Whether serving in pregnancy care centers, adoption agencies or other advocacy groups, people involved in the pro-life movement rarely look up from day-to-day work to see the big picture. Once a year, the March for Life provides that opportunity.
Held annually to mark the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States, this peaceful protest is organized by the March for Life Education and Defense Fund — which Jeanne Mancini has led since 2012, when founder Nellie Gray passed away.
It seems a position tailored for Mancini, known for her bright smile and policy expertise. She worked previously at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, then at Family Research Council focused on life issues — including women's health, end-of-life concerns and ethical questions surrounding abortion practices.
Mancini spoke via phone from her Washington, D.C. office to give her perspective on this year's snowy event, the future of the pro-life movement and why Good Friday matters.
Bound4LIFE: Jeanne, Washington was hit by a massive blizzard right around the March for Life this year. Could you put us in your shoes that week?
Jeanne Mancini: Typically, there's always some weather issues because the March has been held in January over the last 43 years. A couple years ago, we were concerned because of extreme low temperatures. This year, we were concerned with the potential blizzard that was scheduled to hit the day of the March.
In the week leading up to the event, we were consumed with getting all the details handled. We would never cancel the March, but were concerned about getting messages out to the public about logistics, social media and how to connect remotely.
Bound4LIFE: Government offices shut down that day in D.C., and some speculated severe weather could affect the right to assemble. Looking back, are there any silver linings you see in "snowpocalypse"?
Jeanne Mancini: We made some statements leading up to the March about our constitutional privilege to practice freedom of speech and freedom of participation. The March for Life has never been cancelled due to weather.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Park Police said in the Washington Post, "This is a First Amendment event, and if people want to come and demonstrate, we want them to be able to come say what they have to say."
Some of the best stories came from those groups and supporters that got stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, some stranded for up to 24 hours. Huddled in their vehicles, they served each other, holding prayer vigils.
One group in particular will share their testimonies at next year's March for Life. Many viewed their experience as, No sacrifice is too great as we stand up for a culture of life.
Bound4LIFE: This year's March for Life theme is "pro-life and pro-woman go hand in hand." What is the significance of this theme?
Jeanne Mancini: In this current election year, we have heard a lot of statements about the false "war on women." There has been a lot of messaging about the idea that to be pro-woman, you have to be pro-choice. We argue that nothing could be further from the truth.
Our theme was selected to correct this erroneous messaging which creates confusion in our culture. Being pro-life is wanting what's best for mom and the baby, and it's empowering for women. We love them both and, naturally, we wanted to educate about that and to focus attention on those messages.
Bound4LIFE: Many people may not realize that the March for Life is both an annual event, and a non-profit group that operates year-round. In what other ways does your team advocate for lives in the womb?
Jeanne Mancini: Thank you for asking that question because I am constantly asked, "What do you do after January?" One-fourth of our job is planning the March for Life and working to do the very, very best job we can to have a successful event.
But we also have a very strong presence on the Hill and advocate day-in, day-out, year-round for marchers so that their voice will be heard — whether they are Democrat or Republican. We have an amazing colleague, Tom McClusky, in charge of that effort; he has a reputation of being one the best lobbyists in D.C., having worked with Family Research Council's governmental relations group before coming to us. He works behind the scenes and on behalf of the public to help build a culture of life on Capitol Hill.
We have also embarked upon a robust social media educational campaign. We take our theme and develop a digital year-round effort, whether that's utilizing fun and creative memes, or making a teaching moment from something that's recently happened in culture.
For example, on the front page of the New York Times recently there was a picture of a teenager who wore a t-shirt, "I am a Pro-Life Feminist." A moment like this is great for re-tweeting, or posting to Facebook and Instagram.
In addition, I do a lot of traditional media interviews, write op-ed pieces and share pro-life messages at schools, pregnancy center banquets and other venues.