Pro-life groups adjust March for Life events in response to Mayor Bowser's DC vaccine mandate

Pro-life activists participate in the 'March for Life,' an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the U.S., outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., January 29, 2021.
Pro-life activists participate in the "March for Life," an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the U.S., outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., January 29, 2021. | SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The annual March for Life will go on as planned this year but pro-life groups are making adjustments to their planned activities due to Mayor Muriel Bowser's vaccine mandate.

The 49th annual March for Life is scheduled to take place on Jan. 21, six days after a vaccine mandate is set to take effect in Washington, D.C., where the march is held. The mandate will require those seeking to enter “restaurants, bars and nightclub establishments,” “indoor entertainment establishments,” “indoor exercise and recreational establishments” and “indoor event and meeting establishments” to provide proof of having received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine beginning Jan. 15. 

Beginning Feb. 15, those wishing to enter most indoor establishments will have to provide proof of having received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Indoor establishments exempt from the vaccine mandate include houses of worship, grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals and other medical facilities, “big box stores and retail establishments where people tend to be in motion and not standing or seated in close proximity to others for long periods of time,” and several types of government facilities. 

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Those who enter a facility for a short period of time, such as those picking up a fast-food order for takeout, do not have to provide proof of vaccination. This year’s March for Life is the first to take place since the coronavirus pandemic first broke out nearly two years ago.

In lieu of the typically held large rally that draws in pro-life activists from across the U.S., a scaled-back version of the march was held last year with a small group of pro-life leaders attending in person as most pro-life Americans tuned in virtually. The annual pro-life rally takes place around the time of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

This year’s March for Life comes as the Supreme Court is scheduled to make a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health that could return power back to the states to decide how they want to regulate abortion. The March for Life, the organization that spearheads the annual pro-life rally, announced that it will proceed as scheduled while elaborating on how the vaccine mandate might impact attendees’ availability to participate in the festivities.

“The 49th annual March for Life on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C., will proceed as planned with a kick-off concert by Matthew West at 11 a.m. followed by the rally at Noon and the march to the Supreme Court at 1:15 p.m.,” said March for Life President Jeanne Mancini in a statement Wednesday. “While the March for Life itself is not affected, our indoor events will have a few modifications due to the District of Columbia’s current Covid regulations.”

The Renaissance D.C. Downtown Hotel, the site of the post-March for Life Rose Dinner and the pre-March for Life Capitol Hill 101 session, will require all participants “ages 12 and older to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test (within 24 hours of the event) accompanied by either an oral or written religious exemption or a written medical exemption.” The Rose Dinner will take place on the evening of Jan. 21, while Capitol Hill 101 will take place on the morning of Jan. 20.

While the Renaissance will require participants in the Rose Dinner and Capitol Hill 101 to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, a frequently asked questions page published on the March for Life website notes that “guests do not need to be vaccinated or to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to stay overnight at the hotel.” The pro-life organization reported that under the D.C. vaccine mandate, “those 12 years and older must provide proof of identification and proof of receiving one COVID shot by Jan. 15.”

“Acceptable forms of proof of vaccination include a CDC-issued vaccination card (original, photocopy or digital copy), record of immunization from a healthcare provider or public health authority, or a COVID-19 verification app (including VaxYes, Clear, Excelsior, MyIR),” the organization stated. Although most events related to the March for Life will go on as planned, the March for Life Expo will not take place this year.

The FAQ page outlined the requirements for medical and religious exemptions. While “a medical exemption needs to be in writing from a medical provider,” “a religious exemption may be stated verbally or provided in writing.” Those seeking either type of exemption must provide proof of a negative “PCR, antigen [or other test] available at drugstores.”

The March for Life events that require vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, Capitol Hill 101 and the Rose Dinner will be livestreamed. Those attending in person will have to abide by the D.C. mask mandate and wear a mask at all times except when actively eating or drinking.

Another pro-life group, Students for Life of America, is holding a National Pro-Life Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington on Jan. 22. The group put together an FAQ page with information about how the city’s vaccine mandate would affect the pro-life event.

“As a part of the National Pro-Life Summit check-in/registration process, Students for Life, with the help of Omni hotel staff, will be checking proof of vaccination or qualification for an exception,” the group announced. “If you are vaccinated and possess proof of vaccination, please plan to present it upon entry.”

After providing details of the mandate like the March for Life did, Students for Life of America “we will be offering free 15-minute rapid covid testing on site for those utilizing the medical or religious exemptions.” Testing will take place “starting Jan. 21 from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. and starting at 7 a.m. on Jan. 22 in advance of registration, through the close of the event.”

“It is highly recommended that you test in advance on Friday if possible, to avoid delays in the check-in process at the event. Regardless of vaccination status, a mask requirement will be in place for National Pro-Life Summit attendees in accordance with D.C. regulation.”

Pro-life activists allege that the vaccine mandate’s scheduled implementation days before the March for Life was not merely a coincidence. Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins suggested in a Facebook post that “The mayor of Washington, D.C., (who we know is 100% pro-abortion as she literally had us arrested last summer for sidewalk chalking ‘Black Preborn Lives Matter’ on a public sidewalk) is doing everything possible to make the pro-life movement cancel our events surrounding the 49th anniversary of Roe.”

 “WE WILL NOT ... this movement is too damn important,” she vowed. Hawkins acknowledged that “many are angry that some pro-life movement events (like the National Pro-Life Summit) are moving forward” in spite of the vaccine mandate.

The pro-life activist encouraged those upset about the vaccine mandates to “Come to the March and National Summit and spend all of your money for hotels and food in Virginia.” Virginia is right over the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and is home to both of the major airports serving the metropolitan area, Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport.

In a statement, Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute characterized the timing of the vaccine mandate as “a deliberate move by a pro-abortion politician to throw a monkey wrench in a week of pro-life events.” Morse asked: “How could the mayor not know that pro-lifers are among those least likely to be vaccinated, due to concerns that fetal cells were used in the vaccine?”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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