunately, pro-life in this case refers strictly to the unborn child. The life of the mother is not taken into consideration, or is considered less valuable somehow. This is a moral discussion with repercussions. A march such as this places further blame and guilt on the head of those who already struggle enough with impossible decisions. In my opinion it is unacceptable public shaming for something that individual women already carry the burden for within their own hearts. It is unnecessary and cruel.

    • Teresa Miller Archer January 31, 2017

      Hi Maria,’

      You can see above where I responded to Anastasia but I do agree with you. I quoted one of my favourite quotes around what you are saying – Sister Joan Chittister said : “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

      • Maria February 2, 2017

        That is such a wonderful quote from Sister Joan Chittister. It resonates with me deeply. Thanks, Teresa, for sharing.

  • Deborah Frederick January 31, 2017

    Actually the Women’s March was the 21st not the 22nd.

    The pro-life people always avoid the issues of 1) lack of proper sex education, 2) lack of access to birth control (no, abstinence doesn’t work), 3) the fact that women don’t WANT to have abortions…it’s always a last resort, a desperate action.

    Pro-lifers also don’t have any answers to the help mothers need (jobs, financial assistance, daycare) after their babies are born. You’re on your own after they force you to give birth.

    If you don’t approve of abortions don’t have one but allow other women to make that hard decision…sometimes alone, sometimes with their doctor, and sometimes with a partner or family member.

    • Amber January 31, 2017

      Well said!

    • Megan January 31, 2017

      It breaks my heart that this has become the reputation (and rightfully so) of the pro-life movement, and I’m so so sorry that is has. I believe firmly that every human life has deep, deep value that no one should be able to take away. But I don’t think that laws will ever change that. I don’t care about making abortion illegal, I care about making it unnecessary. I think this means stepping up adopting & being part of foster care, being willing to support desperate mothers financially & emotionally, to raise & mentor boys that take their responsibilities as fathers seriously, to teach & give everyone access to sexual protection, to give to clinics that help women with all aspects of health, to fight against the rape culture so rampant in our society, and finally to have absolute, unwavering grace & compassion towards any woman who has had or is considering an abortion. I’m so sorry that the fight for life has become a fight against women. Just know that there are women out there that are pro-life BECAUSE they are pro-woman. In my heart the two are inseparable.

      • Deborah Frederick January 31, 2017

        Talk about “Well said!”…you nailed it.
        If we could all embrace your thoughts on this issue we wouldn’t have the divisiveness that exists.
        If your ideas were reality then none of these battles would even occur.
        Women would look out for and support other women and old, white men wouldn’t be making decisions about what we do with our bodies and our reproductive options. Women could have children without the stress and crushing weight of poverty.
        There wouldn’t be any unloved, abused, or hungry children.
        I could go on and on.
        Sounds like something out of a great novel, doesn’t it?
        Dream on I say…but don’t give up working to make it happen.
        We can do it if we all want to.

    • Gretchen February 1, 2017

      As a pro-lifer, I am in full support of proper sex education. I think many actually are. I am enough of a realist to understand that we cannot stop folks from having sex. Having also been on birth control myself as a married, minimum wage working college student, I appreciated how cheap my birth control was. It was so cheap that my insurance’s co-pay for prescriptions was higher than the actual cost of the pills. In other words, it was cheaper to get the birth control WITHOUT my insurance. I think the movement is working hard to change this perception about proper protection and alternatives.
      Secondly, when I did become pregnant with my daughter, I was not on insurance. I went to CareNet for a completely free evaluation. Fortunately, our financial situation changed shortly afterwards and we did not need further care, but just from my one visit, it felt like CareNet was support me in the transition to motherhood, adoption, etc.

      I realize having an unplanned pregnancy is hard. I’ve been there. I think the pro-life movement genuinely cares that women and children are provided for. I think we just need to get the word out about the variety of options available to them, because I believe, like you do, that women don’t WANT to have abortions. So let’s spread the word about how we can give them other options. If we can create a larger support network for the foster care system and adoptions, my prayer is that women would not feel so desperate.

      I think Megan has made a lot of good comments on the subject as well. I agree wholeheartedly about being pro-life and pro-women.

  • Grace January 31, 2017

    Thank you for showing both marches here on Darling. It’s rare that a publication speaks kindly and pragmatically on quite ‘touchy’ issues. 🙂

    • cecilia January 31, 2017

      AMEN! Love this article and the compassion expressed in it. May we all learn something here!

  • I loved this recount as I wasn’t there to experience it myself. Whether we believe that these people are there for the right or wrong reasons, it’s nice to see people so united.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    • Anonymous January 31, 2017

      Getting a bit tired of your shallow comments on every post. Let’s see if you’ll comment as persistently without being able to link to your website.

      • Darling Magazine February 1, 2017

        Hi, Anonymous — We welcome all comments here, but draw the line at cruelty. Please think twice before publicly criticizing someone (who you may or may not know) in such a rude, harsh way. It’s inexcusable and we reserve the right to delete additional comments if they create an unsafe space for our readers.

      • Anonymous February 8, 2017

        Second.

POST A COMMENT