Face it. Pro-life advocates will demonstrate in Washington on Jan. 22 until Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the land, is overturned — or hell freezes over.
The latter came close this year, the 43rd anniversary of Roe, but the march went on even though the city was virtually shut down because of the huge blizzard expected to arrive in the afternoon.
The crowd was considerably smaller than recent years, estimated at nearly 50,000 by Catholic News Service. They first attended the rally to hear such speakers as businesswoman Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith and Focus on the Family President Jim Daly before proceeding from the Washington Monument area up Constitution Avenue past the Capitol and ending at the Supreme Court.
Judging by the signs displayed by marchers, most participants at the rally and march were either from Washington itself, or from states at such a distance that they were already en route when the blizzard warning was issued.
In the aftermath, according to news reports, busloads of students from Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Ohio and Minnesota were temporarily stranded as they tried to return home.
Although 3,000 had been expected to attend from Philadelphia, at the most a few hundred made it.
There was no direct cancellation by the archdiocese but many of the parishes and schools cancelled participation, presumably for safety concerns by themselves or the bus companies.
Others, including seminarians from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, went to Washington and participated in the early events, including the Mass celebrated for Philadelphians at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception by Bishop John McIntyre.
“I attended the rally and I thought the speakers were really good,” said Steven Bozza, director of the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family. “They were from all over the country.”
But by the time the rally was completed the snow was beginning, and “I thought for people to leave was the smart thing to do,” he said.
Bishop McIntyre himself did attend the rally and most of the march.
“I greatly admire the people who were there,” he said. “Their dedication was greatly appreciated. They knew getting there was going to offer challenges and I was impressed.”
Not everyone was in agreement. For example there were busloads of marchers from Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
On a bus from St. Pius X Pius Parish in Broomall were John and Agnes Blisard with son Patrick.
“We try to come every year. I started in high school and continued in college and I’ve only missed about four times,” John said. “We come for life and to end abortion and let them know we are not going to go away.”
Patrick Blisard said he’s been coming for the past 17 years but his mother interjected that wasn’t counting the time when she came when he was in her womb, so it would be 18 years.
Another busload of 33 people came from Immaculate Conception, Jenkintown, and among them was Patrick Stanton, the son of the late John Stanton, who was the leading pro-life advocate in the Philadelphia region.
“We took a chance but I am glad we went to represent our parish and our archdiocese; I thought the speakers were excellent.” he said. They made the most of the march but had to leave before the very end because the children were very cold.
While John Stanton himself, who died last January, could only be there in spirit, a memorial Mass will be celebrated for him by Father Chris Walsh on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Philadelphia. It will be preceded by witness at a nearby abortion clinic come rain, snow or shine.