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Even though winter storm Janus has closed down federal government offices and cancelled more than 2,000 flights in the Northeast, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates are in Washington, D.C. for the 41st annual March for Life event on Wednesday.
Notable speakers at this year's march include Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and his adopted son, Ryan, and Molly Ann Dutton, who was elected as Auburn University's 100th homecoming queen last fall and is using her inspirational story to advocate for adoption, which is the theme of this year's event.
There will also be an expanded social media presence at the march on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and use of 360 degree cameras so that people watching online from home can see those who are walking in the march. There's also a March for Life iPhone app, mobile phone text updates, and people can also share their photos and messages by using #WhyWeMarch and #MarchforLife.
Last year, it was estimated that 500,000 pro-life advocates demonstrated against abortion on the 40th anniversary of the Roe. vs. Wade decision. Even though Jeanne Monahan told The Christian Post on Friday that the park service no longer keeps track of those numbers, she does know that it takes hours for the last group of marchers to walk past the Supreme Court building, and estimates attendance numbers to be in the hundreds of thousands.
"We haven't had a formal estimate conducted in quite some time … we don't have an actual count to give, but we believe that we're in the hundreds of thousands. And those who know more about this have viewed estimates, informal estimates, and they say that we're well into the hundreds of thousands," Monahan said.
"Last year it was packed, especially the part where people are walking up Constitution Avenue and pass by the Supreme Court. I can tell you that, being at the front of the march, I crossed over near the Supreme Court right at about 1:45 p.m. and it was close to 4 p.m. when the final marchers crossed by."
More than 400 students from Benedictine College of Atchison, Kan., and its pro-life group, Ravens Respect Life, will be leading the march this year, having traveled in eight chartered buses to make the 48-hour round trip to march on behalf of their generation of peers who lost their lives to abortion.
Kathryn Brown, a Benedictine College student who coordinated the trip to attend March for Life told CP on Saturday the students were selected to lead the front of the march after sharing the group's long tradition of participation at the event with Monahan. Sixty students from the school will be carrying the March for Life banner at the front of the march.
Brown emphasized the importance of the march for her generation, which she believes is more pro-life than previous generations, because they have been greatly impacted by abortion.
"I think one big reason is because our generation is the one who is missing so many people because of abortion," she commented. "There are many people, college aged, who have siblings who were aborted. There are people missing in our lives because they were never given the chance to live – siblings, friends, maybe even people we would have married. We mourn them and we resolve to stand up for their God-given right to life so that others will not share that same fate."
According to Monahan, among the reasons people -- especially those in millennial generation -- are witnessing a cultural shift toward supporting the pro-life movement opposed to advocating for abortion, are the advances in technology and the human aspect – the personal stories of men and women who've been harmed by the aftermath of abortion.
"Years ago, it was the case that advocates for abortion would talk about the 'thing' growing in a woman's womb as a lifeless blob of tissue," Monahan explained. "And I think our advances in sonography and ultrasounds, and even our understanding of fetal development has dispelled those myths. … We know that, from the moment of conception, a baby has all of its DNA that it needs for the rest of its life. It has everything inherent that it will need for later on. Really, the only difference [between the preborn and adults] is in size and development."
She continued: "I also think young people tend to gravitate toward good issues and have got the enthusiasm to do good things. And this is the human rights issue of today. And, I think young people are well aware that they're missing a whole population of their siblings, their peers, to abortion. We've lost 56 million Americans since Roe was decided.
Monahan also noted that peer reviewed studies and meta analyses have shown that "women who undergo abortion struggle more with emotional issues, such as anxiety, sometimes substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and depression."
But, more importantly than the science and research, she said, are the people she has met who wish that someone had told them the truth about abortion before they made that decision. "I'm a strong believer that abortion hurts one, and takes the life of another," she added. "And whatever we can do to help any woman or man who's suffering from having made this decision is critical."
"I like to always mention, anytime that I'm public speaking or at the march, that there's always hope and healing. There's no situation that is beyond help or beyond hope–ever. These folks need to hear it, because often they're caught in the slavery of grief and guilt after having made that decision. "
March for Life is the largest annual event in Washington, D.C. and is held every year on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. The organization is bi-partisan and therefore the list of speakers also includes politicians from both parties, including House Majority Leader Eric Canton, (R-Va.), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), and Washington state Sen. Roger Freeman (D).