An estimated 500,000 to 800,000 pro-life activists from across the country — blessed with unseasonably mild weather and a newly energized base of supporters — participated in the 42nd annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on January 22.
The first March for Life was held on January 22, 1974, the first anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, and drew an estimated 20,000 supporters. The march, which would grow in numbers over the years and become the most well known rallying point for pro-lifers, was founded by the late Nellie Gray, who retired from her law practice following Roe and spent the rest of her life as a pro-life activist.
Roe v. Wade, decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, found that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. Contrary to what many people believe, Roe did not legalize abortion, but nullified most state laws restricting the practice. In that regard, abortion became not only a life issue, but also a states’ rights issue.
Each year, before the march begins, its organizers welcome a number of prominent individuals to speak at a gathering on the National Mall. This year’s speakers included Reverend Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus; Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.); Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Reverend Sammy Rodriguez, of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (who has been called “The leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement”).